Let the kids play

Sabres prepared to Start the NHL Season Tomorrow night

Sabres prepared to Start the NHL Season Tomorrow night

The youth movement is on at First Niagara Center. Bolstered by two-straight drafts with a pair of first round selections, the Buffalo Sabres boast one of the NHL’s deepest and most talented prospect pools. And there’s a chance many will see time with the big club right away.

Mikhail Grigorenko, who already played a portion of an NHL season, leads the group as a former lottery candidate and perhaps the most impressive offensive weapon the Sabres own in the entire organization (outside of Thomas Vanek). Girgorenko’s development is a big part of where he ends up in the grand plans of the Sabres, however. He struggled through his first campaign with the team and will need more ice time with skilled linemates in order to progress as a player this year.

Along with Girgorenko’s fellow 2012 first rounder Zemgus Girgensons, Joel Armia (2011 first round) represents two more significant pieces to the offensive future of the organization. A big, talented winger, Armia will look awfully good patrolling the wing with Grigorenko or another top center to his side. Girgensons has proven to be a do-anything center who has also spent time on the wing. He’s a tenacious talent who serves equally well on the power play as on the penalty kill. He seems to have some Chris Drury or Michael Peca intangibles as an effective two-way forward with leadership potential.

In addition to Armia, Girgensons and Grigorenko, the Sabres also have the likes of Johan Larsson, Daniel Catenacci and a handful of other promising prospects set to begin the year in Rochester.

The 2013 first round yielded Darcy Regier a pair of cornerstone defenders to go along with another top talent in Mark Pysyk (2010 first round). Rasmus Ristolainen and Nikita Zadorov have both earned positive reviews throughout camp and the preseason and with Ristolainen already under contract, there seems to be a good chance at least one starts the year in Buffalo.

Based on the direction that Regier seems to be thinking about taking, it might be worthwhile to roll out a majority of Buffalo’s top prospects to start the 2013-14 season. One challenge is finding the space.

On the backend players like Henrik Talliner, Mike Weber and Jamie McBain will all command playing time and finding a way to fit Ristolainen into that mix could be difficult.

Pysyk will almost certainly be amongst Buffalo’s top six when the puck drops on opening night. He showed well last season and seems to have secured a position on the right side of one of Buffalo’s top pairs. Should Ristolainen find a spot, he’d join Pysyk and Tyler Myers as three of Buffalo’s top youthful defenders. Although Myers’ struggles have been an issue in recent seasons, adding that trio with Christian Ehrhoff creates a significant, solid core.

There is a little more wiggle room up front with Buffalo’s four big guns. While Cody Hodgson, Thomas Vanek and other veterans obviously get written into the lineup with pen, there is space for the likes of Larsson and Girgensons to fit in.

I personally like both Larsson and Girgensons together in a third line, two-way role. They both excel at both ends of the ice, they play physically and could eventually grow into a shutdown scoring line. Think of something in the mold of Patrice Bergeron.  While sticking Steve Ott with them would provide more than enough sandpaper, finding an adequate right winger may make more sense. Exactly who fills that role, however may be tough to pinpoint.

While it would be doubtful to see Grigorenko and Armia sitck together for the duration of the year, giving them an opportunity right off the bat would almost be like seeing your future unfold directly before your eyes. Splitting the pair may provide more wiggle room for each to make the roster.

Ultimately, Armia will likely land in the AHL in order to further adjust to the North American game, although don’t be surprised when you see him called up by midseason.  Even with Armia sent to Rochester, here’s a set of lines which I’d like to see the Sabres open the year with should youth be a primary concern (bear in mind that some of these sets my not make the most sense):

Vanek – Hodgson – Stafford

Ennis – Grigorenko – Leino

Ott – Larsson – Girgensons

Foligno – Porter – Kaleta

Scott (extra forward)

What they’re wearing – Derek Roy

What they’re wearing – Derek Roy

What they’re wearing – Derek Roy

For this month’s edition of What They’re Wearing, we take a look at one of the newest members of the St. Louis Blues, Derek Roy. Roy, who spent the bulk of his career in Buffalo, bounced to Dallas and Vancouver last year and signed a new deal in St. Louis this summer.

Roy has been an Easton guy for a number of years and he has become one of their most successful on-ice talents in recent seasons. It’s never a surprise to see him using their newest gear and last season was no exception.

