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Insider Only Day 3 Skating Session Analysis: Pouliot’s skating ability not at an elite level yet like some say

By Dave Fryer, Contributor to
• The first portion of Day 3 was dedicated to a power-skating session. Skating Coach Marianne Watkins took to the ice to lead the group, which had been condensed into one large group for today.
• Watkins focused heavily on technique, trying to reel in some of the common skating flaws seen by athletes trying to develop into professional hockey players. “I just hoped to show them a few things and give them things to think about,” Watkins said afterwards. “A lot of these guys just need to undo a few bad habits to help their game.”
• Skating skills tend to separate the men from the boys, as many a hopeful hockey player has never reached the NHL because of poor skating, despite a wealth of any other ability.
Olli Maatta performed well in the drills centered around edge work. Just as he had shown over the first two days, Maatta has improved his skating tremendously since being drafted into the organization last year.
Reid McNeill exhibited very good lower-body agility, showing why he has impressed this week and why he is capable of being more than just a tall body.
Jake Guentzel, as hyped, is quick and shifty. He showed a very good ability to change direction quickly in drills involving tight turns in the neutral zone. He is also able to get back to top speed in just a few strides.
Derrick Pouliot failed to impress in the skating drills, which was the opposite of what many may have expected coming into the week. His lack of lower-body strength seems to be holding him back, and he does not seem to have a lot of determination to push himself in this area. He is a much better player when there is a puck involved in the drill.
Tom Kuhnhackl’s skating may not be a strong suit, but it will never hold him back from advancing up the ladder either. He is not fluid, but he has explosive movements. His finesse game will come from his hands, which gives him a nice combination of lower-body power and upper-body grace.
Oscar Sundqvist had some of his flaws exposed in the drills. He needs to develop a better knee bend, as he does not stay low through his sharp turns. Any time he needs to change direction, he opens up his stance and rises up his torso.
• There were only more positives for Adam Payerl today. He demonstrated good strength in his skating, getting up to top-end speed quicker than most would expect. He was certainly not the best skater on the ice at making sharp turns, but he held his own in that area. He also showed that he could drive his legs coming out of turns and get right back to the straight-line style that suits him well.
• The session ended with Reid McNeill being the demonstrator of acceleration techniques. Watkins explained to the players how the best way to get to full speed is to start facing straight ahead, rather than the common practice of standing sideways and beginning with crossover steps. McNeill revealed this quite well, as it was very evident that he was able to get to his top speed in far less space by following Watkins’ instructions. The demonstration also served as witness to McNeill’s true ability to mix speed and agility with his natural size and strength.
• The skating session lasted just 30 minutes, but it tore up the ice pretty well and got some of the legs burning. A few players took some extra time with Watkins as the ice cut began, while the rest sought the nearest water bottle.

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Dave Fryer

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