Photos: Amanda Bowen
The Washington Capitals hosted their annual development camp for prospects two weeks earlier this year – arguably the busiest week of the offseason – to better accommodate prospects’ demanding schedules over the summer.
Three days after the 2016 NHL Draft, Caps prospects, which included the likes of top prospects Madison Bowey and Riley Barber as well as every pick from the 2015 and 2016 drafts, took the ice. The prospects learned system play and did drills to allow the front office to evaluate their skills and get baseline numbers. The prospects also participated in off-ice programs to learn what it takes to be a professional in the league. There was also a team-building rowing event held near Georgetown.
Lost in the headlines of qualifying offers, huge trades, and the first day of free agency, talented 2015 first-round pick Ilya Samsonov made his Caps debut, working feverishly with legendary goalie coach Mitch Korn. “[Camp] was really hard,” Samsonov said through a translator. “So many shots.” Forward Stan Galiev even made an appearance several days to help translate. Over the next year, the culture-shocked Samsonov, who only knows a handful of English words, will Skype once a week with Barry Trotz’s son Tyson, to better learn the language and communicate with coaches.
On Saturday, Caps Development Camp concluded with a scrimmage in front of a mostly full Kettler Capitals Iceplex, where Team White picked up a fun, but insignificant win.
That’s because, as the prospects know all too well, the real games and real tests are to come. Only a handful will suit up for the Washington Capitals someday.
Below are my photos from every day this week.
Photo: Amanda Bowen
Capitals 2015 first-round pick Ilya Samsonov made his Development Camp debut Tuesday after staying in Russia last summer to train for the upcoming KHL season. The 19-year-old goalie prospect is coming off his best season as a pro. Samsonov officially graduated from the MHL (the KHL’s developmental league) and played in 19 regular season games for Metallurg Magnitogorsk, registering a 2.04 GAA and a .925 save percentage. Metallurg would go on to win the Gargarin Cup as league champions. Samsonov played in six playoff games.
Despite being ranked the third best goaltending prospect by InGoal Magazine, Caps goaltending coach Mitch Korn believes the Russian netminder still has much to learn.
Wednesday night, the Pittsburgh Penguins took a commanding 3-1 series lead over the Washington Capitals. The four games between the two long-time foes have been brutal. The series has featured big hits, head shots, and taunting between rival fans. But during the morning skate, Braden Holtby cut through all of that nonsense and showed why he’s a great human.
The Caps goaltender, who is likely to win this season’s Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s best goalie, gave his stick to Brian Azinheira, a 11-yr old Penguins fan battling cancer.
Photo: Mike Ehrmann
When the Capitals drafted Ilya Samsonov 22nd overall at last month’s NHL Draft, many people were surprised that the team, already stocked with goaltending talent, would select another netminder. In spite of conventional wisdom, the Capitals insisted that they always draft the best player available. In this case, Samsonov was the best player available.
“Our scouting staff as a whole, individually and as a whole, were more than happy to be able to call his name,” Capitals assistance general manager Ross Mahoney told reporters at the draft. “We’ve always talked in the past about trying to draft the best player that’s available to us and for sure we thought he was our best player that we could take with that pick, so we went ahead and took him.”
Despite a contract with Metallurg Magnitogorsk that runs for three more years, the Capitals planned on Samsonov’s attending their development camp in July to work with goalie coach Mitch Korn.
“He has a contract, but we’ve had players in the past, some Russian players that we’ve drafted and they were able to come over,” Mahoney said. “We have tremendous confidence in our goalie coaches, being able to help this young man develop his game and bring it to a level that’ll get him to succeed in the NHL.”
That, however, never happened. While the Capitals first claimed Samsonov was missing camp due to a visa issue, he was actually attending Metallurg’s training camp as first reported by our own Ian Oland. Despite the mix-up, the Capitals didn’t purport to be concerned when they addressed the issue last week.
It’s safe to say that Caps goaltending coach Mitch Korn is a genius. In 24 seasons in the NHL, he’s helped Dominik Hasek win four Vezina and two Hart trophies. He’s also led many of the goalies he’s coached, including Braden Holtby, to career years.
Every summer after the NHL season ends, the afflable 57-year-old holds Korn Camp, a specialized goaltending program for young netminders. This year, he’s holding eight camps, including one at Kettler Capitals Iceplex.
Last week, twitter user @GabzNasty posted video of Korn instructing his tiny goalies while standing in the crease. In this lecture, Korn explains why you shouldn’t put all your weight on your heels.
Photo credit: Patrick McDermott
On Thursday night, Adam Oates was back behind the bench at Verizon Center for the first time since being fired at the end of last season. Much has changed since then. On this night, the Capitals were playing with sticks that were familiar to them and their coach was not giving his players the cold shoulder. But the most important change, at least on this night, came on defense. Oates instituted a defense system that required blueliners to give up the puck almost immediately after gaining it. This led to forced passes and a myriad of odd-man breaks against. It turned former Norris Trophy nominees like Mike Green into subject of ridicule. The Capitals defense, on the whole, was very bad.
This year, however, things are different. In offseason, new general manager Brian MacLellan added some much needed balance to the Capitals by signing Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen to big money deals. New coach Barry Trotz has also freed up its defensemen, allowing them to carry the puck when necessary. This has led to a resurgence for Green, who has 39 points this season. Other blueliners have also chipped in. Through 73 games, Karl Alzner had more than doubled his career high in goals and surpassed his career high in assists.
Against the Devils, Alzner added his fifth goal of the year in a decidedly un-Oatesian way.
Photo: Amanda Bowen
One hundred sixty days after the Washington Capitals missed the playoffs for the first time since 2007, 66 players took to the ice in Arlington, Virginia looking to atone for a lost season. New head coach Barry Trotz put his players through a 45-minute practice and then a rigorous skate test, which left many exhausted, including Alex Ovechkin. This year’s training camp is supposed to be a hard one, part of Trotz’s plan to transform this team from an also-ran into a real success. The Caps have just two days of training camp to get their legs under them before the preseason opens on Sunday.
Below the jump are photos from the day via RMNB’s newest contributor, Amanda Bowen.
The best moment of Caps Rookie Camp didn’t happen on the ice. It happened on Monday in front of a podium. That’s where one Czech, Jakub Vrana, who knows some English, helped another Czech, Vitek Vanecek, who knows virtually none, speak to the media.
The result was a five-minute press conference full of laughing, inscrutable Czech banter, and one-sentence English translations for the media.
Curious as to what Vrana and Vanecek were actually saying to each other in their native language, I reached out to Darina Sameková, a bilingual Czech, and asked her to translate LITERALLY EVERYTHING.
The result is a stressed-out Vrana desperately trying to get good answers out a joking Vanecek. It’s just the best. You have to trust me and read this.
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