Skates: Easton Mako

Roy was one of many players using Easton’s new, groundbreaking skate last year. A good number of Easton regulars were using the Mako and Roy was wearing it all year. Here’s a solid shot of Roy sporting the footwear.

Derek Roy wears the NEW Easton Mako Hockey Skates

Derek Roy wears the NEW Easton Mako Hockey Skates

Gloves: Easton EQ Pro

Roy’s a playmaker who favors the open mobility of a four-roll glove. The EQ Pro is built with a very traditional construction that doesn’t restrict movement and provides plenty of wrist mobility. While it may not be the best looking glove – very low without any graphics or extra trim – this is a full-nylon glove with quality protection and fit. You can expect to see Roy transition to the new Easton Pro next season like many Easton players did for the end of the year and postseason.

Helmet: Easton E400

This is the more basic VN foam liner model that Easton produces which is appealing to many pros as they often side with the VN built helmets as opposed to some of the more technologically advanced models.

Stick: Easton Stealth RS

It was hard to tell if Roy was using a V9 series prototypes during last season. All photos I found of him had him sporting a Stealth RS model. I think it’s a good bet that Roy will be using a V9E next season as he follows the progression of the Easton product line. The V9 and V9E are now available in stores if you’ve yet to get a look at the newest models.

On the Ice: CCM RBZ skates

CCM RBZ Skate and RBZ Stage 2 Stick

CCM RBZ Skate and RBZ Stage 2 Stick

On the heels of their partnership with Taylor made to release the RBZ stick last season, CCM took a step forward in 2013 in not only revamping the RBZ stick, but introducing the RBZ skate to their line.

When I got around to getting the RBZ skates on the ice, it wasn’t the first time I had a chance to try a pair on. The CCM RBZ Demo Day afforded me a chance to take a spin in the new wheels and helped to inspire me to give the product a closer look.

Finer details of the skate’s design can be found in our product review posted earlier this summer.

Out of the Box

The RBZ is a very good looking skate. It’s a very basic, traditional look that goes light on accents and crazy desgins and heavy on dark colors. It is a nice way to disguise the all-carbon boot as the dark upper just looks like the outside of any old skate you’ve grown up wearing. Upon closer inspection, however, the details of the construction are more evident.

One difference with the RBZ over just about every skate on the market is how big they run. CCM constructed them to fit a little wider which practically sizes them up nearly one full size for most people. I’m anywhere between a 10 or 10.5 in skates and the RBZ I’m wearing are a 9.5. Keep that in mind when you go to try them on.

The wide fit is pretty much uniform through the entire skate and it isn’t reduced until they take a spin in the oven and get laced up the first time. This doesn’t mean that putting them on out of the box gives a deceptive feel, but allowing them to bake and mold will do wonders in the fit and comfort department.

Most other facets of the skate are relatively basic. There’s nothing that stands out in store or even in the locker room in terms of the feel or ascetics. The physical attributes of the skate are another story as the incredible weight savings CCM used are the first thing anyone notices when they hold the skate.

This balance and weight work that CCM put into the RBZ is noticeable on the ice as well, as the skates are barely noticeable at times.

On the Ice

One word of warning on the RBZ skate; wear them around your house a lot. My previous on ice review of the Easton Mako revealed a skate that was pretty much game ready after baking. The RBZ is close but does need a little extra wear before your first ice time. While I didn’t get a chance to break them in further at home, I only experience slight discomfort the first time I got them on the ice.

Another thing that stood out to me was the fit once I was ready to go. The wide fit caused me to lace my skates a little tighter than usual to ensure the fit I have grown accustomed to. However, once I got the skates to a point I liked it was smooth sailing.

Since I’m not an overly fast or quick player, nothing much improves those attributes of my game. Yet, the three games I’ve worn the RBZ for have been ice times in which my cornering and edge work have been improved. While only an ACME rocket would give me more straightaway speed, I feel that my edges and in-tight agility have improved with the skates.

There’s something about the RBZ that makes me feel incredibly comfortable on the ice. While the wide fit was something I had to adjust to, the comfort level of these skates is completely unparalleled. CCM has a full line of skates in the RBZ family and each and every one is worth a long look when you come in to grab a new pair.

