Development Camp is a great time to get an early look at who might be on the Capitals roster in the years ahead. We have been watching the process unfold for a few years now and it is exciting to see a young draft finally make the jump to the Hershey Bears or the Washington Capitals. We remember seeing a grinning Tom Wilson for the first time and thinking there was something different about that guy. Before he played with the Bears and became a Caps sensation, Jakub Vrana was a 2014 draft who wowed the crowd that summer.
This year many of the faces were familiar with more than half the participants returning for a second (or more) time to MedStar Capitals IcePlex. A handful of those players are likely to be on the Capitals Training Camp roster as well. Those are the players who the coaches and managers want to give another look as they consider rosters in Hershey and Washington.
Over the years development camp has morphed into a camp where coaches from across the Capitals franchise focus their attention on those players who folks like Director of Player Development Steve Richmond think have the most potential to play in the NHL. Richmond, whose job it is to know the talents and potential each player brings to the team, said last week that he believes Martin Fehervary, Alexander Alexeyev, and Axel Jonsson-Fjallby are “close” to skating in the NHL. Now that could mean they need some time in Hershey and could be called up should the need arise or the team might be looking at them to fill in gaps on the Caps roster. All of them have been to camp before and all of them have been able to improve their skills as a result.
One of the elements that conditioning coaches look at is how to help a player bulk up and improve their overall strength. Richmond talked about how many of the young players come in and are not prepared to face older, larger, faster players in the AHL and NHL. The structure of development camp has moved away from scrimmages and more toward overall conditioning. The Capitals seem to be moving toward a more physical game with bigger players who can dish out the hits as well as take one and keep on going.
Shane Gersich caught a good bit of attention from coaches as well as the media. He is one of those players that is fun to watch and in whom we see great potential to wear the red jersey in DC. Development camp is just the place to shape him into the professional player the Caps need in the next run for the Stanley Cup. He knows what it takes – he has been there before, unlike any other player at camp.
One of the best parts about dev camp is the first look at recent drafts. Connor McMichael has great potential. He has benefited from the influence of former Capitals player and coach Dale Hunter with the London Knights. He will return there to continue to fine-tune his player style as he prepares for a potential long-term career with the Caps. He even netted a goal during the camp scrimmage on Saturday. As one of the new kids on the ice, he displayed a level of confidence which will carry him from Ontario to DC when the time is right.
Development Camp is where the newest drafts get their first look at what it means to in the pros. It can be overwhelming and fun at the same time as the take in the experience– right after the Capitals called their name at the draft. You could see those nerves in three of those new players as they interacted with players who had been there before. Martin Haas could make a real contribution to the blue-line. At 6’4″, he may need more bulking up and then learning how to be a fast skater at the same time. Brett Leason is tall and lanky and seemed to be taking in all the information the coaches would share with him. Sounds like he could find himself in the AHL pretty soon. Aliaksei Protas is another tall guy – 6’5″ but only 205 pounds. He is one of those who is likely to have the physicality the Caps need to build into the lines the next few year. These are the ones to watch next year to see how they have grown with a little more time playing.
There were a few other players who caught our eye for various reasons. Joe Snively is the local guy (Herndon, VA) who fans are really enamored with. He will be most likely be heading back to Hershey to play this season but he is one to watch. He scored in the scrimmage too. Garrett Pilon, Callahan Burke, and Riley Sutter each scored during the scrimmage, which is always a stand-out move.
Lets not forget that the Capitals are always on the look for a great goaltender. Although it is widely assumed that the Capitals will offer Braden Holtby a nice long contract. However, the Caps also have a reputation for turning out some of the best goaltenders in the league after a stint in Hershey or as a backup in Washington. One of these four might end up on one of those rosters in the coming years: Logan Thompson, Adrian Clark, Beck Warm, or Mitchell Gibson.
Many of these players will return for Capitals training camp in September. Keep following us for more details about camp, including who is coming and how they are doing.