There was a time not too long ago that the Capitals invited all of their recent draft picks and a slew of free agents to Kettler Iceplex for a grueling week of endurance training and fast-paced, hard-hitting scrimmages.
Those days are over, at least to some degree.
“Before, it was ‘Let’s see what you can take. Who can take it the most? Who’s the biggest man out there?” Capitals director of player development Steve Richmond said Wednesday on the second day of the Caps’ development camp.
The camp runs from Tuesday through Saturday at the team's home facility in Arlington, Va.
“Those endurance skates, that wasn’t for testing. That was for the entertainment of the coaches, I think. It’s not fair. We want these kids to be able to train all summer. We don’t want to beat them up in (development) camp.”
And so this week will be different for the 30 players in camp. On Wednesday, the forwards and defensemen took part in on-ice drills that tested their agility, explosiveness and strength – not who could throw the biggest body check.
On Thursday, following on-ice sessions in the morning, the Caps prospects will trek over to Georgetown, load onto rowing sculls and spend the afternoon stroking down the Potomac. Afterward, they’ll join the Capitals’ coaching and scouting staffs for a team dinner in Georgetown.
On Friday afternoon, following a morning of skating drills, the Capitals will give their prospects a walking tour of the Verizon Center, then drop them off at the National Mall and let them soak in the splendor of the nation’s capital for two or three hours before picking them up at a designated location.
“A lot of these guys are going to be playing together the next couple years,” Richmond. “It’s something besides hockey. Washington is such a great city and it’s another way for them to see the city. Instead of scrimmaging all the time, we have a smaller camp and we want to fill it with other things.
“We want them to come and see where they need to be and what’s waiting for them when they get here.”
On Saturday, the Capitals will conduct their first and only scrimmage of the five-day development camp, with puck drop scheduled for 10 a.m.
For Zach Sanford, the change in the Caps’ philosophy is a welcome one.
“It’s a little more laid back than before,” said Capitals’ 21-year-old left wing, who is attending his fourth summer camp before returning to Boston College for his junior season. “The first year I think we had four scrimmages.
“Last year we had a 3-on-3 tournament, which was really fun. This year there’s just one scrimmage and we’ve got some stuff to do in D.C. and some rowing. I think it’s a lot more fun with these guys and a lot more about building relationships instead of just playing hockey.”