The players shake hands after the final scrimmage of Development Camp. (C.Nichols/Caps News Network)

Early this week at Kettler Capitals Iceplex, there were some comments and debate in the media room about how much Washington Capitals fans were going to pay attention to the upcoming development camp. After all, the week-long series of practice and scrimmages featured -- for the most part -- unknown draft picks and free agents, with a few notable players sprinkled in.

For every Mattias Sjogren, Cody Eakin and Dmitry Orlov there were three players no one had heard of before last Monday. Players like 17-year old 2011 draft pick Travis Boyd, who probably made the biggest impression on the coaches and assembled media, defenseman Garrett Haas, another '11 pick that played with the vision and calmness of a veteran, and free agent forward T. J. Syner, who scored twice today in Group B's 5-2 win.

So who paid attention to these mostly star-less proceedings?

Try a capacity crowd at KCI Saturday for the final scrimmage and Caps Fan Fest. There was a full house -- estimated at 3,000 strong -- to witness the actual game, and several hundred more that were partaking in the annual equipment sale, youth street hockey in the parking lot, or young 'uns bouncing around in the moon bounce with the mascot, Slapshot.

Those that couldn't make it to KCI were following along on Twitter or other social media, trying to keep abreast of a game that won't count in any standings.  And when the game wrapped up and the autograph lines ended, several dozen Caps fans spilled out into area bars and restaurants, still not ready to end a day catching up with their hockey friends and families.  In the middle of July.

It was a day-long celebration of everything Washington Capitals, and the only player from the current squad in the house was forward Matt Hendricks. He didn't suit up, but he did sign an autograph for anyone that wanted one.

The attendance and response from the fans caught everyone's attention, from the players themselves to GM George McPhee and coach Bruce Boudreau.

"The first thing I thought of is this is totally incredible," Boudreau said talking about the crowd.
"Anybody that doesn't think that Washington is a hockey town has not been here to see this. I don't know how many people you can get in here, but they were three-deep standing. And they were very appreciative of the young guys' efforts. I thought it was great. It made me very proud to coach in Washington right now."
McPhee added, "It's pretty remarkable. You know, when you're six-to-eight people deep in every crevice in the building it's pretty neat. Nothing like hockey in July. Especially Caps hockey. It's pretty cool."

The other remarkable thing, at least from my biased vantage, was the sheer volume of media involved, from the mainstream newspapers and television stations, to the radio stations, to the dot-com branches of the team and their broadcasting rightsholders, to the independent media, who did some really terrific work this week delving into the background of some of the players assembled for this camp, even if 98 percent of them never wear a sweater in AHL Hershey, let alone for the Capitals.

It would be difficult to take a roll call of all the blogs and independent sites that covered the festivities at Kettler this week. But suffice to say, they numbered in the teens throughout the week. The blogroll to the right of this article lists the most recent published works from the electronic media, and you'll find links to all their hard work. Not to demean the "regular" media and the job they did this week covering camp, because they were very well represented and produced their customary excellent coverage.

Because the mainstream media has a larger audience to cater to though, they must concentrate for the most part on the big stories. But the independents can dig a little deeper or go off the beaten path.  A blogger can talk to a prospect or undrafted free agent and give them the attention that the mainstreams usually have to reserve for the newsmakers. And the best part is that the Capitals understand this and open their doors to the independent media to give us access to the players, coaches and front office to be able to produce exceptional content for Caps fans that want that type of coverage.

If you're only getting your Caps information from the mainstream and message boards, you're really missing out.

Three years ago there were maybe a half-dozen media assembled at Development Camp -- total. Today, you couldn't count the microphones, notebooks, cameras and recorders. It might make for a cramped press room and rubbing shoulders while interviewing the coach and GM, but it results in a better-informed fan, adding to the passion and commitment they in turn show the organization. Truly, a symbiotic relationship.

Who paid attention to the Caps Development Camp this week?  Anyone that cares about the Washington Capitals.

See photo gallery from scrimmage here.

