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Caps Wrap Up Summer Camp

by Mike Vogel / Washington Capitals
Francois Bouchard’s brilliant slam-on-the-brakes-and-spin-o-rama move finished the Capitals’ annual summer development camp with a flourish on Saturday afternoon. Bouchard’s goal gave Team Blue a win in the shootout and the game in front of a packed house at Kettler Capitals Iceplex, and enabled it to take two of the three camp scrimmages from Team White.

As always, Caps summer camp is about so much more than who wins the scrimmages.

“I just wanted to make sure it was well-organized,” says Caps coach Bruce Boudreau, who was running the camp for the first time. “Sometimes when you’re planning stuff you don’t realize how hard it is, but just by the number of guys who’ve gotten tweaks and [minor injuries], what we’re hoping to let the young guys know is, ‘This is what kind of shape you have to be in to be a pro player. And if you come in September not ready, this thing is going to happen and your chance of doing anything is going to be completely diminished.’ From that aspect, I think it’s really been successful.

“From the aspect of the guys that are coming in – whether they’re playing in Hershey or playing in Washington – to learn our systems, I think it’s been really helpful. They’re going to forget them, but I think it will be quicker to get them back. For the guys that are free agents, we’ve seen a couple that we like. I think overall it’s been pretty good. I think the players themselves would tell you that it’s been a tremendous experience. I know my kid [Andy] had a tremendous experience for three days. He thought it was the time of his life.”

Andy Boudreau injured his knee early in the first of the three scrimmages and was sidelined for the remainder of the week.

Bruce Boudreau and assistants Jay Leach and Dean Evason, goaltending coach Dave Prior, Hershey head coach Bob Woods and Hershey assistant Mark French conducted a fast-paced, hands-on camp that was rugged but fun.

“It’s probably one of the hardest camps I’ve ever been to,” says first-time camper Stefan Della Rovere, a left wing chosen in the seventh round of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. “It’s a building experience for myself and for a couple of other guys here, too. Hopefully in a couple of years I can make the squad and come back here next year with the same intensity and mindset that I had this year.”

Judging from Della Rovere’s comments, Boudreau’s mission was accomplished.

“That’s one of the things we want the Caps prospects to do is when they leave here,” says Boudreau, “tell all of their friends what an organization the Washington Capitals are and this is the place you should want to play because they treat you like gods, the complex that they have is tremendous and they’re going to be good. That’s why we put on their jerseys, ‘The Future is Here.’ We want them to believe that this is where they want to play and nowhere else.”

Over the years, the concept of what a summer development camp should be has evolved.

“This [went] from just a conditioning camp in the past to what it is now; it’s conditioning and evaluating,” says Caps general manager George McPhee. “Take a good look at these guys, spend a week with them, get to know them as people. Spend a lot of time on the ice. Let the coaches work with these young players. Let our pro scouts watch them and spend time with them, because they don’t see the amateurs much. Because in training camp you’re trying to make decisions fast. This is a better opportunity to really get to know people and there is a lot of value in how we project them. It just helps in every way imaginable.”

Twenty-four of the 42 players in camp last week are members of the Capitals’ organization. The other 18 players were free agent invitees. It’s possible that a few of the invitees could get a call back from the Caps for this September’s rookie camp and/or training camp.

Plenty of fans made their way out to Kettler during the week to witness the drills and scrimmages, and to take the opportunity to get to know some of these future Caps. Here’s a quick look at the 24 Caps prospects who participated in the camp and a look at what the short-term future (2008-09) holds for them.

Simeon Varlamov
(first round, 23rd overall in 2006 draft) and Michal Neuvirth (second round, 34th overall in 2006) are both set to turn pro in North America in 2008-09. Both goaltenders are 20, and the Capitals hope that one of the two will become the team’s goaltender of the future.

Training camp will determine where the two will play next season, and the performance of third-year pro Daren Machesney (fifth round, 143rd overall in 2005) will also be a factor. Machesney had a very strong year at Hershey in 2007-08, going 22-10-2 with a 2.55 GAA and a .916 save pct.

Varlamov, Neuvirth and Machesney are all worthy of playing in Hershey, but there is room only for two of them. The third goaltender could be lent to another team in the AHL or Europe, or sent to the ECHL where he would get lots of playing time, albeit at a lower level of competition.

Dan Dunn (sixth round, 154th overall in 2007) will return to St. Cloud St. for his sophomore season in 2008-09. As a freshman last season, Dunn played a backup role to sophomore Jase Weslosky, an Islanders draft pick in 2006.

Braden Holtby
(fourth round, 93rd overall in 2008) will again mind the pipes for Saskatoon of
Braden Holtby
the WHL. Holtby played in 64 of 72 games for the Blades in 2007-08. With a late birthday (Sept. 16, 1989), Holtby would be eligible to play pro as early as 2009-10 but could also return to the WHL for that season.

Blueliner Sasha Pokulok (first round, 14th overall in 2005) is heading into the final season of his three-year entry level contract in 2008-09. Injuries have limited him to just 66 regular season games in his first two years. The 22-year-old Pokulok will need a strong season at Hershey in 2008-09 to remain on Washington’s prospect radar.

Patrick McNeill (fourth round, 118th overall in 2005) is a 21-year-old defenseman heading into the second season of his entry level deal. He is an offensively gifted blueliner who split last season between Hershey and South Carolina of the ECHL. McNeill totaled six goals and 30 points in 67 games in his first pro campaign. Among all defensemen in the Washington system last season, only Mike Green, Sami Lepisto and Josef Boumedienne had more points than McNeill.