Hockey Fitness: Summer Training

Now that we’re officially in the dog days of summer, you’ve probably had plenty of time to spend at the beach, hanging with friends and possibly getting some ice from time to time with friends or even rec teams. But with summer heading towards the finish and tryouts and the regular season closing in, it is time to whip yourself into game shape.

There are a million and one hockey workouts for the summer online and they’re all great. For the most part you can find a host of programs that focus on weight, endurance and cross training to ensure you get a full body workout while you’re away from the rink on a regular basis.

The beauty of a summer workout is that you can vary the exercises you wish to focus on. Is this an offseason where you want to put on solid weight? Are you looking to build explosiveness and foot speed? Or maybe you’re looking to get back into game shape with a simple, well-rounded workout routine.

Regardless of your primary focus, a sound cardiovascular element is vital. Whether it’s on a stationary bike, roller blades, bicycle or jogging, make sure you build in an adequate amount of time for a proper cardio workout. Few things are going to help keep your third period legs fresh than a run or bike ride in the heat of July and August.

Mixing in different cardio elements will aid in building different muscle groups while keeping the primary focus on your cardiovascular health and building some of the endurance you may have lost catching up on the tan you lost during the winter. One other key to your cardio work out is to keep varying levels to the workout. Interval training is a great way to not only maintain endurance but also build explosive and high-tempo bursts (much like shifts in a game) into that training.

As for the weight and strength training aspect, the key is a full body focus. Keep the focus on specific muscle groups and ensure that each day’s workout is collectively going to improve that muscle group. One practice I picked up from working with various trainers is the concept of supersetting work outs.

This may not necessarily be the practice that you wish to pursue, but using a superset workout will not only allow you to mix in multiple exercises at once, but can provide for full body movement as opposed to single-muscle exercises that you may be used to.

The final element, if you hadn’t already worked this in, is core strength and agility. While a lot of agility drills work very well in a cardio setting, they can definitely be done individually and when combined with core strengthening workouts can serve as a tremendous compliment to the typical cardio and strength training programs you’ve used in the past.

Ultimately your summer workout is yours to build. Goalies may be only concerned with lower body focus, cardio and a high level of agility training to increase their side-to-side mobility and effectiveness for the coming season. Maybe some defensemen are trying to add weight and strength for added physicality as their regular season is set to begin. Or perhaps you need to get back in shape and ready for training camp and a full-circuit workout is just what the doctor ordered.

Do your research, see what other players are doing and make sure that you keep a broad focus on the entire practice.

What they’re wearing – Ilya Kovachuk

What they’re wearing – Ilya Kovachuk

What they’re wearing – Ilya Kovachuk

Of all the happenings around the NHL this summer, nothing has been more shocking that Ilya Kovalchuck’s decision to retire from the NHL and return to play for SKA in the KHL. As he departs for Russia, we’ll take a look at the gear he sported in the NHL.

Unlike our first target, Mikhail Grigorenko, Kovalchuk is a very loyal Warrior client who hasn’t been seen in anything but their gear for a number of seasons. Since Kovalchuk doesn’t bounce around with the equipment he uses, tracking his set up was much easier. Here’s what he wore during the shortened 2013 season:

Skates: Bauer Vapor APX

Since Warrior has not jumped into the skate market just yet, Kovalchuk sports Bauer’s APX line for his skates. A popular, lightweight skate, the APX is used by countless professionals and is equally popular in youth and adult rec leagues across North America. No surprise to see a skill player like Kovalchuk in a skate that promotes agility and speed.

Gloves: Warrior Luxe

The Luxe line bridged the gap, in a way, between the Franchise and this year’s Covert line. While Kovalchuk didn’t get into a Covert full-time, the Luxe shares many of the same qualities. A more tapered, anatomically fit glove compared to the traditional four-roll fit of the Franchise, the Luxe provides a little more snug fit which is beneficial for players who like their gloves to respond in unison with their hands. While the Covert has taken up the Luxe’s mantle, you can find the same tapered comfort in Warrior’s new line.

Helmet: Bauer 4500 with Bauer visor

The one Warrior product Kovalchuk doesn’t use is the Krown 360 helmet. He opts for the traditional, low-profile 4500 model which is still prevalent in many areas. The 4500 uses a traditional foam liner as opposed to some of the high-end EPP foams with special inserts seen in such helmets as the Bauer RE-AKT or the Krown. Kovalchuk’s visor appears to be the Bauer J-cut which is very similar to the wave or aviator cut visors on the market but with an additional cut on the side of the visor. It’s a tough visor to find but the Bauer or Oakley aviator cut visors provide the same appearance.

