Washington Capitals’ development camp is hockey in July — a chance for prospects to learn and to impress coaches, scouts and members of the front office. Saturday’s scrimmage was the final chance to do that.
The key for everyone involved is to get noticed. A few players in particular stood out and got noticed this week and in red’s 5-2 victory over white in front of a packed house at Kettler Capitals Iceplex.
A lot of eyes are on elite prospects Cody Eakin and Dmitry Orlov and recently signed Mattias Sjogren, but a few guys under the radar caught the attention of general manager George McPhee and coach Bruce Boudreau.
Late picks from June’s draft Garrett Haar (seventh round) and Travis Boyd (sixth round) did that in all the right ways.
“I thought Haar was the biggest surprise of the camp. For a young man that was four picks away from not being drafted he really played well here,” McPhee said. “Liked his hockey sense, the way he competed I like the way he defends and he looks real strong on his skates. We’re really delighted with a kid that we took in the seventh round that performed the way he did. It’s pretty impressive.”
The 17-year-old defenseman from California quickly became a media favorite this week and caught McPhee’s attention on the ice as well. He de-committed from Northeastern when coach Greg Cronin left for a job with the Toronto Maple Leafs and Haar planned on spending another season with Fargo in the United States Hockey League.
But McPhee said the “message has been delivered” that the organization would prefer Haar go to college now.
“He told me he wanted me to go the major junior route or college this following year. I told him I’m not going to major junior; I want to go to school,” said Haar, who “respectfully” turned down Western Michigan and UMass-Lowell, who offered him for this fall. “George called [Jerry] York, the coach of Boston College last night, and I guess you could say he pumped my tires.”
Boudreau was similarly impressed with Boyd, a center who will be a freshman at Minnesota in a couple months.
“Is that Boyd only 17?” the coach said. “Some of the plays these guys make, it’s pretty good.”
Eakin got noticed more this week because his every move was being analyzed. Boudreau didn’t have a negative word to say about the 20-year-old who hopes to make the Caps in September, but Eakin was hard on himself.
“I’m not in the best shape,” he admitted. “There’s no excuse for it, but I had a good exit meeting [with the coaches] to discuss what I need to do.”
His counterpart for most of the week, Sjogren, impressed with his strength and size. More often than not, the 23-year-old Swede was able to push around Eakin and other, younger players. McPhee noted that this was more of an “orientation” week for Sjogren than it was a chance to see what he could do in an NHL capacity.
“He’s a little older than these guys, and you can tell he’s been in a man’s league and he is big and strong,” Boudreau said.
One guy who perhaps got noticed for the wrong reasons was Danick Paquette. Earlier in the week he admitted to being a “pretty dirty player” and compared himself to Matt Cooke. On Saturday in the scrimmage he was willing to hit anyone and everyone, with McPhee mentioning that there has to be a line between playing aggressively and not getting someone else hurt.
“I don’t have a line,” Paquette said. “I just go the best I can and if I go too hard, then it’s never too hard for a coach. Coaches like a hard player, so I try to impress Bruce.”
Boudreau was impressed — so Paquette did his job.
“It’s a tough way to make a living but that’s what you gotta do if you wanna play. He’s noticeable — every game he’s noticeable,” Boudreau said. “Whether he does good or bad stuff he’s noticeable. That’s what he needs to be doing.”