PHILADELPHIA — Three years ago, it was Alex Ovechkin and last year it was Nicklas Backstrom. They were Top-5 picks in the draft, and their first NHl training camps were pretty heavily monitored.
Karl Alzner was the fifth overall pick in 2007, but it does seem like he’s been going through his first camp with relatively little pomp and circumstance.
“That’s my style – I like to fly under around the radar,” Alzner said. “If that’s the way it seems, then I am doing a good job.”
The thing is, Alzner is in a battle for a roster spot, whereas Ovechkin and Backstrom were essentially assured places on the team. Maybe it is the style of game Alzner plays — smart but conservative — but there hasn’t been a whole lot of ink about him since camp has gotten rolling.
One of my co-workers, Stephen Whyno, did write a stroy about him early in camp, but there haven’t been many questions put to Bruce Boudreau about him.
“That’s the way we want it,” Boudreau said. “He is what he is – he’s a steady defenseman, he listens and he gets better every day.”
The truth is, Alzner’s play has been tough to grade if you’re not focusing on him. He has yet to make a glaringly bad mistake, but he also hasn’t made any brilliant plays either. He is a plus-1 with no points in two games, and he’ll be in the lineup tonight at Wachovia Center.
Whether or not that is enough to earn a spot on the roster remains to be seen. The Caps could use another steady, smart defenseman and Alzner has looked the part, but he also has to beat out Sami Lepisto for a spot in the top 7 and then either Milan Jurcina or John Erskine for a regular place in the lineup.
“I’m not ready to commit to anything,” Boudreau said.
Added Alzner:”It is different. With Calgary I was use to playing defense and offense at the same time and here I am just trying to play strictly defense. It feels like it is going OK, but I don’t really know because the feedback isn’t the same as it is in juniors.
“I have no idea what’s going on. I am just trying to be consistent. If I can be consistent, then that’s good for me because that is something I pride myself on.”