Despite a four-year age difference between one of the elder statesmen and one of the youngest prospects invited to Washington's development camp this summer, 22-year-old Andrew Gordon
and Greg Burke, 18, shared the common goal of leaving Capitals management with a lasting impression.
Gordon, drafted by the Capitals in the seventh round (No. 197) of the 2004 Entry Draft, spent three seasons with St. Cloud State in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, scoring 51 goals and 102 points in 120 games. After becoming just the ninth player in school history to amass at least 100 career points, Gordon was signed to an entry-level contract in 2007.
"The biggest transition I made was in my third year, when I started playing a totally different style that, I feel, enabled me to earn that contract with the Caps...Getting into the corners, making those small plays and reaching the slot really helped elevate my game the last few years."
-- Andrew Gordon
Last season Gordon, a 5-foot-11, 180-pound right wing, had a team-leading 51 points in 58 games and a plus-22 rating with Washington's American Hockey League affiliate, the Hershey Bears.
"When I was chosen in the seventh round, that was the best day of my life," Gordon told NHL.com. "I didn't even look at it as something that was going to hurt me or something that was going to help me. I never really had any trouble motivating myself to play hockey so it's been easy for me to come to the rink and work hard.
"I'll have fun and joke around at the right times, but I'll also bear down at the right times in practice. For me, being snatched up in the later rounds and becoming part of an organization gave me sort of an objective and something to work toward.
"Every summer, I've entered developmental camp knowing the coaching staff knows me and has seen my progress. I want to be a Washington Capital and am now looking forward to the next two years of my contract and, hopefully, more after that."
Burke, selected in the sixth round (No. 174) this year, had a productive season with the New Hampshire Monarchs of the Eastern Junior Hockey League where he had 21 goals and 46 points in 40 games. Burke, a 6-1, 185-pound left wing, is set to spend the upcoming season with the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders of the United States Hockey League before entering the University of New Hampshire in 2009.
"Everything has happened so fast this year and, honestly, the NHL draft hadn't crossed my mind at all until around Thanksgiving," Burke told NHL.com. "It was then that teams started calling and there were people at every game toward the end of the season and during the playoffs. So it started to become a little bit more real for me and something I began to focus on a little more during my team's run in the playoffs."
Burke, the only player drafted out of the EJHL this year, feels his time with the Monarchs will only benefit him.
"The EJHL may not have the competition of other leagues, but it gave me the chance as a young guy to play in situations that other 16-year-old players in other leagues probably didn't have,” Burke said. "I played in a pretty good organization with some good coaching and had a chance to live at home and finish out high school, which was a plus for me. But now I know it's time to move on.
2007-08 SEASON STATS
(3rd east/12th NHL)
|Change from 2006-07
(6th east/13th NHL)
(7th east/11th NHL)
"When I entered New Hampshire, I had a good amount of skill but I wasn't seeing or taking the game the way the coaches wanted me to, so I was helped in the power play, in the neutral zone and especially in my defensive zone. I never was a defensive-minded guy, so those were the areas in which I really improved."
Burke can look to Gordon to see how beneficial the college experience is.
"The biggest transition I made was in my third year, when I started playing a totally different style that, I feel, enabled me to earn that contract with the Caps," Gordon said. "The coaching staff wanted me to play more of a physical role, getting in on the forecheck and using my body to create offense. Getting into the corners, making those small plays and reaching the slot really helped elevate my game the last few years.
"The collegiate game is so tight-checking, there are many systems that you need to pay special attention to and you have to know who you're up against every shift of every game. I attended so many video sessions and took part in one-on-one conversations with coaches and that helped change my style to a pro-like type game."
Gordon, who participated in his fourth developmental camp in July, views each session as an opportunity to reach the next level.
"It's a chance to play with good players in the middle of the summer and get to see some faces, get to know the coaches and, for the most part, have some fun," Gordon said. "Let's face it, no one is trying to win a roster spot in July and I've never considered camp a pressure situation. It's fun to come out and work hard in front of all these scouts, coaches and GMs in the organization and just let them know you are working hard."
In contrast, Burke was hoping to simply learn the basics associated with a training camp during his initial appearance.
"I really want to see how the program works and while I would like to leave an impression, realize it's not pressing at this point," Burke said. "But, we all know first impressions are important, so I hope to make a good one.
"It's fun watching how the pros do it and go through the training. We had a lot of systems thrown at us so, for me, becoming familiar with the forechecks, the breakouts and the defensive-zone stuff was probably the hardest part."
Contact Mike Morreale at firstname.lastname@example.org.