Barrie Colts rookie Matt Kreis turns heads in fitness testing
Matt Kreis, right, the Barrie Colts’ top pick in the OHL Priority Selection, scrimmages with the team during Day 2 of training camp, Tuesday. Following fitness testing and dryland training on Monday, players were finally able to hit the ice on Tuesday. MARK WANZEL PHOTO
One day into the on-ice sessions at Barrie Colts training camp and there are lots of fresh new faces.
But the only one that’s expected to be a lock to make the team is rookie Matt Kreis.
The first-round draft pick, taken 15th overall in the 2013 OHL Priority Selection draft, has already given the coaching staff plenty to look forward to.
“His skating ability and the way he sees the ice is something you can’t teach,” said Colts assistant coach Todd Miller. “He has the power and strength (in his skating) at that age.”
He also runs pretty well, edging out defenceman Aaron Ekblad for the fastest time in the fitness testing race.
“Seeing him come first in the run, going neck and neck with Ekblad, they’re special players,” Miller said. “We’re glad to have (Kreis) here and we feel that he’s going to bring a lot to the table for years to come here.”
Kreis has now had a couple of scrimmages under his belt, going up against veterans, some of whom are four years his senior.
“It’s been really good playing with the Colts guys,” Kreis said. “It’s faster and a good experience.”
Seeing much of his time on a unit with Andreas Athanasiou and Erik Bradford, Kreis has been going full speed ahead just to keep up with the quick winger.
“(Athanasiou is) just unbelievably fast,” Kreis said. “It’s hard to keep up with him out there.”
The veteran has been guiding Kreis along between shifts as well.
“AA has been telling me stuff on the bench, giving me tips, so it’s been really good,” Kreis said. “It’s really special.
“It’s making me feel like I’m already a part of the team.”
Though Kreis may not see time with those guys again this year, the fact that he’s able to go at that speed makes him a good fit in Barrie’s system in the coach’s eyes.
“Tremendously,” Miller said. “You see him out there with AA, working with him, seeing that burst of speed.
“He’s still got a lot to work on, but at the end of the day, when you’ve got a kid with that kind of exceptional speed and skill, he’s going to write his own ticket one day,” Miller said.
When Kreis stepped out onto the ice on Tuesday morning, it was a little intimidating.
“The first game I was a little nervous, but the second game, I started getting a better feel for the puck,” Kreis said.
He hadn’t initially anticipated the jump from minor midget to an OHL training camp.
“Just the compete level, the speed, everything’s just kind of a level up,” Kreis said. “It’s kind of really fast and big.”
That sometimes involves plays reaching a stage which wouldn’t have happened in minor hockey.
“There are situations where he gives up the puck and doesn’t expect for it to wind up back on his stick and it does,” Miller said. “At minor midget, you don’t get it back.
“But at this level, you’re giving and going and you get to those holes, and you have to keep your stick on the ice and always be prepared to get a shot off or make a play,” Miller added. “That’s something, over time, that all of the young players that come into our league have to work at.”
The assistant coach sees a few things that Kreis will have to improve at, but he says he isn’t too concerned about it.
“Just using other guys on the ice (as well as) his defensive-zone coverage is something he’ll have to work on, as well as beating bigger and stronger guys,” Miller said.
“But he makes up for that a lot with his speed and his ability to get to those places.”
While Kreis is enjoying the training camp experience, he’s looking ahead to next week to accomplish another dream.
“I’m really excited to get into my first game and see what that’s like,” Kreis said. “I’ve always wanted to play in an OHL game.”