- The Washington Times - Friday, September 6, 2002

The most impressive thing about the group of rookies the Washington Capitals are taking to a tournament for first-year players in Traverse City, Mich., is their size. Of the 23 youngsters leaving today, 15 are 6-foot-1 or bigger.

"And from what I saw today, they move pretty well," Butch Cassidy said after his first practice as a Caps coach. "I would guess from seeing them that most of them have been skating in their junior camps and going through their summer hockey routines. There's always a bit of rust when you get together as a group, but they moved pretty well. I like to look at pace and tempo, and they did pretty well."

The youngsters will have a full week under their belts by the time the veterans report for drills next Thursday, but most of the established players already have been drilling daily for nearly three weeks in their own camp. And many of those not already at the Piney Orchard practice facility are working out near their homes with other NHL players.

Washington has split the rosters before so that the younger players start earlier but not recently. This will be the Caps' first tournament for youngsters, although some teams have been doing it for years.

"This will give the younger guys a head start because there's always a lot of nerves involved with a new guy coming into camp," Cassidy said. "This way we get a look at guys playing against their peers, and we'll be able to see how we match up against them. Obviously, if they're struggling or not dominating against them, then realistically they can't help us right away. If three or four guys come in and dominate, then you can see how they'll do against veterans.

"This is a chance for the younger guys to establish themselves. These guys are our future, whether it's next month or five years from now. These are our draft picks. You want to put them together, establish some pride with wearing the Caps jersey while they're playing against other teams, not against each other every day."

Forwards Brian Sutherby and Chris Corrinet and defensemen Jakub Cutta and Nolan Yonkman have played briefly for the Caps in the past but not enough to lose their rookie status. Others are draft picks or free agents.

"Primarily we want to give younger players a head start, get their legs firmly under them and hopefully they'll feel comfortable in a week going up against the veterans," general manager George McPhee said.

Rookie teams from Detroit, Atlanta, Minnesota and St. Louis also will take part.

"What we're looking for is continued development," McPhee said. "We'd like at least two of the players on this team to make our team this year, and we're hoping for an additional surprise or two."

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