Stick: Warrior Covert DT1 (red graphics)

A truer form of the word sniper may not be known when you consider the type of player Kovalchuk is. He certainly serves as an excellent poster boy for Warrior to show off the benefits of their Covert stick line. Kovalchuk uses a big right handed curve and sports a unique red based graphics package on his DT1.

Beat the dog days with the Great Skate Summer Sale

Great Skate 30th Annual Summer Sale

Great Skate 30th Annual Summer Sale August 1st – 10th, 2013

As the summer days roll along and the temperatures continue to rise, there’s one event on the horizon that will have you thinking of cold, wintry weather in no time.

The 30th annual Great Skate Summer Sale is kicking off on August 1 and will continue through to August 10. The sale is available online, at greatskate.com and at our Buffalo, NY store. In addition to phenomenal deals on this year’s best equipment, you will have the opportunity to demo hockey’s newest releases and take part in a number of exciting giveaways and promotions.

Bauer, CCM, Easton, Reebok and Warrior will each be participating in demo days between August 5 and 9 that will feature each manufacturer’s newest sticks and equipment. Players will have the opportunity to demo the newest sticks which will be hitting the market along with trying on each company’s newest gear between 10am and 6pm each day that the demos take place.

Along with providing a unique demo of their newest equipment and sticks, Easton will also be providing an opportunity for a team to win a full set (18) of Easton composite sticks for the season. All you need to do is provide your full team roster to enter the drawing for the team set.

Bauer is getting in on the fun as well, offering a week’s worth of prizes that run from Monday through Friday and include a Ryan Keseler James VanRiemsdyk and Patrick Kane sticks, a new pair of Vapor APX skates and Friday’s grand prize of Bauer sticks for a year.

The Summer Sale will also feature one of the newest Buffalo Sabres as Buffalo’s own Justin Bailey will be on hand from 5pm to 6pm on August 1. You will have a chance to test your shot against Bailey and see how you stack up against an NHL draft pick.

Bailey won’t be the only competition Summer Sale guests will have for shooting. Warrior is sponsoring the Warrior Hockey Chara Challenge which will be a fastest shot competition with giveaways that include Warrior merchandise and a Dynasty AX1 stick.

In addition to the Chara Challenge, Warrior will be providing one lucky winner with two tickets to the 2014 Winter Classic at the Big House in Ann Arbor, Michigan with $200 spending money and one night’s hotel accommodations for the game.

Be sure not to miss your opportunity to take home any one of the terrific prizes that will be up for grabs while also taking advantage of all the phenomenal deals that will provide up to 80% savings on select items.

The 30th annual Great Skate Summer Sale kicks off on August 1, be sure you don’t to miss a minute.

CCM/Reebok Demo Day: Testing the RBZ Skate and Stick

Demo Day for the CCM RBZ Skate and RBZ Stage 2 Stick

Demo Day for the CCM RBZ Skate and RBZ Stage 2 Stick

The day is nearing in which the hockey world will be graced with the RBZ Stage 2 stick and the new RBZ skates. As the company prepares to launch the next step in a line that has boomed with popularity, Great Skate had a chance to take an inside look at both the RBZ Stage 2 stick and RBZ skate.

A small group of guys got the full treatment from our CCM reps as they had a full lineup of the RBZ skate to choose from and about two-dozen RBZ Stage 2 sticks to choose from. The skate was quite informal, just shooting and passing in warm up suits and eventually things morphed into a center ice three-on-three scrimmage. What I did notice from spinning around the ice is that the RBZ skate is the real deal.

We got a brief rundown of some of the changes and improvements to the RBZ skate as compared to the U+ line that came before it. The RBZ has a full composite boot and is built with a little more pitch for a better angle of attack and increased agility. The skate is also built 4mm higher than previous skates. This factors with the aggressive pitch to give the skater a better radius for tighter turns and cuts.

