Although the Caps’ summer campers arrived in town on Sunday and underwent their medical testing, Monday was day one – in terms of on-ice activity – of the Capitals’ annual summer development camp. A total of 43 players – 20 of which were drafted and/or signed by the Capitals are in Arlington for a week’s worth of activity on and off the ice.
The players are split into two groups, Team Red and Team White. Both groups spent Monday morning in on-ice testing sessions before returning to the ice for separate afternoon practice sessions. Both groups will practice again on Tuesday morning before taking the rest of the day off.
On Wednesday, the two sides will go head-to-head in the first of four scrimmages in as many days.
Unlike some camps in years past, the Caps’ 2013 summer camp isn’t one that is using bag skates as a measure of players’ condition. Gone are the days when players would skate from goal line to goal line, doubled over and gasping.
Players always seem to shade toward the tentative side on the first day, and that’s understandable. At least they didn’t have to worry about finishing the day with a grueling endurance test on the first of six days on the ice.
“I don’t know if it was nerves or if it was bouncing a little bit,” said Caps coach Adam Oates. ”Some guys haven’t skated that much; some guys are in better condition at this time. You don’t really watch that. You just try to be friendly, get them a good sweat and get through it.”
Summer camp is great for fans to get a chance to see young Caps hopefuls. It’s great for young, unsigned players to have a chance to be seen by professional eyes; several players have parlayed their summer camp showing into a pro contract with the Caps down the road. And it’s useful for the Caps’ brass to see their newly drafted prospects and other players of similar skill and ability and at similar plots on the development arc.
While the players may put some pressure on themselves, the Washington staff isn’t adding to it. Players who return in September for rookie camp and/or training camp can count on being evaluated, and they’ll definitely get some feedback from Caps’ scouts and player development personnel, but that’s not part of Oates’ plan for the week ahead.
“I’m not really trying to evaluate them,” says Oates. “It’s not fair. It’s a short span of time. Maybe they’re nervous, maybe they’re not. Maybe they’re not in shape and they’re not playing with guys [they’re used to playing with]. You’re just trying to see if something sticks out and help when you can, and just try to get through it.”
Mere days after the Caps used the 23rd overall choice in the 2013 NHL Draft to bring him into the Washington organization, 18-year-old winger Andre Burakovsky took to the ice for his first pro summer camp.
“I want to show my skills at this camp, show what I’m good at,” says Burakovsky. “Skating, skating a lot, make some moves with the puck, score some goals and stuff. I just want to do my best in every situation and I hope Washington will like it.”
Days after the Caps drafted him, Burakovsky was drafted again, this time going fifth overall to Erie of the OHL in the CHL import draft. There were some rumors flying around social media on Monday that Burakovsky had already decided he would not play in North America in 2013-14, and that he’d stay in Sweden for another season instead.
Speaking at an afternoon press conference between the two Monday practice sessions, Caps general manager George McPhee said that a decision as to Burakovsky’s 2013-14 playing destination had yet to be determined.
“We haven’t had those discussions with him yet,” says McPhee. “I just ran into him the other day and he said he’d like to talk to me about it at the end of this camp. So I’ll do that with him. He said he just wants to get acclimated here and get through this and then we’ll sit down and talk.”
Burakovsky echoed McPhee’s statement after finishing his afternoon practice session.
“I really hope that Washington can help me a lot to make a good choice where I should play next year,” says Burakovsky. “I’m drafted by Washington; they know a little bit over here and they can help me a lot. After the camp I should talk with my agent and Washington too, and then we’ll make a decision after the camp.”
If he does play in Erie, Burakovsky might be on a line with 16-year-old phenom Connor McDavid, widely projected to be the top player chosen in the 2015 NHL Draft. McDavid totaled 25 goals and 66 points in 61 games for Erie in 2012-13. He was 15 when the campaign got underway.
Tuesday’s schedule features more drills and practice, and on Wednesday afternoon the first of four scrimmages will take place. Last summer, the Caps tweaked their camp program a bit to emphasize scrimmages more than in the past.
“We just want to make it a good experience for them,” says Oates. “You come to Washington we show you what we’re about a little bit, have some fun out there and through the course of the week you get your conditioning up there a little bit because it is summertime. We just get a chance to look at the guys.”
Notes – Defenseman Christian Djoos, a seventh-round choice of the Capitals in the 2012 NHL Draft, was a last-minute scratch from camp because of a knee injury … center Michael Latta, obtained in the April 3 trade with Nashville that brought Martin Erat to Washington, was in attendance on Monday. Latta was in town just for testing and to take part in the afternoon practice session. He flew home Monday afternoon.