|Karl Alzner's experience on the junior and international levels, may be enough to make him a prime candidate for the Caps' blue-line.
Alzner’s resume, which includes being drafted at No. 5 by the Washington Capitals in 2007, is impeccable. He succeeded as an alternate captain in the 2007 Canada Russia Super Series, was a member of Canada’s gold-medal winning team at the '07 World Junior Championships in Sweden, participated in the '07 Top Prospects Game in Quebec City and captained gold-medal winning Team Canada in the 2008 World Junior Championships in the Czech Republic.
If that doesn’t get your attention, perhaps the fact he was named the Western Hockey League Player and Defenseman of the Year for 2007-08 as a member of the Calgary Hitmen will.
Alzner had seven goals and 29 assists, along with a career-high plus-26 rating, in 60 games in his fourth season with Calgary. His play certainly opened the eyes of Capitals General Manager George McPhee, who signed the 6-foot-2, 206-pound defender to a three-year, entry-level contract in May.
With so much promise and panache, don’t be surprised if Alzner is added to Washington’s roster right out of training camp this fall.
"I wouldn’t be disappointed if I didn’t get a roster spot and instead went to Hershey (in the AHL) or was sent to juniors, just so long as I get a chance somewhere," Alzner told NHL.com. "But, without a doubt, I’m pushing to try and make the big club and doing everything I can so that they can’t cut me. I really hope to put a little bug in the coach’s head (during developmental camp) with my play so that he’ll remember me."
No need to worry Karl, as Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau has taken notice.
"There are an awful lot of other players who have made the jump from junior to the NHL in recent years, and Karl’s on that track," Boudreau said. "Here’s a guy who was the captain of the World Junior Canadian team, so you could see that he’s got a lot more poise than some of the other guys his age."
Alzner was the leader for a Canadian team that captured its fourth-straight gold medal at the WJC, where he finished with two points and a plus-2 rating in seven games.
"I learned a lot about managing a team and bringing guys together (during World Juniors) to make sure everybody was working as one," Alzner said. "We all bonded and took quite a bit of things from that tournament and I just stored them in my head.
"I was a different leader at World Juniors than I was with Calgary (in the WHL). The fact so many guys on the team were either captains or assistants (for their junior teams) meant many knew what they were supposed to be doing so they didn’t have to be told every time they got off the ice or were in the dressing room. I made sure that when the time was right, I sat down with a guy and said something, but for the most part just tried to lead by example on the ice.’"
While Alzner certainly has the inside track for a position on the blue line, up-and-coming defenseman Josh Godfrey (second round, No. 34, 2007) also opened some eyes during Washington’s developmental camp at Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Arlington, Va., this month.
The 20-year-old Godfrey went about his business perfecting his loaded slap shot, which has been clocked at 99.7 MPH. It’s a trait he mastered with the assistance of his dad in the basement of his Collingwood, Ont. home.
Godfrey transformed his game last season under the tutelage of then-coach Craig Hartsburg at Sault Ste. Marie in the Ontario Hockey League. There, he posted 34 assists and 51 points in 60 games while finishing with a career-high plus-31 rating. Although Godfrey scored a career-high 57 points in 2006-07, it was his minus-2 rating that stuck out like a sore thumb and forced him and Hartsburg to reassess his style of play.
"For many young defensemen, playing the position is a process," Hartsburg told NHL.com. "Josh has a great gift with his shot but the biggest thing we stressed to him was that there was a lot more he could bring to the game than just a big shot. He really did focus on becoming a better all-around player.
"As the year went on, Josh began to display a lot of poise with the puck, which is something every coach wants to see in a good, young defenseman. So Josh came a long way in the poise department, as well as being a lot more competitive.’"
Godfrey was grateful to have Hartsburg, now coach of the Ottawa Senators, as his mentor in the OHL.
"Coach Hartsburg was a defenseman in the NHL for a long time and he really taught me the finer details of being a good defensive defenseman," Godfrey said. "He told me that if you want to play in the NHL, you can’t be a liability in your own end. I really took that to heart and have worked really hard to improve that area of my game.’"
Contact Mike Morreale at email@example.com.