The composite boot allows for a lighter build that increases your power on the ice. They also run a little larger than you might expect. I’m a size 12 shoe and typically wear a 10 or 10.5 in a skate. The pair of RBZs that I had on yesterday were 9.5 and fit quite well. As a side note, the skates I had were EE width which gave them a little play in the ankle and arch but it wasn’t too noticeable on the ice. There’s no doubt that a slightly more narrow boot would give a more snug fit.

On the ice the skate is light and responsive. I found myself making effortless cuts and I felt that my stride was powerful. I took a few hard laps and in-zone skates during the ice time to see how the skate felt in more of an in-game setting and they were great. Bear in mind that these were basically out of the box and right onto the ice. The wider boot may have factored into this, but I didn’t feel any ill effects from wearing a brand new skate without any sort of break in period.

As for the sticks, I have to say the Stage 2 stole the show. I’ve used an RBZ and I loved the pop that you get off the blade. The Speed Channels aren’t a gimmick and the hot blade they’ve created is something you feel on the ice. The original RBZ did have one drawback and that was the balance. It was a blade heavy stick and there was a strange sensation when using it because of the center of gravity.

With the Stage 2 this isn’t an issue. In addition to a new graphic scheme, CCM worked out the weighting issues so that this already incredibly light stick has the balance and feel you would expect.

I was fairly accurate – or as accurate as I could be – when shooting and the upgraded speed channels gave my slap shot a noticeable pop. When you consider the few shortcomings the original RBZ and factor in the changes made for the Stage 2, the word upgrade almost doesn’t do it justice.

Keep your eyes peeled for the new RBZ skate, Stage 2 stick and the Reebok Ribcor to hit the shelves at Great Skate later this summer. You won’t want to miss out on picking up these new models.

Bruins and Blackhawks square off in Cup Final

Bruins and Blackhawks square off in Cup Final

Bruins and Blackhawks square off in Cup Final

A matchup of two of the last three Stanley Cup Champions isn’t likely to disappoint any hockey fans. Particularly a matchup pairing two teams that were as dominant as Chicago and Boston proved to be this postseason.

Both enter the Finals after quickly dispatching their Conference Final opponents in a much quicker fashion than anyone imagined. The pair of short series should serve both teams well entering the Final as there was less time for a grueling, physical series to drain one or the other.

At this point, both teams have endured their own battles to reach this point. Both were staring at overtime in game seven before squeezing past in getting in place to play for the Cup.

Boston’s run has been particularly effective as they’ve gotten very consistent scoring from each of their lines and despite the loss of Gregory Campbell, they remain a very tough team. Zdeno Chara has been a minutes hog while Tuukka Rask has been absolutely phoneomenal along the way.

Chicago enters the series with a few key contributors beginning to heat up. Patrick Kane’s recent hat trick was accompanied by a pair of assists from Jonathan Towes. Corey Crawford has been very strong in net and Chicago’s defense has been nearly as good as any one else.

Winning this series will be no treat and I believe that after a short Conference Finals series killed some of the momentum coming off previous rounds.

Keys for Boston

Exert your influence: The Bruins managed to get the Penguins running around thanks to their physical play. While the Blackhawks are a more physically engaged team, there is still a difference between the Burins and Blackhawks makeup. If the Bruins can set the physical tone, they may push Chicago off their game plan.

Tuukka Time: Tuukka Rask has been unreal. He had a few ugly goals against in the first round but has remain nearly perfect since then. He’s gotten hot at the right time and the Bruins are beneficiaries.

Win the line matching: I think you’d be hard pressed to find a better pair of two-way forwards than David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron. They’re phenomenal shut down players and both of their lines are equally dangerous defensively as they are at scoring. If they can get the matchups they want here, these two lines will have a field day.

Z-Factor: I don’t know if Kane, Toews, Hossa or someone else will get a steady diet of Chara, but he’s been the one to neutralize the opposition. If Chara is successful in silencing a line, the Bruins will be at an advantage.

Keys for Chicago

Special Teams: Both Boston and Chicago have been near perfect killing penalties. The Blackhawks need to find a way to score some power play goals while continuing to keep the Bruins up-and-down power play shut out.

Smart matching: Considering that Zdeno Chara will have the opportunity to match one of Chicago’s lines (plus the threat of Bergeron’s line), the Blackhawks will need to find a way to generate consistent if one of their top lines has been neutralized.

