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Q&A With Karl Alzner

by Mike Vogel / Washington Capitals
Karl Alzner was Washington’s top choice (fifth overall) in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. One of three Caps prospects who will play in the eight-game Super Series tournament between Canada and Russia beginning next week, Alzner made his first visit to the District last month when he came to town for the Capitals’ annual summer development camp. We had a couple opportunities to sit down and talk with Alzner, and here is what he had to say.

When did you get into town?
“I got in Sunday afternoon and I came in with [Jeff Schultz] and [Mike] Green. It was nice to be here with a couple of guys I know. But I was so amazed it how hot it was. It’s tough to stand outside for more than 10 seconds at a time, but I’m enjoying my time here.”

So your family didn’t come along?
“My mom and sister were thinking about it, but they came to Sweden at Christmas and they came to the draft. So they’ve been all over the place and they wanted to take a little bit of a break.”

I know you’re not actually in Washington, but what are your impressions of the area?
“Being on the plane and landing, you get to see all those buildings you see in movies. That, first of all, is cool for me. I don’t know what it is, but I talked with a couple of my buddies from Canada and they say that every time they are in the States it feels like they’re in a movie. And I feel the exact same way. That’s what it feels like. It’s so cool.

“And I’ve been to a couple rinks, and this is the best facility I’ve seen by far. All the guys are nice, and it’s not to often where you get to talk to the general manager and the owner every single day hanging around the rink. Everybody is treating everyone so well, and I love it.”

What has the development camp experience been like for you?
“So far it’s been tough. They expect a lot of you at this summer camp. Half the guys don’t skate until a week before they come here, so it’s a little bit tough but it’s going good. The older guys who have played in the AHL talk to you and they welcome you with open arms. It’s been an awesome good experience so far.”

They seem to pack your days pretty full. Do you think you will still feel fresh at the end?
"We just had a nutrition meeting, and we were told that what we eat now is going to help us in two days. I’m really paying attention to what I eat now. It kind of opened up my eyes to a lot of things I am putting into my body. I’m relying heavily on that nutritional stuff to make sure that I’m still in good condition by the last day."

Does this camp open your eyes to the types of things you’ll need to do here in September if you hope to make this team?
“It’s just little things. Like in practice, I turned up [ice] one time. I handled the puck once and then I passed it. And I was told right after that, ‘You don’t even handle it. You chip the puck off the boards to the guy that should be there.’ And that’s true. Because at this next level when you watch on TV, guys are always open. All you’ve got to do is move the puck quicker and look before you get the puck. It’s really opening up my eyes. I’m happy we have a more intense camp compared to some other teams where they kind of throw sauce around and go off the bar. I’m really enjoying it.”

How would you rate the level of competition and the degree of hitting and physical play in the scrimmages and also your own performance?
“The competition is good. There are guys who have experience who are high draft picks, so you’re playing with good players. That’s awesome. I think guys would hit a little bit more if it were a main camp instead of a summer camp. I think I can always play better. I was okay today. I battled the puck a little bit; I think I had a little bit of jitters still. I tried to handle it and pass it off quick. Hopefully that will come with just a little bit more time on my skates.”

(Ed. Note: The following questions were asked of Alzner at a separate interview session after the completion of development camp.)

How did this camp meet with your expectations coming in?
"I talked to a couple guys who have been to other camps and they told me it was fun and games. They had one skate a day and then went to a baseball game or something like that. This was definitely a lot harder than I expected going into it. I knew it would be tough. They worked us really hard, which is good because it gives us a measuring stick and we get to see how good shape we need to be in to keep up with the older guys."

Seeing you play here this week, you were pretty much as advertised: very poised with the puck and a guy who seems to make smart and safe decisions consistently. It’s not a trait you always see in young players. How do you develop that?
"I think it is just something that I just picked up from watching other guys. I really like to focus in on the guys who are successful and who do all the little things right, and I try to do it the way they do it. The main thing for me is to not make mistakes. I just know that if I get myself flustered, I am going to play worse. So I try to block things out of my mind and think about it after the game."

I also noticed that you seem equally at home on both sides of the line. Do you have a preference one way or the other?
"At times I like to be on the right side. For me, it really doesn’t matter. On the right side it’s easier to get a pass coming through the seam. On the left side it’s easier to pick it up off the side of the wall. I’ve played the majority of my junior career on the right side, so I’m really used to it and I don’t mind it. But if you stick me over on the left side I find it easy to play there. I try to make sure that I’m not sugar-sided and that I can play all the positions."

Did you make any new friends this week?
"I talked to pretty much every single guy here, which I was surprised about doing. It didn’t matter where they were from or if they could barely speak English, I was talking to them. It was really a goal for me to make sure I made myself comfortable and I made tons of new friends."
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