Capitals Goaltender Coach Passes the Baton to the Next Generation

At the conclusion of the Washington Capitals’ Development Camp, goalie coach Mitch Korn announced that he would be stepping down from his position and turning the reins over to Hershey Bears coach Scott Murray. Will this mean a change in the training philosophy and perhaps even the way in which Braden Holtby and Philipp Grubauer perform between the pipes?

Coaching a goaltender is no easy task. USA Hockey writes about the challenges that extend well beyond just firing pucks at the goalie during practice. It involves teaching the goalie to watch the ice, anticipate the puck, and know when to move high or low to block a shot. It is much more of a mind game combined with a skating skill game. We have all heard post-game reviews that talk about a goalie not having his head in the game.

One of the things that Coach Korn has been able to do is integrate Holtby and Grubauer with the team. They aren’t stand-alone players. He has taught the players how to challenge his goalies in the first minutes of each practice. Mitch always had a core team of guys who helped him work with the goalies. It was about the net minders, not the players. The training is so much more than just stopping slapshots – it involves understanding the players on the opponent teams and expecting the unexpected. He has a reputation for investing in the lives of his goalies, understanding that a coach’s job doesn’t end on the ice, taking into consideration the whole person as a player.

Mitch came to the Caps with Barry Trotz in 2014. He has coached five goalies to become Vezina Trophy winners, including Braden Holtby. He has fine-tuned the skills of Grubi into an elite player with the potential to become a starting goalie in the NHL. We have seen his unique approach to training, using screen boards and angle devices. He is a hands-on coach. One of the things we heard after development camp was how impressed the players were in the time he took with each of them.

Murray, at 35, has some big shoes to fill. He began coaching the Bears goalies, including Grubauer, in 2013. More recently he has coached the likely next generation of Caps goalies, Pheonix Copley and Vitek Vanecek. He has had the privilege of working under the guidance of Olie Kolzig. Scott previous spent five seasons as goalie coach of the OHL’s Sudbury Wolves, He has already spent some time with Korn during camp so the transition to the Caps goalie coach should be relatively seamless.

Murray is one who believes in training his goaltenders to read the environment. He brings with him a history of working to develop players into top notch goalies. In addition to developing goaltenders in Hershey and in the OHL, he worked as a development coach for the RHP Training Centre in Ontario for two years. He is open to using all the tools available to coaches to improve his players. While his philosophy and process may differ slightly from that of Mitch Korn, we think he will be bring something new to improve the stopping power of the Caps goalies.

What’s next for Mitch, who turns 60 this fall? We understand that he will oversee goal-tending operations and serve as a mentor to Scott as he makes the transition. As Director of Goaltending, he will also travel to Caps affiliates in Hershey and South Carolina (ECHL) to work with their coaches and share his years of experience. He will continue with the Mitch Korn Goaltenders and Defensemen Camp to train up a new generation of potential NHL goaltenders. The teach of the ‘goalie whisper’ will continue, even as he pulls back from some of his duties with the Caps. And we imagine he will have much more time back home in NY for more great deli sandwiches!

watermarked2(2017-03-23-2150)Braden is one of the most agile goalies in the league. You know – those amazing splits and twirls when he makes one of those amazing saves that gets our heart pumping!! Underneath the showmanship is a well-trained player with discipline and concentration who is willing to do what it takes to make the save. We don’t expect any of that to go away. We look forward to observing Murray during training camp and Caps practice to see how he interacts with the goalies and what training tricks he has up his sleeve.

The Goalies of Capitals Development Camp

Critical to any winning team is who sits between the posts and who ultimately keeps the other team from scoring. This summer we had a chance to see four goalies who might one day be decked out in a red Capitals sweater.

Lets start with Adam Carlson. The 23 year old signed with Washington in 2016 as a free agent and has been playing with the ECHL South Carolina Stingrays. He played in 23 games and recorded one shutout against Atlanta. DevCamp 5159He initially reported to the Hershey Bears but was sent down to the Stingrays under and  Amateur Tryout Agreement under emergency conditions, according to the Stingrays. He will most likely return to Charleston but a door could always open to allow him to get some ice time in Hershey.

Collin Delia has made an impression during his time playing at Merrimack College (NCAA) last season. Not only was he invited to the Capitals development camp – he was also invited to the Blackhawk’s camp. DevCamp 570Tells you something about what the scouts see in this 23 year old. He will return to Marrimack as a senior. The door appears to be wide open for his future.

Goaltender Michael Lackey started in six games for Harvard (NCAA) in the 2015-16 season. Before that he was the starting goalie on the U17 team during the World U17 Challenge, according to Harvard and is a USA Hockey National Team Development Program alumi. He is also a local guy – born in Washington DC in 1997. He was sidelined with an apparent hip injury last year. DevCamp 54You see during camp just how invested he is in improving his game and giving it his all in the net. Hopefully he will be back on the ice for Harvard and we’ll have a chance to see how his time at home has paid off.

Mack Shields, the Canadian goaltender from U Sports York University, made his mark on the camp. The York Lions said of Shields: ” A big goalie who has a tremendous work ethic and thinks the game well for his position.” We saw that as he seemed to always have the ear of the Capitals goalie coaches during camp. We understand he will be back for rookie camp.DevCamp 5123 Shields will return to York for his sophomore season.

It was great fun getting to see these guys working with goaltender trainers Mitch Korn and Scott Murray. It was a real treat to spend time with Korn who stepped down as the Capitals goalie guru at the end of camp. We look forward to following them and their possible future in the NHL.