Depth matters: Bryan Bickell’s scoring surge has been welcome in the Windy City. Between Kane, Sharp, Hossa and Bickell, the Hawks have a solid set of scorers heading into this series. The type of depth scoring that Bickell represents will be a major part of any success the Blackhawks have.

Net protector: Corey Crawford has been awesome. That doesn’t mean I still don’t know how much confidence I have in him. Perhaps I’m a naysayer, but I still get a little nervous watching him. If Crawford maintains and the Hawks shelter him well, they could be in business.

Outcome: I have a strange feeling that the Bruins win in 7 in this series. I just think they’re too defensively sound and have too much size for the Hawks to counter.

Stanley Cup 2013

NHL Stanley Cup 2013

On the Ice: Easton Mako skates

Easton Mako Ice Hockey Skate

Easton Mako Ice Hockey Skates

Our second installment of On the Ice comes in a different gear category than the initial review of the Warrior Dynasty stick. I’ve been able to try out a pair of Easton’s newest skate, the Mako.

The Mako is a new release from Easton and actually is a standalone product compared to the Stealth skate line which offers a number of different models to select. The focus of this skate is all about speed. From the heat moldable composite upper, the new CXN holder, aggressive pitch angle and the new Extendon feature, the Mako is designed for the sole purpose of speed.

With a composite construction the Mako skate is incredibly light and that feature is something that is noticeable from the first time you take it off the wall. However, the boot design offers more than just weight reduction. Easton’s asymmetrical design is focused to increase side-to-side agility for the player. In addition, the aggressively angle of the boot and holder offer a forward pitch that is not only conducive for straight ahead speed but also cornering and agility.

These features help to promote Easton’s new “Art of Speed” slogan. However, they aren’t just window dressings. The aggressive forward pitch and lightweight construction are complimented by the Extendon guard; built to promote the natural stride of a hockey player. The Extendon is a new take on the typical tendon guard on a normal pair of skates – and it does take a little getting used to. The slightly longer guard is designed to not only promote full extension in loading your stride but also immediate recovery after pushing off. It almost serves like a rubberband in a sense; aiding the skater in each and every stride.

The general look of the skate is somewhat odd, especially if you’re someone who is used to a traditional skate with a black boot and white holder. However, the sharp orange accents the compliment the black and silver on the boot looks pretty great. In fact, for as funky of a design this skate has, it passes the mirror test with flying colors.

It’s also appealing to more and more NHL professionals. Easton athletes like Derek Roy were wearing the Mako throughout this season and it was gaining a strong foothold (no pun intended) with the professional crowd. For a regular guy like myself, if was thoroughly impressed with the skate.

Out of the Box

If there is one thing that needs to be impressed upon anyone considering this skate it is that you cannot judge the fit before you bake it. Not only is the entire boot thermally formed but the tongue is as well. When you first put the skate on it is stiff, narrow and rather unforgiving. In fact, it is incredibly difficult to lace prior to being baked. However, once these are baked they are an entirely different skate. Your foot will slide into the boot like butter and once you’re laced up the skate actually wraps itself around your foot.

The reason I feel it is so important to impress this upon you is because this skate is designed to be fully customized to the wearer’s foot. While other skate models feel better once they’ve been baked, the Mako has to be baked. The result ends up being a ridiculously comfortable skate that is formed around your entire foot.

The Extendon feels a little different when you first get the skates on and it is because it sits a little closer to your leg (as it is designed to move back and forth with your stride) which creates an unusual sensation when you first lace up the skates. However the adjustment period for that is short as there is no discomfort created by the feature.

Another thing that threw me off was the tongue. It is fully heat formed and has a thick plastic insert on the top. Before baking it is somewhat cumbersome and difficult to deal with. Once you’ve baked the skates it is pliable and ends up contouring around the top of your foot and up through the ankle. Like with the initially stiff boot, the tongue is a completely different piece of the puzzle after the skates spend some time in the oven.

On the Ice

While I needed to wait a couple of weeks to get these on the ice, I didn’t have a ton of time to break them in at home. Aside from lacing them up a couple of times while watching TV, the skates didn’t get too much time to be broken in prior to their first ice time. This was a major concern for me at my first game in them.

Yet, after my first game I felt no ill effects. I didn’t have any blisters, my feet weren’t sore and I was amazed that after baking the skate and sporting it for a couple of hours at home that these were game ready. While your experience may differ a bit, I’ve found that most who are using the Mako determined they are all but game ready after getting baked and forming to your feet.

