Today was very exciting for me, because the teams practiced and went through their on ice fitness testing at different times and on the same rink! It may sound insubstantial, but being able to watch all of the players go through their full practices just made my day.
The goalies once again hit the ice about a half an hour before the skaters. They need goalie specific instruction and practice before going through the drills with the rest of the players. A goalie’s work is never done, and their drills this year are increasingly challenging. There was more emphasis on mobility and puck handling, and of course more individual attention with the increased number of coaches working with them.
Here are Joren van Pottelberghe, Kaden Fulcher, and Keith Petreuzzelli doing one of the goalie drills.
Petruzzelli doing one of the puck handling drills
And JVP doing very well at the same drill. Love the hip rotation!
And a movement from the ice drill that Petruzzelli makes look so smooth.
Pick Up The Pace!
Emphasis throughout the drills was keeping up a fast pace and on ice communication with your teammates. Griffins Coach Todd Nelson repeatedly yelled “Pick up the pace! Pick up the pace!”. To make it to the NHL, each player will have to be able mentally and physically to execute at the highest speed. Nelson is drilling that into their brains and bodies now, and will remind them of it often. On ice communication is key, especially when you’re not intimately familiar with your linemates.
Drills, drills, drills
The first drill each team did was fairly straight forward.
Two defensemen start on the blueline, get the puck away from center ice, cycle back a little bit, then pass it up to the forward skating with speed through the neutral zone. Emphasis was not only on executing the drill, but about calling for the puck (each defenseman was supposed to do this at the start of the drill) and communicating with the forward so everyone was prepared and executing quickly. The players communicating to each other put more responsibility of drill execution on the players, rather than coaches. On ice communication is so important, it’s something I preach frequently to my own teammates. A simple call to your teammates scan make a big difference in smooth, accurate execution; especially when you’re running drills with guys you really don’t know.
The second drill wasn’t too complicated either, player #1 passes the puck to player #2 across the rink, P1 and P2 skate up the ice while crossing lanes, P2 passes puck back to P1 as he’s close to the blue line, P1 then shoots on the goalie while P2 drives the net to get in front of the goalie. Two of these drill are going on at once, so both pairs stay on their half of the ice.
Michael Rasmussen looks like he scores all day in his sleep... So easy.
The third drill included more participation from the goalies. The puck is sent behind net, the goalie moves to defenseman #1 who moves it up up to 2 forwards to exit the D zone, then those 2 forwards cross lanes and are back into D zone and the defenseman has to defend a 2 on 1. So it was a cycle of Goalies moving puck from behind the net to the defenseman, D moving the puck up to F’s, then 2 on 1 back to the goalie.
Here Rasmussen, David Pope, and Mitch Eliot execute.
The remainder of the drills involved more players, and were focused on quick puck movement, transitioning from offense to backchecking, net front battling and getting pucks to the net from the blue line, and going to the net with a purpose. Everything was done at a fast pace, and if players slowed, the coaches would remind them to pick up the pace. One of the things Nelson talked to the players about specifically, is to go to the net with purpose, don’t just go to the net. In other words, if a defenseman is boxing you out, get creative and continue driving to the net. Maybe that means using your body to shield the puck, maybe spinning around to get behind the defenseman. Go to the net with purpose, and battle.
Here’s an example of drill Number four
And an example of drill Number five
To finish off the practice session, there were 1 on 1 puck possession battles in the faceoff circles. It’s interesting to watch players and see how they use different tactics depending on their strengths and weaknesses. For example, Vili Saarijarvi is probably the smallest guy in camp, but he uses his stick, feet, and agility to win puck battles against bigger players. Seen here against 6’3” 215 pound Tommy Marchin. This isn’t his best performance of the day, but it’s the only one I got on film.
Christoffer Ehn uses the Zetterberg technique of keeping his back to the opposing player and taking one hand off his stick to hold them off.
This may have been the most fun drill to watch, to see how players of different shapes, sizes, and strengths execute this drill to their advantage.
That’s what successful players do, right? They know their strengths and weaknesses and they make their style and strategies based upon them. It’s really fun to watch. Ultimately that’s what this camp is about, finding out player’s strengths and weaknesses, exposing those weaknesses, and giving them tools to improve their weaknesses and better use their strengths.
Speed And Agility Conditioning
The second portion of the day was for on ice conditioning. There were two stations set up, complete with recording devices to track the data.
At the first station, skaters (goalies got to sit these tests out for reasons that will become obvious) started with their side parallel to the line on the ice, then sprinted as fast as they could through the three sets of recording devices set up.
Cole Fraser demonstrates
The agility station required far more coordination and concentration than the first. From the starting line sprint forward, touch the stack or orange cones, then skate laterally first to one side and touch the marker, then to the other side touching the marker, then back to center again touching the stack of cones, then skate backwards to the start/finish line. Not a lot of players executed without stumbling, tripping, or forgetting to touch the specified locations. Again, the coaches were pushing the players to expose areas for improvement… They were successful.
Michael Rasmussen did pretty well, and not “for a big guy”. I’d put him above average among the players in camp for execution. He went a little slower than some, but his execution was good. (speed often meant more mistakes for other players)
Christoffer Ehn did pretty well on this drill.
And Dennis Cholowski had his quick feet going
Again, this is designed to be difficult and get players out of their comfort zone. Having measurable results is key to success in almost anything we do. If you know exactly where you am now and where you need to go in measurable metrics, it’s much easier to measure progress and see if you truly got “better”. I’d also like to see NHL players go through this drill and see how they’d handle it.
We have one more day of camp left, and I suspect the players brains and bodies will be on overload. The coaches may take it a little easier on them, we’ll see.