Caps Analysis: A Look Back at My Thoughts from Last Year’s Development Camp

June 14, 2009 | Ed Frankovic

With the hockey season now over and the off-season now officially in swing, I thought I’d go back and take a look at my blogs from last year’s Capitals Development Camp to see how some of the topics and players I blogged about ended up turning out as the past season unfolded.

Here are links to those blogs from last July 8th and 10th.

Let’s start with my best prediction of all, from the July 8th blog:

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).

Analysis: Spot on as the Caps are sold out next year and believe it or not, there is now a waiting list for season tickets!!

Another good prediction from the July 10th blog:

For those who live in the MD/Baltimore area it will be well worth your while to drive up to Hershey and see these young players next season.

Analysis: Hershey led the AHL Eastern Conference in the regular season and won the Calder Cup!

Now on to the players, let’s start with Karl Alzner

From July 10th blog:

Very smooth overall and he looks like he has a really good chance of making the Caps out of camp this year if he stays healthy. The thing I really liked about him was his ability to receive and then make a solid pass even when he was given the puck with one or two defenders on or very close to him (defensive partner Josh Godfrey did this to him a few times). Like many of the other players fatigue seemed to set in during the third period so he made some mistakes but overall his positioning was outstanding and I didn’t see anyone get around or behind him. I did notice that one time in the third period he had the opportunity to lay a shoulder into an opposing forward and separate him from the puck but Karl chose not to when that appeared to be the correct play.

Analysis: While Karl didn’t make the team out of training camp last year (and a big reason for that was due to the salary cap) he did play 30 games with the Caps when the injury bug hit and #27 should make the team this September. Alzner is not a big hitter and will not lead the rush like a Mike Green BUT he is as advertised above: very good with the puck and sound positionally. I talked to Karl after Game 5 of the Calder Cup Finals in Hershey and he is hoping he does not have to attend this summer’s development camp. Alzner said he is very tired after a long season and needs to rest his body. Karl will turn 21 in September and the biggest thing I think he needs to do is get stronger physically. Some of that will happen naturally as he gets older and some of that will have to come from proper training in the weight room.

Player #2, John Carlson. Here is an excerpt from the July 10th blog:

Still learning positioning in the defensive zone but was okay for the most part in his own end, although his defensive partner and forwards left him to fend off several odd man rushes. Very good moving the puck up the ice and had a nice assist late in the third period on one of his point shots. I talked with John after the scrimmage and he is pretty much pleased with where he is at and what he is learning but wants to improve his conditioning since he was clearly winded. When discussing his point shot and power play abilities he said, “I have pride in my shot.” Carlson will play for the London Knights next year along with Justin Taylor (6th round of 2007 draft) and he is excited about the upcoming season and believes they will have a good team. London traded with the Kitchener Rangers (2008 Memorial Cup runners-up) to obtain forward Nazem Kadri, who one NHL scout told me could be a first round pick at the 2009 NHL entry draft, so Carlson should get some great experience this season (playing for the Hunter brothers won’t hurt either).

Analysis: Carlson really benefitted from playing in London this past season under Dale Hunter and when the Knights were knocked out of the playoffs by the eventual OHL and Memorial Cup Champions, the Winsdor Spitfire, John joined the Hershey Bears and was a key player in helping the team win the Calder Cup. From what I saw in the Calder Cup Finals the ONLY thing holding Carlson back right now is his strength. John is only 19 so to expect him to come up to the NHL and play against bigger and stronger players and be able to take the body might be a stretch. Like Alzner, John just needs to mature physically and continue to hit the weight room. I see Carlson playing primarily in Hershey next season with some short stints with the Caps if injuries happen. In two years we could see Carlson with the Caps on the opposite point with Green on the power play with Alex Ovechkin moved down low. That would be two right handed shots up top but it is working fairly well now with Green and the Great #8. The one thing holding back the Caps power play from being #1 is down low presence (players to get in front of the net and create and finish rebounds). Btw, it looks like Kadri will be a top 10 draft pick at next week’s 2009 NHL Entry Draft.

On to the young goalies from the July 10th blog.

Simeon Varlamov: looked fairly solid although he struggled a couple of times with rebounds on routine shots. Seems destined to be in Hershey next season and I will be surprised if he doesn’t start.

Analysis: Won the starting job in Hershey but when Brent Johnson was injured he was called up to the big club and he took over the #1 job with the Caps in the playoffs and nearly carried them past the eventual Stanley Cup Champion Penguins. He is acrobatic and very athletic. He continues to improve his rebound control. He is getting better positionally too and will likely be the #1 goalie next season for Washington.

Michal Neuvirth: Only gave up two goals in 30 minutes but faced lots of shots and scoring chances. Had the highlight save of the day robbing an opposing forward with his glove on a shot destined for the upper corner of the top shelf. Still seems to be recovering from his knee injury but looked much better than on Monday.

Analysis: Neuvirth played in 5 games for the Caps and was 2-1 this season. He just led the Hershey Bears to the Calder Cup title and was named the AHL playoff MVP. In a perfect world (and that means unloading Jose Theodore and his $4.5M contract next season) he and Varlamov split the goaltending duties for the Caps next season.

Braden Holtby: He was left out to dry during most of his 30 minutes in net but he did make some good saves. Major project but you never know with goalies.

Analysis: Holtby, who was taken in the 4th round of last season’s NHL Entry Draft, had a great year in the Western Hockey League for Saskatoon (40-16-4). He was on Hershey’s playoff roster but did not play once added. Perhaps he is in Hershey or South Carolina next year honing his skills some more?

Here are some others I appeared to be right on:

Jake Hauswirth: I wrote that he was the surprise of the day on July 10th. At that time he was unsigned but just recently GM George McPhee signed the 21 year old 6’5”, 210-pound native of Merrill, Wisconsin to a three year contract. I imagine Hauswirth will be at this year’s development camp (tentatively scheduled for July 12-18) and it will be interesting to see if he goes to Hershey or South Carolina for next season.

Michael Dubuc: Blogged that he was very noticeable and that he had very good offensive skills. Dubuc had 35 goals in 49 games for the South Carolina Stingrays this season and 4 goals in 12 playoff games to help them win the ECHL Championship. Seems like a ticket to Hershey could be in his future for next season.

I also did pretty well on my thoughts on Oskar Osala (good prospect needs to improve skating), Steve Pinnizzotto, Matthieu Perreault (nice offensive skills), and Francois Bouchard, although it should be noted that I was not high on Bouchard and he only played in 11 of the 22 games the Bears played in the Calder Cup Playoffs, a sign that he might not make in “The Show.”

As for defensemen Josh Godfrey and Sasha Pokulok, I thought both would see more time in Hershey this year and that was not the case. Forward Maxime Lacroix had a great season in South Carolina scoring 33 goals in 63 games but he only had 6 games in Hershey so I may have had him progressing too quickly.

As for Justin Taylor, it looks like I missed the boat on him as he is not under contract with the Caps anymore and his web page on the team site is gone. So much for that potential 3rd line NHLer monicker I put on him!

Clearly the Caps have a ton of young talent in their organization so you can bet that I’ll be back out at development camp again next month as my time spent there last summer was well worth it!