The Caps put a wrap on rookie camp yesterday with a 7-0 whipping of Philadelphia’s “prospects.” Given that performance, the fact that there were no major injuries (although Anton Gustafsson’s back is likely to remain a concern) and no guys who are well thought of came in out of shape or disappointed with their effort, the camp had to be considered a big success. With that in mind, here are some thoughts about various campers to help close the book on the week:
KARL ALZNER: It is clearly time to see what “Captain Karl” [note: I have seen nicknames floating about the interweb for Alzner, but I’m going with this one until I hear a better one] can do against the big boys. During rookie camp he was poised, made good decisions, moved the puck well and generally did little wrong. But he was also the most-hyped player on the ice at all times, so he needs to do it against better competition. Bruce Boudreau compared him to Jeff Schultz yesterday, and that comp was running through my mind when I was watching him Wednesday in the blue-white scrimmage. He has more offensive upside than Schultz, but might not show it right away.
ANTON GUSTAFSSON: He clearly gets an incomplete. More than one of us media types was very impressed with him during the one day he was on the ice, but the kid is going to need to get healthy. The question is, can he do that while still trying to play one of the most physical, demanding sports in the world every day?
JOHN CARLSON: The surprise/star of camp, Carlson even stole a little of Alzner’s thunder. He struggled at summer development camp, getting beat in one-on-one situations on defense and looking a bit short on conditioning at times. This week he looked like a first-round pick, like someone who could be a stud defenseman in the near future. GM George McPhee can be pretty reserved at times (OK, most of the time), but he was excited about what his club might have with Carlson in a couple of years.
MATHIEU PERREAULT/FRANCOIS BOUCHARD: Maybe this isn’t true, but it certainly seems like these two guys have been put together in every scrimmage and game they’ve worn a Caps uniform for the past two summers/preseasons. They were clicking against the Flyers yesterday. Perreault isn’t getting any taller, but he’s got plenty of skill and grit to make it to The Show (he’s been an In the Room favorite for two summers now). Bouchard might need to add a little of that grit, but he definitely shows flashes of NHL-level talent. Hershey coach Bob Woods indicated he may try to play them together this year.
OSKAR OSALA: He’s big and he likes to throw his body around. He can also skate pretty well, and does a nice job of battling for and controlling the puck in the corners and along the wall. It all adds to something worth being excited about. Now Osala needs to go to Hershey to prove two things: 1) That he can skate well enough to keep up with well-conditioned pros and 2) That he can bury chances like the prototypical power forward that he looks like. There were several times during Wednesday’s scrimmage that Osala found an opening in the heart of the defense but no one was able to get him the puck. He’s got the hockey sense to find those openings, now he’s going to have teammates capable of feeding him.
DMITRY KUGRYSHEV: He meshed pretty well with Osala and Jay Beagle the past couple of days. He’s small, but he doesn’t shy away from contact. Of all of the top prospects, he was the closest to being out of shape, so there is conditioning work to be done. He will also need to focus a little better on defense, but that’s to be expected.
VIKTOR DOVGAN: It’s hard not to like this guy. He’s still got plenty of work to do in the weight room, but he’ll hit you. After yesterday’s game, he told me that was only his second career fight, but he held his own. There were also flashes of his other tools throughout the week. He can carry the puck out of trouble, and he can make good passes though he was a little spotty at times. Dovgan lacks polish, but he could be a project that brings a return in a couple of years.
JOSH GODFREY: You may have heard this guy can let it rip from the point. He was most impressive on the power play yesterday, showing a good knack for bombing away and passing with the man-advantage. His defensive work was not bad, though he did turn the puck over in his own end a couple of times Wednesday. Godfrey’s got some work to do, but there is potential in there.
I don’t have a lot to add about the goalies. All three had good moments on Wednesday and were sharp yesterday in limited work. Boudreau pointed out that in a scrimmage and a game, the three combined to give up two goals (interestingly, Varlamov probably played a little better than the other two all week but he did give up both goals in the 1-1 scrimmage – the goalies were rotating between teams). Varlamov had the big save on a breakaway yesterday, but Neuvirth was impressive and could be coming on after being further removed from knee surgery. After taking all of this into consideration, here’s a humble and lightly-educated opinion on the state of the Caps farm system. All of these prospect lists are highly subjective, and more than likely end up being dead wrong, but that doesn’t stop people (me included) from eating them up.