by Ron Knabenbauer
CENTENNIAL, Colo.--If the first day of Colorado Avalanche rookie camp was any indication of what the main NHL training camp will be like, then expect plenty of speed. Heaps and heaps of speed.
"High energy, a lot of speed and a lot of skill," said Dominic Toninato. "There is a lot of good guys here, so it's nice to get things going."
Colorado's rookies, top prospects and camp invitees took to the Family Sports Center ice Friday morning for their one and only practice before the team headed to San Jose for a three-game rookie tournament against their peers from the Anaheim Ducks, Arizona Coyotes and host San Jose Sharks.
The 28 players that will wear the club's burgundy and blue jersey at the tournament first reported to rookie camp on Wednesday night and spent most of the day on Thursday taking part in physical and medical testing. So when Friday finally came around, it was safe to say they were excited to finally lace up their skates and hit the ice.
The high intensity of the practice was probably a mix of adrenaline from the start of a new season but also the emphasis that is being put on the players by Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar and general manager Joe Sakic to play with more speed and skill.
"I thought it was a pretty good pace. It wasn't too long, but it was up-tempo, so that is what you're looking for in a practice," Alexander Kerfoot noted. "It is good to get on the ice, get fitness testing out of the way yesterday. I think we're just excited to get to San Jose."
The day marked the first time that Kerfoot and Toninato had taken part in an NHL camp after both players finished their college careers last spring. The forwards signed with the Avalanche as college free agents a few weeks before camp and are soaking up the experience of beginning life in the pros.
"You want to go out there and you want to compete and you want to get better every day, but I think it is a lot of learning," said the Harvard-grad Kerfoot. "Everyone here is relatively young, and they're looking to come in and learn from some of the older guys. Learn how to be a professional day in and day out."
"I feel pretty comfortable right now. Everybody is pretty welcoming and everybody is very nice here," said Toninato, who signed with Colorado after captaining Minnesota Duluth to the NCAA National Championship game in April. "They welcomed me with open arms, so I'm pretty comfortable right now."
The Avalanche put the rookies through two 45-minute sessions at the team's practice facility on Friday. The first session was to just get their legs moving and a feel for the puck through skill drills. The second's focus was to prepare the team for the tournament with the players working on special teams, forecheck and the club's system.
"It is good to know a little systems so we're all on the same page," said J.C. Beaudin. "It is for sure going to be good for us at the tournament."
Beaudin was on the Avalanche roster at last year's rookie tournament when the club hosted the Ducks and Sharks. Colorado won both contests en route to the championship and will look to defend its title this time as a visitor.
Like most of the players at camp, they haven't played in a significant game since March or April, so getting back to facing other clubs for three 20-minute periods is exciting for the prospects.
"We train, we practice all summer for it," Beaudin said. "We haven't played, I don't know, it's been awhile since I've played, so I'm excited to play and compete against other teams."
The Avalanche begins the tournament on Saturday at 5 p.m. MT against the Sharks.