Though most of our attention over the past 24 hours has been focused on the team's trade with the Boston Bruins, and the... "interesting" tendencies of certain members of the media, the 2015 Development Camp continued, and the Thursday morning on-ice session was certainly more interesting than the previous two.
The team conducted scrimmages with any number of players on the ice, sometimes doing four-on-four, and other times doing one=on-one, resulting in lots of open ice and skaters showing off their abilities.
The most impressive player by far was the team's 2015 1st round selection, Lawson Crouse.
Lawson Crouse! On the backhand, roofed it on Sam Brittain.— Shane O'Donnell (@shane1342o) July 2, 2015
Lawson Crouse just came down the wing, went into the middle, around two defensemen, and roofed it on Colin Stevens.— Shane O'Donnell (@shane1342o) July 2, 2015
This goal scored was almost a mirror image of the Vine below, but with one defender at the blue line, and two in the offensive zone. He got around three people before roofing the puck, on a move that I don't think anyone in the camp would have been able to stop. The big-bodied winger doesn't have to be fancy with the puck, as he is simply too large and moving too fast to be stopped.
Lawson Crouse with another goal!!! Takes a good pass from Chris Wilkie and blast a one timer in.— Shane O'Donnell (@shane1342o) July 2, 2015
He also moves very fast for his size. It's wonderful to see.
Now, to answer the question that I know is coming: Will he make the NHL team out of training camp? I don't know. There's so much else that could happen between now and October, and even then, development camp isn't exactly the best time to be viewing a player. Aaron Ekblad looked okay, but not good, during camp last year, got paired with Brian Campbell to start the season, and ended up winning the Calder Trophy.
Will Crouse get a nine game tryout? Yes. Will he stay on the roster past then? I truly don't know.
There were other forwards besides Crouse who impressed, including Rocco Grimaldi, Chase Balisy, Karch Bachman, Patrick Shea, and Steven Hodges.
What a play by Rocco Grimaldi. So offensively talented #CatsCamp— Shane O'Donnell (@shane1342o) July 2, 2015
Rocco made one of the defensemen on the opposing team just look absolute childish. Absolutely abused him at the blueline, and easily walked into the zone to create a 2-on-1.
Rocco Grimaldi just ran over 6'4, 193 pound Evan Fiala. Ran him right over.— Shane O'Donnell (@shane1342o) July 2, 2015
This was insane. We saw Rocco flatten Patrick Shea yesterday, but Shea is closer to Grimaldi's size. Evan Fiala is almost a full foot taller than Rocco, but the smaller forward had no problem bull-rushing the larger defenseman in order to get to the puck.
Chase Balisy scores, after playing some solid defense at his own blueline. Portland looks pretty good next year #CatsCamp— Shane O'Donnell (@shane1342o) July 2, 2015
Chase Balisy with another goal. Great shot from the slot. #CatsCamp— Shane O'Donnell (@shane1342o) July 2, 2015
Balisy is a solid signing. I'm not sold on his NHL potential, but he'll be a key contributor in Portland this season.
Karch Bachman flies around the offensive zone. Gets the puck on his stick a lot.— Shane O'Donnell (@shane1342o) July 2, 2015
Karch Bachman with the first goal of the 4 on 4 scrimmage. Red team up, 1-0 #CatsCamp— Shane O'Donnell (@shane1342o) July 2, 2015
Bachman's defensive zone play needs work, but when he's in the offensive zone, he never stops moving and constantly chases the puck down. As a result, the puck ends up on his stick often, and that gives him plenty of opportunities to create offense.
Patrick Shea scores in the shootout! This kid is Zach Hyman 2.0 for me. I love him. #CatsCamp— Shane O'Donnell (@shane1342o) July 2, 2015
I don't know how Dale Tallon found Shea, but I love this kid's play. Though it's a very small sample, and development camp isn't really the best place to be making decisions, he is definitely on my radar now and I'll be following his career at the University of Maine closely.
Steven Hodges has had a good camp.— Shane O'Donnell (@shane1342o) July 2, 2015
Hodges had a quiet, but solid camp, and did enough with the puck that he was noticed, even if he didn't wow. He spent most of 2014-2015 in the ECHL, so his pro potential seems limited, but consistent time in Portland this year isn't out of the question.
A couple of defensemen drew attention to themselves, as well.
I'm loving Thoms Schemitsch. Great offensive skills, and can skate really well.— Shane O'Donnell (@shane1342o) July 2, 2015
The Tweet above says "Thoms", but that's just a typo: the kid's name is Thomas Schemitsch, and he looked great all throughout today's action.
Thomas Schemitsch is a very good skater, with some impressive offensive skills.— Shane O'Donnell (@shane1342o) July 2, 2015
I love that goal in the first Tweet. He jumps right into the slot, gets control of the puck, brings it across Royal Road, and gets it past the goalie. A quality scoring chance converted.
Mackenzie Weegar is as offensively gifted as ever.— Shane O'Donnell (@shane1342o) July 2, 2015
Seriously. This guy has crazy offensive skills, and is fast enough to outskate a lot of players. He gets beat defensively often, though, so I'm really hoping that the team changes their philosophy with the former Halifax Moosehead.
I want the Cats to look into moving Weegar up to forward. His puck skills are insane.— Shane O'Donnell (@shane1342o) July 2, 2015
For example, look at that move to get around Connor Brickley in the offensive zone. Pure offensive skill. As a side note, sure he gets laid out, but Brickley had already been muscled off the puck twice by Weegar. MacKenzie also made an incredible move at the blue line to get the puck into the zone before Brickley laid him out.
What a save by Evan Cowley. Mackenzie Weegar. The Denver net minder looks good.— Shane O'Donnell (@shane1342o) July 2, 2015
On this play, where he got rejected by Cowley, he carried the puck behind the net, and then cut into the middle quick and ended up all alone against the goaltender.
Moving Weegar up front gives the team a versatile forward who can drop back on defense if necessary. Jon Cooper utilized the seven defensemen, seven forward system in Tampa Bay, and a guy like Weegar would function perfectly as that 7th defenseman/12th forward. Regardless, I love his offensive acumen, and would like to see him play a bigger role in the AHL next year.
Evan Cowley made a couple of strong saves, but also let a couple of weak goals in. He'll be headed back to the Denver (NCAA) for the 2015-2016 season, and should play well there. Look for him to build on the success he had in last year.
Colin Stevens, on the other hand, will not be going back to college. He also had a good camp, especially on this last day.
Colin Stevens with a great save on Miguel Fidler in front.— Shane O'Donnell (@shane1342o) July 2, 2015
Colin Stevens with another big save. Denies Juho Lammikko on a breakaway #CatsCamp— Shane O'Donnell (@shane1342o) July 2, 2015
Matheson came out of the corner, after Stevens airmailed a pass up to the player in red. Matheson managed to catch his opponent.
Overall, the team had a great camp and has a lot to look forward to. I can answer any questions regarding other prospects that I didn't get to, and thanks for following along this year.