With the Capitals' training camp dates set, it's time to start thinking about the competition to make the opening night roster in October. While it really isn't fair, putting one player up against another is a fun way to get to know the players coming to camp and who has an outside shot on making the team.
The defensive squad may be the hardest nut to crack as almost all of the defensive squad from last season will be returning. A few have played up with the big club after injuries hampered the Caps through out the season, but permanent jobs have been hard to come by. It is interesting to think that some of those players could possibly fight off some contract players returning.
That leads us to our first pair. It may look cut and dry here, but the decision is anything but.
Karl Alzner or Jeff Schultz?
Both are stay at home defensmen, both are first round picks. But both couldn't be more different kind of players.
It is all about size with Schultz. At 6'6" he towers over his teammates on the ice. He played 64 games for the Caps missing most of the rest of the games with a finger injury. He wasn't an offensive threat, but had a respectable 12 points (1 goal, 11 assists). He was also a +13 on the year.
Schultz does have good hands with the puck and can move it out of the zone quickly. But it was his failure to stop Brandon Dubinsky's inside-out move in the first round of the playoffs that has many fans on his bad side. It could be because of his injury or his bad play, but Schultz did not see another minute of ice time for the remainder of the playoffs. Schultz is not as physical as his teammates Milan Jurcina and John Erskine.
Alzner may not have the huge stature of Schultz, but his time in Hershey was very productive. In 48 games played for the Bears he produced an impressive 20 points (4 goals, 16 assists). Not bad for a player that admits he struggles to become more offensive in his play. What Alzner also brings to the table is leadership. He was a captain for his junior team and he has some proven leadership that has brought him defenseman of the year honors.
Unfortunately his time with the big club wasn't the best. In 30 games as a Capital he only produced 5 points and was a minus 1. He was just invisible in a Caps' sweater.
Alzner could make things interesting if he spent an entire year with the Caps. But the likelihood of that happening is very slim. There is something in Schultz the Caps' management likes. Whether it is his size or something else, Schultz should be a mainstay for the club.