As a few dozen diehard fans made their way to MedStar Capitals Iceplex on a sleepy Saturday afternoon, it didn’t take much imagination to find out why.
The Capitals and some of their best young prospects were on the ice for about a two-hour skate, which was the first chance for fans to see some of the team’s future players as the three-day rookie camp began just a few days before training camp.
It was good to have hockey back — no matter in what form.
“I wouldn’t say it's easier, I would just say you’re a little bit more comfortable around the guys, around the staff,” defenseman Bobby Nardella said, who was not new to the Capitals rookie camp. “Even not being here last year, just being here a couple years ago, I’m that much more comfortable around everybody. It’s really good to be back.”
The roster features players like top prospect Connor McMichael, but 2020 first-round pick Hendrix Lapierre and the team’s 2021 second-round pick, defenseman Vincent Iorio, too. There are a few familiar faces, like Brett Leason, who was a 2019 draft choice, as well as Aliaksei Protas (2019) and Tobias Geisser (2017).
The 20 players on the roster were under the direction of Hershey Bears coach Scott Allen and his new staff.
Nardella, unlike a few players on the ice Saturday, actually played a whole schedule last season. He spent last season in Sweden and played 47 games for Djurgårdens IF on loan.
“Yeah I think it was for sure worth it,” Nardella said. “The uncertainty that was going around when the NHL was gonna start, my agents were looking around to see what options were out there and they talked to Washington and they thought it was a good idea for me to get loaned for the whole year, be able to play a full season.”
But while the NHL roster doesn’t arrive, officially, for camp for another few days, the general feeling in Arlington was a near consensus.
It was good to be back.