It's the main event. It's what we all came for. The bleachers filled with fans, the zamboni laid out a fresh sheet of ice, and inside of those two locker rooms were a group of 44 young men with the "first-game jitters." Hey, it's not a real game, but it's the first (some, the only) chance they get to make an impression on coaches and management...
The teams hit the ice to do their warmups, in a camp where Detroit's two highest draft picks since Martin LaPointe.. It's pretty much all eyes on those two. Or is it? There's a lot of attention on other players,
Yzerman Team (Red Sweaters)
Anthony Mantha - Dylan Larkin - Kyle Baun (camp invite)
Joe Hicketts (camp invite) - Marc McNulty
Lidstrom Team (White Sweaters)
Tomas Nosek - Andreas Athanasiou - Zach Nastasiuk
Richard Nedomlel - Ben Marshall
Throughout the scrimmage, it was pretty obvious that the Yzerman Team was the better team. The Lidstrom's first line showed a lot of offensive brilliance, especially from Tomas Nosek. He skates extremely well, and having a player like Athanasiou next to him only makes it better.
The Yzerman first line is a very "make room for the scorers" style. Camp invitee Kyle Baun has a large frame, and creates space for Larkin to enter the zone. The thing I love most about Anthony Mantha is that he can make room for himself and drive the net without help.
The scrimmage lasted about an hour, with two 25-minute periods including a skills competition between five players from each team.
The final was 3-2, in favor of the Yzerman Team.
Goals for the Yzerman team came from Glopke, Hicketts, and Vahatalo
Goals from the Lidstrom team came from Ehn and Nosek.
It was a pretty exciting game, seeing three players Detroit has acquired over the past two months score goals. Players like Axel Holmstrom, Christoffer Ehn, and Tomas Nosek really stood out for me. Nosek shows that he can handle the puck on a string like Pavel does at times. Ehn is a bit skinny, but he has strength. He can protect the puck well and win the battles along the boards.
I spoke with some of the players afterwards on how it felt playing with their teams for the first time:
It felt good, first half maybe it was a bit more difficult to find my teammates on the ice. Second half we just knew where the other guy was and the chemistry was growing, as the week goes on I think it's only going to get better and better.
I think alot of us were tired out there, but it felt good getting out there with the guys. I think Nosek is great, he scored a real nice goal out there, he's definitely an extremely skilled forward.
I think it's good! I had fun, I tried to play 100%, um.. It's different then play in Europe in the men's league. It's much faster. More hitting, it's other style than in Europe. I think it's smaller ice, so that's one of the reasons that it's more physical than in Europe.
-Tomas Nosek (Richard Nedomlel did a great job standing with him translating whatever Noser couldn't understand. They're Czech-Mates!)
It was fun, the game was played at the high-tempo, and I'm not really used to it.. But the longer it went on, the better it felt, you know? The smaller spaces you get when you have the puck, you get attacked from so many different angles. Also, the physical play is much different.. These guys are much heavier than back in Sweden. I think that will be a major focus for me is to get bigger and put on more weight.
-Christoffer Ehn (My personal favorite player to interview, aside from Nosek.)
Felt like it was a good experience for me, as it went on it got a lot better, I think. I had a pretty slow start as far as the tempo goes. The tempo is really high at practice but in a game situation I guess the pace switches a little bit and you really have to change everything.
As far as defensive pairings go, I really enjoyed the pairing of Mike McKee and James De Haas. Very blue-collar style, two big bodies who are built like semi-trucks. It's funny, you can tell McKee has been playing a lot of forward for Western Michigan, because you see him pinching into the zone a lot and carrying the puck deep to the net. I think it's a good thing, especially with his size. He can shield the puck really well. Ben Marshall, coming off his junior year with the Minnesota Gophers, still hasn't gained much size. His offensive capabilities give him upside, but if he is to make it as a defenseman in this organization, there needs to be more size.
Seeing a player like Marc McNulty paired with a tiny defenseman like Joe Hicketts was something. Reminded me a lot of Boo-Boo Bear and Yogi. Just two completely opposite body-types creating trouble for the opposing team. Hickett had a really nice goal from the point off a wrist-shot. He's currently UFA status after going undrafted. I assume he wasn't drafted due to his size (5'8" 187 lbs.) It's really great to see how Richard Nedomlel has progressed, not only as a player, but as a leader in the locker room. He sat with his new buddy, Tomas Nosek, translating all the interview questions he couldn't understand. He's really taken on a role in that regard. When I asked Richard about where he learned this from, he said when Brendan Smith was in his last development camp, he played the same role. Pretty much helped him with whatever he needed, and was always available to help. Nedomlel has had the raw-end of the stick, as he's been spending a lot of time in Toledo, who had somewhat of a tire-fire of a 2013-2014 season. I think new coach Derek LaLonde will really bring a fresh new start to Toledo's franchise.
Funny, when LaLonde's name was mentioned to Nedomlel, he didn't know who it was. That's how new the coach is. Pretty funny.
To wrap everything up, Alexey Marchenko didn't skate again today. Reports are indicating that he just had the screws from his ankle removed a week ago, so I'm sure they are treading softly with that, making sure they rebuild the muscle before letting him go 100%. Per Brendan Savage, Marchenko is looking to skate *for the first time* on Sunday. Take that as you will, but they're definitely going about that entire situation very carefully.
All-in-all, it was a great first scrimmage. We really got a chance to see the kids do their thing. I really enjoy what we have in our 2014 draft class, from what I am seeing so far.