The Washington Capitals wrapped up their rookie camp with a rookie game against the Philadelphia Flyers rookies/AHL players. While the end result wasn't the what the rookies hoped for (a 7-3 loss), the week proved to have more positives than negatives for the young skaters.
Having a good week was John Carlson. Not only was he one of the best players on the ice for the rookie game, but Carlson just seemed head above shoulders over the other players though out camp. He has improved his hockey sense to go with his heavy shot and good speed. It will be interesting to see how he progresses into next week with the veterans.
Trevor Bruess also had a great camp and played very well in the rookie game. He is all sandpaper in the way he plays. He spent some time this summer before camp practicing with some of the veterans. Cody Eakin also impressed. Eakin had a goal and his speed was lethal against the bigger Flyer defenders and through out camp.
It was a bit disappointing not to see Stephan Della Rovere take the ice for practices or the rookie game. I am hoping to see more of him in the next couple of weeks and maybe for some of the preseason games.
The players that just didn't impress through out the week includes Anton Gustafsson. Lil' Gus has some seasoning to do. Not to say that the son of Caps great Bengt Gustafsson hasn't been working on improving, but he is just not there yet. He needs to work on core strength and staying on his feet. As well as a season or two in the minors should help improve his hockey sense a bit.
A few of the defensemen had good camps, but in the rookie game they were a bit sub-par. Eric Mestery and Kevin Schmidt had a rough go of it through out the rookie game. They just could not control the Flyers forwards in front of the net.
Dmitri Kugryshev also had a rough game. Not only was he elbowed in the first period and shook up, but his play was a bit sloppy and took a bad offensive zone penalty when the Caps seemed to build momentum. He was eventually replaced on the power play line for first time forward Joe Finley (that could be they wanted to use Finley's size in front of the Flyer goaltender).
Speaking of Finley, the once defenseman now forward was the talk of rookie camp. He did okay for his first game as a winger. He still looks a bit shaky on the break out and has to learn to make that transition and head man the puck once the pass comes his way. Otherwise he was sound positionally and made a few good cuts to the net during the rookie game.
As a whole, the Caps rookies did a good job up in Voorhees New Jersey to take on the Flyer rookies. It was a bit of a lopsided affair with the Flyers 20-21 year-olds against the Caps 18-19 year-olds, but I felt the Caps future held their own. They definitely out chanced the flyers and out shot them. A few lucky bounces the other way and it is a different game.
Now camp goes from development to the real deal. Veterans report to camp tomorrow and are available to the media in the morning. Their first practice is not until Sunday morning, but they will be going through physicals and some off ice testing until then.
It will be interesting to watch what happens when the rooks skate with the big boys. It will be easy to see how jumps out and who just gets washed away in the crowd. There will be some big battles for back up goaltender, defense jobs and third and forth line jobs. Will the Caps take chances on some up and comers in the system, or will we see basically the same roster as last year? All questions will be answered in a few short weeks.