I have to say this was a major relief to me after watching my college teammates suffer through breaking in skates year after year.

The biggest adjustment for me on the ice was the forward pitch of these skates. Coming from CCM Pro Tacks, I was used to a flatter attack angle and a wider boot. The Mako has a much more pronounced forward pitch in addition to a more narrow fit. While the fit itself never became an issue, I found myself a little wobbly when I took my first few spins around on the skates. In fact, I had one moment early in the game in which I took twice the amount of time to turnaround than I usually would because I was still unsure on my feet.

What does all of that mean? Are these that difficult to get used to? The answer is no. By the midpoint of the first period I had fully settled into the skates and I can now say after a few ice times that these are a truly incredible product.

I am by no means a fast skater. In fact I’d contend that while technically sound I am actually brutally slow. Yet I’ve noticed my strides have been more powerful lately and my straight line speed has actually increased. The reason I can say that this is so noticeable is the way the skate feels if you take hard, aggressive strides. The construction of the boot and holder are so conducive to complimenting the motion of skating that you do feel the skate reacting with you as you go up and down the ice.

Easton hit it out of the park with the Mako skate. It is a highly evolved product that gives you noticeable results when you wear them. So long as you understand the difference in fit between the skate out of the box and the skate out of the oven, I’m confident that this would be on top of everyone’s shopping list when they’re looking for new skates.

What they’re wearing: Mikhail Grigorenko

What they’re wearing: Mikhail Grigorenko

What they’re wearing: Mikhail Grigorenko

What they’re wearing will be a new feature for the Great Skate Blog which will focus in on the gear being worn by players from around the NHL. These posts will focus on both skaters and goaltenders so both groups of players are well represented. Hopefully this series not only gives you a better idea of what your favorite players are wearing, but clue you in to which gear you may be looking to pick up the next time you’re at Great Skate.

My first target for WTW is Mikhail Grigorenko, the top prospect in the Sabres system. He was up and down with the big blub this year but managed to wear quite a bit of gear during his time. This breakdown is based on his final game of the year against the Islanders, but I will reference a few other games too.

Skates: Bauer Supreme TotalOne

One of the few pieces of gear he didn’t change at any point during his time with the Sabres. A solid skate with a tough, rigid construction, the TotalOne is immensely popular at the NHL level and there are a number of models in the Supreme line available at Great Skate.

Gloves: Bauer 4-Roll

Grigorenko was quite loyal to the Bauer Supreme TotalOne glove for most of the season but was sporting the 4-Roll for the season finale on April 26 (see entry image). Both gloves are great choices. The 4-roll is a classic fit that is more or less the go-to for most professionals. It is a clean, traditional look with a clean, traditional fit. The Supreme is design for maximum ergonomic feel and responsiveness and moves beautifully with your hand when playing. For a gifted playmaker like Grigorenko, the TotalOne makes a whole lot of sense. Of course, you can never go wrong with the 4-roll.

Helmet: CCM Vector 08 with Oakley Pro Straight visor

Grigroenko sports the wildly popular CCM Vector shell with a Oakley Pro Straight visor. The Pro Straight is used by just about every NHLer who wears a visor and provides excellent clarity to the wearer. Grigorenko uses the 08 Vector with a more traditional foam liner rather than the EPP foam with the heat molded pad liner that is found on the Vector 10 model. Either way, it is a good looking helmet and one that I’ve been seriously contemplating for a purchase for some time.

Stick: Warrior Covert DT1 (white)

This is the reason I wanted to choose Grigorenko for this first installment. He has used a number of sticks throughout the season. While I can’t be sure, he may have been trying out an RBZ at one point as well. However, there is proof of him using the Covert throughout the year and in the final game. What is very interesting is that he’s switched sticks in the middle of games at times. Against the Rangers he went from the Covert to an APX and it wasn’t the first time I picked up on it. He also used a TotalOne early in the year.

While I’m fascinated by his choice to just rotate sticks whenever he wanted (he is a pro after all) I think the all-white Covert looks awesome. The Dagger Taper on the Covert is an awesome feature and I’m a sucker for all-white sticks. Great choice if you ask me.

Feel free to leave your recommendation for the next edition of WTW in the comments.