Day 1 (View All Of Addison’s Photos)
Walking into Kettler Capitals Iceplex this morning, a chill flickered across my skin as I admired the clean sheet of ice that stretched in front of me; not only because the rink was 30-plus degrees cooler than the humid July air outside, but also because of the fresh start that this development camp represented. After the crushing first-round defeat in the 2010 playoffs that sent the Caps home early, development camp is the first milestone on the path to the 2010-2011 season. It seemed many other people had the same idea. During both sessions, there was a good number of spectators in the stands – probably 75 or so – definitely a good turnout for a weekday.
The goosebumps on my arms were complimented by butterflies in my stomach – as a rookie journalist, today I would be passing through the heavy metal gate separating players and press from the general public on the back side of the practice rink. After meeting the Caps PR staff and receiving my press pass, my nervousness abated somewhat, until about a minute later, when I walked into the press room and found myself surrounded by Tarik El-Bashir, Mike Vogel, Brett Leonhardt, Corey Masisak, Dan Steinberg, and all the other big name journalists who cover the Capitals.
Group A featured Kuznetsov, Eakin, Gustafsson, Della Rovere, Finley, Orlov, Dunn, and Holtby. Cody Eakin was by far the most impressive member of Group A in terms of skill. He looked confident handling the puck and was strong enough to keep from getting pushed off it. The feisty redhead also displayed impressive speed and endurance during the end of session Herbies. Kuznetsov was also impressive, showing off some nifty stick work during the session, and was certainly one of the quicker prospects during wind sprints. Listed on the roster at 6′ 170lbs, Kuznetsov actually looked a little smaller than that. He would probably benefit from some weight room sessions to add bulk to his frame. On the flip side, Joe Finley is absolutely monstrous and used his size to his advantage, throwing a few monster hits and generally burying people into the side boards. Finley, however, did get caught out of position a few times on 2-on-1 drills. Dmitri Orlov also played with a physically pleasing edge and looked generally solid. After the official end of the session, Della Rovere, Eakin, and Kuznetsov stayed on the ice to practice shooting, culminating in a full-ice long shot contest.
Group B showcased Johansson, Galiev, Bruess, Stevenson, Wey, and Grubauer. This group was also composed of a large number of invitees. In this group, the spotlight was squarely on top prospect Marcus Johansson, the Caps first round pick (24th overall) from the 2009 NHL Draft. According to Capitals PR Director Nate Ewell, the team is taking a serious look at Johansson to start with the NHL club this season to provide depth at center. Johansson displayed remarkable poise and skill centering a line with another highly regarded prospect, Russian Stanislav Galiev (3rd round, 86th overall 2010 NHL Draft), on the wing. Johansson was by far the quickest of all attendees in Group B, and according to Coach Boudreau he might even be a better skater than fellow Swede Nicklas Backstrom. Along with Johansson, Galiev was also impressive, showing off his puck handling and shooting skills for the duration of the Group B session.
Chris Bond, an invitee from Centreville, VA and part of Group A, came over to the gate to greet his mother, who had been taking pictures while he was on the ice. A quick peck on the cheek from his mom left Bond with a thoroughly embarrassed look on his face. That look, however, was quickly replaced my pure mortification when his mom leaned over and exclaimed: “Honey, I brought your swimsuit for you!” To which Bond quickly replied: “Mom, I told you, I don’t need a swimsuit.”
On Marcus Johansson: “He will let us know he is ready [for the NHL] by the quality of his play.”
On upgrading the team: “We have a great team in Hershey, they won two Calder Cups… Tomas Fleischman can play 2C, so can Brooks Laich.”
Evgeny Kuznetsov (translation from Caps in Pictures)
“It is nice to be on a team with Russians.”
“The Capitals are like a finely tuned machine.”
“I like North American-style hockey… it is faster, better, they hit harder.”
On the thing he misses most while in North America: “Friends.”
On goals: “[I want to] make the [Russian] World Junior Team.”
On being on the Caps: “It is incredible to be on a team with the best players in the world.”
“It feels like [the Capitals] believe in me.”
“I try to bring my A-game every night.”
“You can’t go out there and fake it: you’re good or you’re not.”