Development Camp Wrap-up

The most critical piece of the past week’s rookie camp took place yesterday in the form of a final scrimmage. While both squads were evenly matched skill-wise, the white team was offensively gifted while the blue side was defensively top-heavy.

Throughout the week, I’ve made it clear that my favorite defenseman to watch was Dmitri Orlov. The six-foot, 197-pound rear-guard was effective in all three zones, made timely efforts defensively, and pinched down low in the offensive zone while recovering well.

He is a future Washington Capital.

“I want to stay here,” he said through translator and fellow rookie camper Dmitri Kugryshev, even if it means going to Hershey for some time.

Another player that was brought to my attention was Trevor Bruess (pronounced Briss), whose sister was part of our live blog of the final scrimmage. The Minnesota native was playing the role of agitator for his team this week.

“I like to square up,” Bruess said of his scrappy style, “I play with an edge and I will be an agitator.”

Bruess is also looking forward to the main roster where he hopes his tenacious style will land him some future consideration for the role of a skilled roughouser.

“I’m really excited about that. I haven’t met [the main roster] yet and I met the guys in Hershey but main camp is gonna be bigger, faster, stronger guys and I’ve got to prepare myself a lot for that.”

Bruess is going home to relax as he trained very hard for this camp. He said he will prepare himself even more for the main camp in two months. Players like Bruess who went undrafted were delicately chosen to come to this camp, according to Caps coach Bruce Boudreau.

“Every one of these guys, even the draft picks, they’re all hand-picked to come here,” Boudreau said, “We’re just not saying ‘Hey we need a player, come out here;’ our scouts have thought that these guys, the free agents, are guys that might have slipped through the cracks.”

Anton Gustafsson, the 24th overall selection in the 2008 NHL draft, was banged up again in a scirmish in front of the net on Thursday that forced him out of Saturday’s final tilt. Pressed on where this camp leaves Goose, who some folks are now calling Bustafsson, Boudreau was defensive of former Cap Bengt Ake’s son.

“[It’s] nothing,” the coach said, “He’s an unknown right now, so I mean we’ll wait until September; and he’s a signed first round guy that everybody says is a good player so we’ll go with that.”

Boudreau is a fan of Mathieu Perreault. Surprise! Surprise!

“Yeah, I like watching him. [He’s a] small player, I was a small player,” Boudreau said, “You know, he’s got a lot of speed and a lot of determination; and you always want to see the small players succeed.”

Funniest line of the day came from none other than Gabby, when asked about the nutrition of players throughout the season and camps like this one.

“You’re really asking the wrong guy about that,” Boudreau cracked.

Joe Finley was a nice addition to the forwards for his team. The towering Minnesotan is a defenseman but swapped positions to “put the defenseman’s nose in the glass for once,” as he put it.

Asked if it was in his future to play left wing and if he’d had a conversation with the coach about it, Finley said, “I’ll play goalie if coach wants me to.”

Clearly, Finley, the Caps’ 2005 first round selection, is very anxious to make the squad in the near future.

The conclusion of my post-rookie camp assessment is a three star selection for the week: 1. Mathieu Perreault, 2. Dmitri Orlov, 3. Michael Dubuc.

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Live Blog 7/18

Caps Dev Camp Final Scrimmage Live Blog

Thank You

Thanks to Onfrozenblog for inviting me as well as several other bloggers to the Capitals development camp final scrimmage live blog. I look forward to meeting the rest of the Caps’ blogosphere in addition to getting more in depth coverage of the very best sports team in the DC area.

Tune in Saturday morning at 10 a.m.

Building A Russian Machine

Burly Russians stood out during the Washington Capitals’ second rookie camp scrimmage. Those two guys are named Dmitri Kugryshev and Dmitri Orlov and both made big impressions on me for their tenacity, off-puck movement, and physicality when it mattered most.

Orlov is a diminuitive but heavy-hitting rearguard while Kugryshev is a skilled power forward. Both are big, intelligent movers and are very smooth skaters.

I asked Bruce Boudreau about the spectacular Russians on display and he had this to say:

“Well I think Orlov’s really making an impression. [He] does a lot of things well¬† for a guy that doesn’t know the language. He’s got pure skill and he plays a tough game too.”

Local boy Nick Sorkin was nailed by Orlov’s tough game early in the first period with an out-of-nowhere hit that the crowd really got into.

Kugryshev was all over the place today. In the dying minute of the game he rang the pipe after recovering the puck in the corners, passing to a defenseman and retrieving it for a howitzer.

“I think Kugry is a lot better than last year,” Boudreau said, “He looks a lot stronger on the puck. He definitely knows where the net is and knows how to make a play.”

