Group A Observations
Group A was the second group to take the ice on Day 2, and arrival onto the ice was delayed over fifteen minutes because the coaching staff was unhappy with the ice conditions after Group B skated earlier in the morning. Of the Group A players, Eakin, Kuznetsov, and Orlov were by far the most impressive and polished. Kuznetsov was the class of the group, displaying noteworthy hustle and speed as well as solid shooting ability from the point and deft, light hands in close around the net. Two college invitees also showed flashes of brilliance. Sean Wiles, a junior forward from the University of Alaska Anchorage, threw his body around, landing several big hits and crashing the net well. Additionally, Andrew Cherniwchan, a sophomore forward from Northern Michigan University, put on a puckhandling show, leading Comcast Sports Net’s play-by-play announcer Joe Beninati, an unexpected visitor to camp, to label him a “dangler.”
Group B Observations
Group B was on ice for the early skating session of day 1. The players in Group A were put through the paces by the coaching staff, participating in mostly skill-based drills, including crashing the net, long-range shooting, and saucer passes. The practice culminated with a brutal set of Herbies, leaving just about all the players, including the well-conditioned Marcus Johansson, gasping for air on their knees. Before his legs were ruined by the sprints, Johansson was by far the most impressive player on the ice in Group B. Johansson’s well-practiced footwork led to an easy stride that enabled him to quickly float around the ice with ease. His puck control was also solid, a result of what the Caps PR staff described as a core that is stronger than comparable Swede, Nicklas Backstrom. Much like the Disney character Mary Poppeins, Johannson is “practically perfect as a prospect”.
The other player to watch in this group was Russian draftee Stanislav Galiev. Galiev flaunted a smooth stride that allowed him to speed around the ice and unleash his accurate wrist shot. The only potential negative about Galiev (as well as fellow Russian Kuznetsov) is that he sports a very lanky frame (6’1″, 178lbs) and could benefit from some extra time in the weight room to ensure he will be able to fight for pucks in the corners.
A Budding Friendship?
Group A partners Cody Eakin and Evgeny Kuznetsov seemed to strike up a real rapport both on the ice and on the bench. In addition to skating well together, the pair was constantly together and joking around, exchanging jabs in both English and Russian.
Improving Foreign Relations
It is clear that the Russian draftees are very comfortable with the spotlight into which they have been thrust in Washington. They seem to relish the attention given to them by the fans and media alike, often mugging for the camera along the glass and always willing to sign autographs for the fans. According to Washington Post beat writer Tarik El-Bashir, Evgeny Kuznetsov has “already signed more than [Alex] Semin did all last year.”
Welcome to the Media
The members of the media who cover the Capitals are definitely like members of one big fraternity. After being ignored by most members of the media during my first day covering Development Camp, my appearance the second day must have convinced them that I was at least somewhat legitimate. Over the course of the day I got to know, speak with in-depth, and get coffee with the bloggers from Caps Snaps (who provided our translations), Fight for Old DC, and Rock the Red. One of my proudest moments was when the sports reported from ABC7 came over and thanked me for the lead I had generated by talking to Nate Ewell about Chris Bond and his interaction with his mom on Day 1.
On what he wants to show the coaches: “What I can do and [that I can] do my best.”
On which Washington player he most wants to me: “Every one.”
Personal goals for camp: “Gain some upper body strength.”
“[I feel] more prepared and more comfortable the second day [of camp].”
On how he scored so many goals last season: “I was shooting the puck [more].”
Joe Finley speaks about Dmitri Orlov
On his day 2 defensive partner, Orlov: “He’s a fun player, a lot like John Carlson or Mike Green, [so] I’m real comfortable playing with him. He’s got great hockey sense. The communication is a little difficult, but hockey is a common language.”
On how it feels to have come to so many development camps: “This year is a fresh start.”
Listed on the development camp roster at 6’8″, 247lbs, veteran camp attendee Joe Finely seems even bigger than that in person (if such a thing is possible). While interviewing Finely after the second group, I found myself having to crane my head upward to meet the hulking defenseman’s gaze. Moreover, I think his crushing handshake after the interview concluded broke a few bones in my hand.