Of those that stood out, for me, were Mathieu Perrault, big guy Joe Finley, Joel Broda and Trevor Bruess. As well as goaltender Braden Holtby. For Perrault, this is old hat (his third camp to date if I am not mistaken). Not much phased him through the whole practice. He stayed consistent and played tough.
Finley seemed to welcome the challenge in defending Perrault during a one on one drill. Finley is all about size, at 6'7" and 240 you can hardly miss him on the defensive line. But Finley doesn't have Perrault's speed so Finley had to cheat a little around cones and make more direct cuts to keep up with the speedy forward. At one point Finley caught up with Perrault only to deflect his shot right up into his face below the visor (jaw or chin). Finley shook it off and didn't even miss the next round.
When they got to the 5 on 3 and 5 on 5 drills, Finley wanted to show case his physicality. He missed two hits at center ice and the one good hit he got in took him out of position, leaving his linemates high and dry. I'll chalk it up as rusty-ness for now.
Joel Broda also impressed. He has a nose for the net and doesn't shy away from being physical in front of it. His linemate, Trevor Bruess, was the agitator of the day in the 5 on 5 drills. He was also involved in most of the hitting (both giving and receiving). Bruess loves to cut off wingers, get in the grill of the defenders and create havoc in the neutral zone. And all of it for practice. I can't wait to see what he does for the scrimmages.
Those having a tough time were players that were none too familiar with Bruce Boudreau's deep need for perfection and their first time to a NHL development camp. You can say it was nerves and complex drills thrown at them on the first day.
"That was real competitive. Coach Boudreau is a really good coach. You better have your thinking cap on and make sure you listen." Trevor Bruess tweeted after the practice had ended.
Zach Miskovic had a tough run of practice. Often falling behind or asking others what was going on. Garrett Mitchell also seemed lost in the crowd. I was watching for him to step in, be more aggressive and physical, he choose the "wait and see" strategy a few times. As did many of the first timers who were trying to get it all down. Nils Backstrom, an invitee, looked out of shape at the end of practice as he was getting out skated by the Holtby the goaltender during the last skating drill.
Speaking of Holtby, this has been a different goaltender from the year before. Last summer, the then 19 year old looked a bit out wide eyed and tentative. You could see the potential he had. This summer, it's plain to see how much he has grown. Not only has he filled out his pads, but he is making smarter decisions with the puck. He is calm and collected and he came up with some very solid saves through out the two hour session. He did have some trouble going side to side and challenging a bit, but it's easy to see that Holtby could be in chocolate brown next season.
Dan Dunn was the other goaltender and he looked much as he did last summer. Good size, solid fundamentals. Besides that, nothing to fancy. He is has a solid butterfly that is hard to beat (because of his size 6'5", 200 lbs.). Dunn and Holtby still have some growing to do, mainly in the rebound department, Holtby more than Dunn. But camp is still young.
"I was rusty out there," Holtby tweeted after the workout. "It's a feeling-out process for most of us on the first day. And the first bag skate always hurts."
I was only able to take in the morning skate, I will be back out to Kettler tomorrow morning to take a look at Group B. You can always follow me and my observations on my Twitter account: twitter.com/pckhdsthghts.
- George McPhee announced today the hiring of Mark French as head coach of the Capitals' farm team, the Hershey Bears. French was in town for the development camp. The Capitals have put up a few of the coach's comments up on their video page.