Friday, August 24, 2012

Rookie Camp Thoughts; Smokies Main Camp Begins Today

Two days are now firmly in the books as prospective Smokies strutted their stuff at Cominco Arena Wednesday and Thursday. Unlike a main camp last year which produced a dearth of offense, this year's rookie camp featured plenty of goals and the development of some new chemistry among veteran skaters.

First off, it was great to see so many returning (and newly-acquired) players take part in the two-day session. Overage forward Brent Baltus showed plenty of jump and new energy as he looks to build off a 2011-12 season that saw his offensive production grow with each passing month. Baltus skated mostly on a line with new captain Garrett McMullen, the pair were dangerous on every shift on a team Red side that was anchored at the back end by vets Brandon Egli and Joren Johnson.

Team Blue received a late arrival Wednesday in the form of Tanner Clarkson, who scored twice on his first two shifts. The 19 year-old possesses one of the better shots of all of Trail's returnees, and put it to good use early, threading a needle short-side into the top left-hand corner on a snapper from the face-off circle.

Team Yellow had easily the two biggest surprises of rookie camp. Albertan forward Ravi Chand fired home five goals in his first scrimmage before tailing off offensively through the rest of the two-day session. Local product Scott Davidson grew stronger as each game passed. The 17 year-old missed most of last season but in 11 games in Beaver Valley put home 14 points (adding 1-5-6 in 13 playoff appearances). Soft hands aside (Davidson chipped in four assists in last night's rookie All-Star game), he also played with a physical edge and could be one to watch this weekend.

Another combination to keep mind of out of Yellow's team was a newly-formed chemistry between newcomer Tyler Berkholtz and Adam Wheeldon. Berkholtz, a 20 year-old who skated the past three seasons with Alberni Valley, was instrumental in most of Wheeldon's 8 rookie camp goals, and the pair worked well together to create space in the offensive zone as well as to win battles along the boards. On the back end, Edmonton's Braeden Jones carried on with the physical style he showed in spring camp. The 18 year-old is a good skater and is very calm in his own zone too.

Fans at last night's All-Star Game also got their first look at new recruit Bryce Knapp. The Ontario native showed a good amount of energy despite spending most of the day traveling, and used his quick release to fire home a goal in the second period.

Friday's on-ice schedule for main camp consists of a pair of practices this afternoon. The annual orange and white intrasquad game is set for Sunday morning at 11. For a full camp schedule, click here.

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