There’s not a lot one can really conclude from watching players go through one practice, particularly when it’s the first one of training camp. The older players are trying to shake off rust, while the younger players are trying to shake off nerves. So it’s important not to let what one saw today sway one’s mind too much.
But wow, were there some things to see at Silvertips training camp today.
I spent today focusing primarily on the high-profile newcomers, who supplied much of that wow factor, so here’s some initial observations.
– Jujhar Khaira. Should he end up in Everett, he is expected to have the biggest impact of any newcomer this season. Today we found out why. Khaira was everything he was advertised to be. He’s big, he’s fast, and he has a big shot that he gets away quickly. He also wasn’t shy, jumping to the front of the line for every drill. If the 19-year-old power forward returns from camp with the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers, he can be a difference maker.
For those who missed him today, I’m afraid you’re out of luck. Today was the only day he’s going to take part in training camp, as he’s returning home to prepare for camp with the Oilers.
– Patrick Khodorenko. The Tips were thrilled to get the 15-year-old Californian forward to camp, and he flashed as much puck-handling ability as anyone during drills today. I’m told he took part in Everett’s veteran skate Wednesday afternoon, and he had vets asking, “Who is this kid?” The Tips selected a top-end American forward in the second round of the bantam draft in 2003, and Peter Mueller turned out to be a pretty good player. I’m not saying Khodorenko is at Mueller’s level, but if the Tips can ever get him signed …
– Waltteri Hopponen and Ivan Nikolishin. Everett’s two picks in this year’s import draft both were solid, if not spectacular. They’re very different players. Hopponen, a 17-year-old from Finland, is bigger and more physical. Nikolishin, a 17-year-old from Russia, is smaller and more skilled.
Everett has three Euros on its roster, including Swiss defenseman Mirco Mueller. If Mueller returns from camp with the NHL’s San Jose Sharks, as he’s expected to do, then the Tips need to get down to two. One school of thought is that it will be a straight battle between Hopponen and Nikolishin. If that’s the case, neither separated themselves today.
– Linden Penner. This guy is a tank. Seriously, he’s huge. He’s not going to set any speed records, but he did show some hands.
Finally, there were three no-shows from this morning’s invited-player check-in, those being Joshua Chamberlain, Matt Chamberlain and Luke VanSchaack, so adjust your rosters accordingly. All three of those players were forwards on Team Blue, so I suspect there will be a little more roster shuffling today to accommodate the short-handed squad.