(C.Nichols/Caps News Network)

Capitals Re-Sign D Karl Alzner

Posted by Dave Nichols | Friday, July 15, 2011 | , , | 0 comments »

The Washington Capitals announced today they re-signed defenseman Karl Alzner to a two-year deal.  According to reports, the 22-year old will make $1.3 million in 2011-12 and $1.27 million in 2012-13, a total of $2.57 for the two-year deal.

If the reports are correct, this is an absolute steal for GM George McPhee and makes us wonder why it took so long for the deal to get hammered out.  This is a much-below market deal in terms of length and money, as Alzner could have commanded a three or four year deal on the open market making the total of his reported contact per year.

Per a team release, McPhee said, “We are pleased to have re-signed Karl Alzner to a two-year contract.  We feel he’s an important part of our defensive core who logs critical minutes against other teams’ top players.”  We'll get more reaction to the re-signing as McPhee and Alzner become available to the media.

More from the team's release:
Alzner, 22, recently completed his first full season in the NHL, playing in all 82 games with the Capitals and posting career highs in goals (two), assists (10), points (12), penalty minutes (24) and plus/minus (+14). His 132 blocked shots were third on the team while his 98 hits were tied for seventh. Alzner was one of just three NHL defenseman aged 22 and younger to play in all 82 regular-season games. In addition, he ranked sixth on the team in average time on ice per game (20:00). The Burnaby, British Columbia, native recorded an assist in nine playoff games and was tied for second on the team with 20 blocked shots.

From 2008 through 2010, Alzner appeared in 103 AHL games with the Hershey Bears, collecting 41 points (seven goals, 34 assists) and a plus-57 rating while helping lead the team to the 2010 Calder Cup championship.

A two-time gold medalist at the IIHF World Junior Championship with Canada, Alzner captained the Canadian team in 2007-08 and was named one of the team’s top three players by the coaching staff. Alzner also represented Canada in the 2007 Canada/Russia Super Series and played for the WHL team in the 2006 Canada-Russia Challenge.

The 6’3”, 206-pound blueliner collected 117 points (19 goals, 98 assists) in 260 games with the Calgary Hitmen of the Western Hockey League (WHL) from 2004-2008 and was named the WHL Player of the Year and Defenseman of the Year in 2007-08.

Alzner was drafted by Washington in the first round (5th overall) of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft.

The first intrasquad scrimmage of the Washington Capitals development camp went pretty much as expected.  It was -- for the most part -- sloppy and disjointed, with most of the goals coming off scrums instead of being the result of skill.  But we saw an older prospect look like the more experienced hockey player that he is, we saw the offensive prodigy struggle to stay on his skates at times, and we saw a pair of Russians stand out, one for his play -- the other for some snarl.

Caleb Herbert, Stan Galiev, Travis Boyd and Aaron Schmit all scored for Group B, who controlled the tempo for much of the game.  Andrew Cherniwchan and Garrett Mitchell scored for Group A.

Galiev had a good game, playing along side Mattias Sjogren and Cameron Burt on the "first line" for Group B.  His goal came as the result of some hard work along the boards by Boyd and Sjogren, and he and his Swedish center had a two-on-one that Galiev should have buried against Brandon Anderson but fired high.

Sjogren was the most impressive player on the ice though.  He dominated Cody Eakin in the faceoff circle, using his impressive upper-body strength in the dot.  He also wore Eakin out on several occasions, bumping the smaller player off the puck in consecutive possessions behind the net.  Sjogren skates with his shoulders forward, always ready to turn on the jets, and that's how he got to a puck that swung him for the 2-on-1 with Galiev.

Eakin flashed some of the skill that he's renown for, including slicing though the entire defense to get a shot off in the second period.  But those types of plays were few and far between today, and Eakin confessed after the game that he felt a little rusty on the ice today.

One of the unanticipated results from today was the physical play of Dmitry Orlov.  He got into a tussle early and at the end threw a wild elbow that, luckily for both parties, did not connect.  In the second, he made a big, low open ice hit on Taylor Stefishen that was a very borderline hit for me in a game against an opponent, let alone in an intersquad scrimmage.  Stefishen left the arena today on crutches.

