Caps Development Camp Information
So I stopped in at Kettler Capitals Iceplex this afternoon to catch Group B on day one of Caps development camp. It is difficult to grade these players right now because Coach Bruce Boudreau and his staff only had them doing drills so I’m looking forward to the intrasquad scrimmages later in the week on Wednesday and Thursday. Also, these players are only going up against each other and not against current NHL’ers so we really won’t start to know too much about them until September during the exhibition season.
I did pay close attention to 2008 first round draft pick John Carlson. When I spoke on the phone with Carlson right after he was drafted John mentioned that he needed to work on his defensive zone coverage. Well he received a lot of work on that today during Boudreau’s drills and he didn’t seem too lost, granted Alex Ovechkin, Sydney Crosby, or even a Matt Bradley weren’t on the ice to defend. Anyways, John came out of the USHL and will spend next season in London playing for the Knights under Dale and Mark Hunter. I’ll keep tabs on him throughout the season via my scouting sources. It appears that London will likely have another good team next year and could contend for the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) title so that team will get lots of attention. I have heard Carlson has a great shot but unfortunately I did not get a chance to see it today.
2007 1st round draft choice Karl Alzner was made available to the media this afternoon and it is going to be very easy for Caps fans to like this young man. Alzner has a very calm and humble demeanor. He hopes to make the big club this season (I think he will unless he gets hurt) but wasn’t expecting to be given anything handed to him. When asked about his game Karl said he is not one to deliver big hits (like a Dion Phaneuf or Scott Stevens) or be leading the rush with the puck (like a Paul Coffey or Mike Green). He did say that he is very sound from a position standpoint and you will not see players get in behind him much at all. He said he is strong in the corners and is good at moving players off the puck with his body or his stick. He says he is striving to be a Nicklas Lidstrom type of defensemen. This type of defensemen is definitely needed on this team immediately so hopefully Alzner can help the Caps this year but he will only turn 20 in September and he is definitely still maturing from a physical standpoint.
I also asked Alzner about the difference between the coaching styles of Glen Hanlon and Boudreau. Karl said that while he still hasn’t been around long enough to see the differences from a tactical standpoint he did say there is a BIG difference in the locker room and that Hanlon was more of a “Go, Go, Go” type of guy (i.e, no nonsense) and Boudreau is often cracking jokes and keeping the players loose and relaxed. Alzner thought Bourdreau’s style allows players to just focus on playing hockey and not get stressed out (and Caps fans saw the benefit of that last season). Another thing Alzner mentioned of note was that he said a lot of people out west name the Caps as their second favorite team when asked (after their hometown team). The reason being that Washington is so exciting to watch. As I wrote in my blogs last season, I have been watching hockey a long time and have never seen a player like Alex Ovechkin plus you have to give Boudreau credit for implementing a style of play that maximizes the talents of the players on the roster. I will go on record as saying that sometime in the near future a Caps ticket could be a very difficult one to obtain (i.e, I could see them start to sell out the Verizon Center on a regular basis).
One other quick note, I had a chance to talk with Tarik El-Bashir of the Washington Post (who is the Caps beat writer and a super nice guy) and he said that goalie Michael Neuvirth (2006 second round pick) seemed to be showing the effects of his knee injury from this spring in the morning session. Tarik also mentioned that LW Oskar Oskala, who was drafted in 2006 and played in Finland last season, looked like a strong skater with some potential based on what he saw while Group A was on the ice.
When I showed up at Caps development camp today I ran into Caps Director of Media relations Nate Ewell and Comcast rinkside reporter Lisa Hillary. I asked both if anyone had been signed today and Hillary immediately pointed out that Calgary signed Todd Bertuzzi for one year (I later found out it was for $1.95M). Bertuzzi is injury prone and past his prime but at just under $2M it is probably not a bad gamble by the Flames for a team that needs a top six forward but doesn’t have much money to burn due to salary cap restrictions. Calgary now has four legitimate top six forwards in Jarome Iginla, Mike Cammalerri, Daymond Langkow, and Todd Bertuzzi (if he can stay healthy). As it stands now Craig Conroy is probably number five (although some might argue he is a third line center at this point in his career) and then there isn’t a clear cut number six so look for GM Darryl Sutter to try and add someone else on the cheap. Calgary was very happy with the play of Owen Nolan last season but Minnesota signed him away for two years at $5.5M, which was above the Flames budget. 2007 first round draft pick Mikael Backlund, who the Flames are hoping will end up being a top six forward, is not ready for the NHL yet according to the scout I spoke with last week.
As for the signing of Bertuzzi some see it as controversial given the Steve Moore incident in 2004 but leave it to Sutter to throw out a sarcastic and humorous quote to try and diffuse any focus on that incident.
“I have a traffic ticket from three years ago,” said Sutter. “I hope there’s three or four fans that can forget I went through a red light. I guess I expected certain members of the media to bring that up today.
“But quite honestly when you know what kind of player he is and the money works, you know you’re not overpaying for that player, and he wanted to play in Canada, and somebody like Jarome wanted to bring in that player – I think everything else is pretty small in the big picture, then.”