Our long Capitals slumber is over. Today marked the beginning of on-ice sessions for the rookies and prospects that signals the beginning of the 2011-2012 season. The Caps will not be playing in anger for a few weeks yet, but fans who might not have been able to attend development camp in July got their first look at the future Caps… and a ringer.
That is not a misprint on the name plate on the back of the jersey, and yes, it is a familiar tinted visor. The Captain took the ice to join the rookies and prospects for the first half of the skating portion of the day’s session, taking a regular turn in all the drills and no doubt eliciting whispers of “what’s HE doing here?”
Other than the presence of Alex Ovechkin it was not an especially memorable session. It was nothing fans haven’t seen before (except for a rather impressive open-ice hip check applied by defenseman Dmitry Orlov).
What was impressive though took place after the regular skating session and on the public rink at Kettler. In a modified bag skate, the players did long skates against the clock twice for the full length of the ice. This was done several times. And without exception, the player coming in first in his group across the goal line was Cody Eakin. This was not an insignificant outcome, since even Eakin admitted to being in less than top shape for the development camp. Any skate like that is an effort, but Eakin looked to be handling it as effortlessly as one could expect. An indication he is taking his chance of making the opening night roster seriously.
While the skaters were skating on the public rink after the regular session, the goalies Philipp Grubauer and Brandon Anderson were huddled with goaltender coaches Dave Prior and Olaf Kolzig getting some dedicated instruction. And if anything, that might be the theme of the week. With only 23 players attending this camp (goalie Steffen Soberg is not attending as he makes a decision to play in Europe or North America this year) and coaches from the Caps and the Hershey Bears moderating the sessions, there is the potential for some one-on-one time that might not be available with a larger contingent.
For those of you attending this week, that might be something to watch for. This is a teachable moment for the youngsters, and there is a wealth of hockey knowledge on hand to do the teaching. It will be enough to whet one’s appetite for the start of training camp a week from now.