Defenseman Keith Seabrook (second round, 52nd overall) turns 20 next month. He left the U. of Denver to play junior hockey for the Calgary Hitmen of the WHL last season. Seabrook will be back in Calgary for one final season in 2008-09.

Karl Alzner (first round, fifth overall in 2007) will come to camp this fall looking to crack the Caps’ opening night roster. Alzner, who turns 20 in late September, will head to Hershey if he needs more seasoning before starting his NHL career.

Josh Godfrey (second round, 34th overall in 2007) got his feet wet as a pro at the tail end of last season, getting into one playoff game with Hershey. The 20-year-old Godfrey has concluded his junior career and will come to camp this fall heading into his first pro season. He’s a longshot to make the Caps, and will likely start 2008-09 with the Bears.

John Carlson (first round, 27th overall in 2008) will make the jump from Indiana of the USHL to London of the OHL this season. With London, the 18-year-old Carlson will play under the tutelage of former Caps captain Dale Hunter, who is beginning his eighth season as the Knights’ coach.

Eric Mestery (second round, 57th overall in 2008) will return to Tri-City of the WHL where he played in 2007-08. Mestery just turned 18 in May and could play two more seasons with the Americans.

Jay Beagle
(free agent, Mar. 26, 2008) was an invitee to last year’s summer camp. He performed extremely well there and and he parlayed that invitation into a pro contract. Beagle went on to score 19 goals for Hershey in his first full pro season, and he is under contract to the Caps for 2008-09. He will likely be with the Bears again this season, at least at the outset. It’s possible that Beagle could be in line for a recall to Washington in 2008-09 if injuries and/or circumstances dictate.

Mathieu Perreault (sixth round, 177th overall in 2006) got a taste of the pro game in three playoff games with Hershey last spring. He led the QMJHL in scoring (114 points) and assists (80) last season, a year after finishing third in scoring and second in assists in that league. The 20-year-old Perreault won’t be able to crack a deep and talented center corps in the District, but he could factor in the Caps’ plans at some point down the road if he proves capable of playing in the AHL.

Phil DeSimone (third round, 84th overall in 2007) played sparingly as a freshman at U. of New Hampshire in 2007-08. But the talented pivot was the USHL’s leading scorer and player of the year in 2006-07, and he figures to earn more ice time as a sophomore this season. The 21-year-old DeSimone had a good week at Caps camp last week.

Justin Taylor (sixth round, 180th overall in 2007) is another London Knight who played for Hunter’s team in the OHL. Taking advantage of the departure of Patrick Kane and Sam Gagner, Taylor was fourth on the Knights in goals and scoring last season. Taylor is 19 and will return to London in 2008-09.

Joel Broda (fifth round, 144th overall in 2008) spent last season with Moose Jaw of the WHL and will play for the same club in 2008-09. Broda scored 30 goals for the Warriors last season. He was third on the team in goals and fourth in points in 2007-08.

Left Wings
Oskar Osala
Oskar Osala (fourth round, 97th overall in 2006) was rookie of the year in the Finland’s Elite League last season. The 20-year-old winger signed a pro contract this summer and will be at training camp this fall. Washington’s extraordinary depth up front makes it unlikely that he’ll crack the Caps’ roster this fall, but he should be a regular in Hershey in 2008-09.

Maxime Lacroix (fifth round, 127th overall in 2006) had 30 goals for Quebec of the QMJHL last season. He got into two playoff games with Hershey, scoring his first pro goal in the process. The Caps did not sign the 21-year-old Lacroix by the June 1, 2008 deadline for 2006 CHL draftees, but the Bears signed him to a contract for 2008-09. He’ll vie for a regular gig with Hershey this season.

Andrew Glass (seventh round, 199th overall in 2007) finished his prep school career last season and will attend Boston U. in the fall. The 19-year-old winger will likely need to adjust to a smaller role, as DeSimone did last season. 

Greg Burke (sixth round, 174th overall in 2008) led the New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs of the EJHL in scoring last season. He will play at Cedar Rapids of the USHL this season. Burke is slated to attend U. of New Hampshire in the fall of 2009.

Stefan Della Rovere (seventh round, 204th overall in 2008) scored 13 goals and piled up 171 PIM in 68 games with the OHL’s Barrie Colts last season. Della Rovere will be back with the Colts in 2008-09.

Right Wings
Steve Pinizzotto
(free agent signed Mar. 16, 2007) scored 15 goals and totaled 32 points in 40 games with South Carolina and picked up four assists in 23 games with the Bears last season. The 24-year-old winger is entering the final year of his entry level deal, and will try to land a spot in Hershey this season.

Andrew Gordon (seventh round, 197th overall in 2004) tied for fourth among AHL rookies with
Andrew Gordon
51 points (16 goals and 35 assists) last season. The 22-year-old native of Nova Scotia will be at training camp this fall intent upon making the Capitals’ roster. Hershey is more likely for 2008-09, but don’t underestimate Gordon. He is the organization’s “great late round hope.”

Francois Bouchard
(second round, 35th overall in 2006) is set to embark upon his first pro season after leading the QMJHL in points (125) and assists (80) in 2006-07 and finishing eighth in that league in scoring with 92 points in 2007-08. Bouchard got into four late-season games with Hershey last season, scoring his first pro goal along the way. He will be aiming for a bigger role with the Bears this season, and has his sights set on a top six winger role in Washington in the not-too-distant future.

Brett Leffler (fifth round, 125th overall in 2007) is a 19-year-old who totaled nine goals, 14 points and 77 PIM with Regina of the WHL last season. He’ll be back with the Pats in 2008-09.

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