The other injury today came to Wade Epp, a big-framed defender.  He got turned around on a play and fell hard into the boards, and did not return to the game. He seemed to be favoring his left leg as he was helped off the ice, but other reports said he was holding his arm as he went into the dressing room.

Coach Bruce Boudreau noted the physical aspect of the game. "They played hard. There was a lot more physical contact than the last two development camps, at least early on for the first game."

One of those physical players was Danick Paquette, acquired just last week in exchange for Eric Fehr.  Paquette was one of the more active players on the ice today, finishing his checks and always getting a stick on the player he was defending.  He certainly brings a good bit of energy when he hits the ice.

Of the goalies, Philipp Grubauer made the biggest impression, especially considering he's just recently started skating after being sidelined with mono and unable to work out for about five months.  Boudreau noted that in talking with goalie coaches Dave Prior and Olie Kolzig that Grubauer has a calmness about him, able to smother pucks that others would allow to bounce around.

The other notable event today: the Caps re-signed C Mathieu Perreault to a one-year, two-way deal.  Boudreau said after the game that he envisions Perreault, Sjogren, Eakin and recently signed Christain Hanson competing for "one or two" spots on the opening night roster.

Here's the schedule for the rest of camp:

Thursday, July 14
9 a.m.: Intrasquad scrimmage
Approx. 11:30 a.m.: Media availability

Friday, July 15
9:30 a.m.: Group A on ice
11:15 a.m.: Group B on ice
Approx. 12 p.m.: Media availability

Saturday, July 16
Capitals Fan Fest
10 a.m.: Intrasquad scrimmage
Approx. 1:00 p.m.: Media availability

Photos: Caps Development Camp Day 1

Posted by Cheryl Nichols | Tuesday, July 12, 2011 | , , | 0 comments »

Monday, July 11, 2011 was the first day of Development Camp at Kettler Iceplex for the Washington Capitals. Camp will continue through Saturday, July 16 ending with Fan Fest and an intrasquad scrimmage. [DevCampGuide]

Several players talked with the media as well as Coach Bruce Boudreau, GM George McPhee and Associate Goaltending Coach Olie Kolzig. Centers Cody Eakin and Mattias Sjogren are in a Battle to Impress Caps Brass.

There will be more stories coming this week as well as tweets at @capsnewsnetwork and @cnichols14. The following photographs visually summarize day one.  

All Photos 2011 © Cheryl Nichols/Caps News Network. All Rights Reserved.


New Forward Troy Brouwer

Vice President & GM George McPhee

Associate Goaltending Coach Olie Kolzig

Head Coach Bruce Boudreau

Forward Cody Eakin

Defenseman Patrick Wey

Forward Danick Paquette

Forward Mattias Sjogren

Goalie Philipp Grubauer

Forward Garrett Mitchell

Goalie Steffen Soberg

Defenseman Brett Flemming

Forward Stanislav Galiev

Defenseman Dmitri Orlov


Forwards: Cody Eakin, Pat Mullane, Luke Lockhart, Garrett Mitchell, Michael Collins, David Civitarese, Andrew Cherniwchan, Samuel Henley, Chase Grant, Dmitry Kugryshev, Thomas Frazee, Taylor Stefishmen.

Defensemen: Garrett Haar, Patrick Koudys, Luke Eibler, Patrick Wey, Samuel Carrier, Dustin Stevenson, Wade Epp, Jimmy Oligny.

Goalies: Philipp Grubauer and Steffen Soberg

John Carlson watched Group A for a while


Forwards: Mattias Sjogren, Brock Montpetit, Danick Paquette, Stanislav Galiev, Travis Boyd, Greg Burke, Mitch Elliot, Garrett Ross, Cameron Burt, Caleb Herbert, Aaron Schmit, T.J. Syner, Reid Edmondson, Adam Mitchell.

Defensemen: Brett Flemming, Scott Wietecha, Conor Allen, Mike Boivin, Kyle Follmer, Dmitri Orlov, Karl Stollery, Nick Tabisz.

Goalies: Brandon Anderson and Jacob Gervais-Chouinard

All Photos 2011 © Cheryl Nichols/Caps News Network. All Rights Reserved.