These scrimmages are not about winning or losing, but about the individual standing out above the rest. While most of the talk this week has been about John Carlson, he was only really noticeable in the second period of the exhibition today. Besides the Russians, those who stood out were Mathieu Perreault, Braden Holtby and Joel Broda. Francois Bouchard was also a juggernaut on the blue team’s powerplay, which cashed in a couple of times.

Perreault answered a couple questions after the exhibition about Bob Woods’ promotion to the Capitals as an assistant, his game evolving, and his size.

“We all kind of expected it and I think he deserves it,” Perreault said referring to Woods’ promotion, “he’s a great coach and it’s good for him.”

Perreault maintains he has been improving each of the four years he’s come to development camp.

“I got much faster and much confidence on the ice. I’m skating the puck up the ice pretty good which I wasn’t doing my first two, three years.”

On the question of his size, he groaned somewhat as if the issue has exhausted him.

“I try to get stronger every year, I mean I don’t get real bigger ’cause I’ve been the same weight for the last two, three years,” Perreault said, “I’m just trying to get stronger on the ice overall and more powerful.”

For this writer and some of the other bloggers, he was above and beyond the best player on the white squad today (which was the winning side by a wide margin: 8-3).

  • Anton Gustaffson played sparingly today and was caught up high somehow in a fracas while several players crashed the net. He missed the remainder of the game.
  • Joel Broda was fun to watch as he stickhandled very well in the trenches and set up a nice goal by slipping the puck to Michael Dubuc.
  • Braden Holtby and Garrett Zemlak were the best goalies today.

An injured Anton Gustaffson (94) in blue being assisted by trainers.

Classique d’Hiver: Les Capitals v Les Habitants

The Olympic Stadium of Montreal

The Olympic Stadium of Montreal, built for 1976 games.

News reports today indicate the Washington Capitals will participate in a regular season game in Montreal’s Olympic Stadium, against the centennial Bleu, Blanc et Rouge.

Such a game will heavily benefit a Capitals organization looking for more exposure in an ever gleaming spotlight.¬† The attention the Capitals have received over the past two seasons has been unprecedented, even more so than when the team made the Stanley Cup final in 1998. Playing in overseas European “Premier” games could only be a glamorous occasion for Ovie and friends, especially if it were to take place in Moscow.

Guess we’ll have to settle on a nice 10-hour drive or two-hour flight up north this season.

Imagine 56,000 screaming fans in Ovie’s second favorite NHL city – a spectacle. Imagine going up against a re-tooled Habs team fighting to start out the season on the right foot. Imagine – but certainly expect – a tight match as most Caps/Habs matches have been over the past two seasons.

While this game will not be confirmed as on the docket for next season until tomorrow, let’s not get too ahead of ourselves but let us relish the possibility of facing Montreal and quieting their famously rambunctious hoard of support.

Montreal is an electric and fantastic city. I highly recommend going to this match if it is scheduled (which according to Tarik is for 28 November). I went to the Caps’ 5-4 overtime win over the Canadiens in January, 2008 at the Bell Centre and had an absolutely phenomenal time. Mike Green scored the OT winner.

The game experience at the Phone Booth has gotten a lot better since that time but there’s nothing like a Habs game in Montreal. Trippling Bell Centre’s capacity can only yield a more stimulating experience.

Camp Concoction

When players arrived in Arlington yesterday, they began the process of assimilating into Caps culture. They are integral pieces of the organization.

When I go to the Wednesday camp session I anticipate a hard-fought scrimmage between the two training squads. They are fighting for their lives as pro hockey players. In this camp, the Capitals have legitimate athletes that are certainly able to penetrate the team over the next few years, even this October.

John Carlson is one of the players who will be invited to training camp in September. As George McPhee discussed today, he believes that Carlson is a great player and the Caps might be plank-walked into using him next term because he’s a cheaper option. I say plank-walked because they would like to give him a year in Hershey before bringing him up. Even if he’s rushed in, McPhee believes he is one of the guys who is ready.

McPhee mentioned how “other teams” have been forced to use their developing players because the salary cap has been so harsh on their normal first team. I am thinking Detroit; Justin Abdelkader, Darren Helm, and Jonathan Eriksson were used as supplementary players when others were too expensive to use. Obviously they were ready (Helm could have been a two-time Cup winner as a rookie last season). I reckon Carlson is the man to replace a Jeff Shultz who was embarassed this year in the first game of the post-season.

This camp will display some solid talent like Mathieu Perreault and Francois Bouchard who are Calder Cup champions. They are winners of a championship and that might be just what this team needs. I mentioned them in an earlier post as players that might garner positive attention for their skill.

The assemblage of talent at this camp will certainly impress as will a Saturday crowd that will watch the end-of-camp scrimmage. McPhee certainly has a special blend brewing in the franchise.

Last year’s camp was good. This one will be great.

TUNE IN

Next week, tune into my blog for coverage of the Capitals’ rookie training camp from Kettler Capitals Iceplex!