VOORHEES, N.J. — Daren Machesney has been working to overcome the long shot label for a long time.
He was a fifth-round pick by the Washington Capitals in the 2005 NHL draft, but being the 143rd player selected was actually a big improvement from his previous draft experience. Machesney went in the 13th round (No. 243 overall) in the 2002 Ontario Hockey League draft.
After two years as the starter with the Brampton Battalion, Machesney turned pro last season, and it was an interesting experience. He began the year with South Carolina of the East Coast Hockey League before spending some time with Hershey in the American Hockey League. Machesney even got to spend a few days with the Caps but didn’t see any action.
His final totals were 15 games with the Stingrays, 10 with the Bears and plenty of wondering where to next.
“I didn’t really have much of a home. I was pretty much living out of a suitcase for three or four months there. I was just living out of one suitcase and buying clothes,” Machesney said. “Up in Hershey, I was just kind of the fill-in guy. Last year I wasn’t really “The Guy” anywhere. If they needed a goalie somewhere, they could stick me in the net. It was tough at times, but I learned a lot.”
Machesney’s first professional start was one to forget — he allowed five goals on 10 shots and was benched midway through the second period. But his play improved with the Stingrays, and his overall numbers were slightly better with the Bears.
“[Machesney] was probably the most improved player from start to finish last year,” general manager George McPhee said. “He struggled a bit early on, but he was really good at the end. He did a nice job when he was in Hershey. That’s exactly the kind of progression you want to see in young players.”
Machesney was in goal for the Caps for the first period yesterday in a rookie game against the Flyers at their practice facility in Voorhees, N.J. He stopped eight of 10 shots, allowing a pair of power-play goals.
He did not play in the final two periods, and Machesney said afterward that he pulled his groin and isn’t sure if he’ll be ready for the team’s main camp, which opens tomorrow at Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Arlington.
This season Machesney hopes will be a slightly more stable one. He likely will open the season with Hershey and battle for playing time with incumbent Frederic Cassivi. Looking at the bigger picture, this is a pretty big year for Machesney, even though he still doesn’t turn 21 until December.
He has Olie Kolzig, Brent Johnson and Cassivi in front of him on the organizational depth chart, and a pair of highly touted prospects — 2006 draft picks Simeon Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth — behind him.
“I understand there is a ton of pressure on my shoulders and it is up to me to prove that I can play and have an impact on this organization,” Machesney said. “I’ve got a lot of work to do, I realize that. I’ll just keep plugging away at it and hopefully keep changing people’s minds.”
Note — The Flyers rookies defeated the Caps rookies 5-3 in front of a standing-room only crowd of about 500 at SkateZone in Voorhees. Patrick McNeill, Nicklas Backstrom and Mathieu Perreault scored for Washington. Four of the Flyers goals came on the power play. Machesney and defenseman Sean Collins left the game with injuries.