Despite the temperature outside, it felt like hockey was back on Saturday morning as the Capitals wrapped up their development camp with a prospect scrimmage. Most of the team's young, top prospects gathered for one last display for the hockey faithful who packed Kettler Capitals Iceplex after a very positive week of working with the team's coaching staff.
While the goalies stole the show in what was a low scoring scrimmage, the week-long camp seemed to have left a positive influence on each player.
"They break your game down and they fine tune little things that make a big difference," said Lucas Johansen, the team's first-round draft pick in 2016. "There's probably five or six things that I know i need to work on to make it to the next level."
For the younger players that's the ultimate goal, to identify the things they need to work on to continue their development. With only a week to work with, the coaches can't develop raw prospects into NHL-ready players. The point is more to identify what a player needs to work on.
"It was a little fast at times," said Garrett Pilon who was also drafted in 2016. "We were playing against these bigger guys, pretty strong, getting pinned a little easier than maybe usual so it was a little eye opener in that way."
While the younger players come in to learn, the older players come in hoping to make an impression. For them, while they hope to show that their skill has graduated past this level, they also must show that they can be leaders off the ice.
"That's what the coaching staff and development staff wanted us to do," Madison Bowey said. "Just kind of come in here and show the guys the ropes a little bit and then make sure they're comfortable here."
Bowey is one of those players hoping to make it to the NHL this season.
One of the downsides of being part of an organization with championship aspirations is that it may be hard to find a spot on the roster. The Capitals defense is expected to look the same next season minus trade deadline acquisition Mike Weber, which could make it difficult for Bowey to break through. Chances are he will be back in the AHL next season playing with the Hershey Bears.
But that doesn't mean this is not an important offseason for the 6-foot-2 defenseman.
"It's a very big summer for me to make sure I can come to training camp and give myself, make sure I'm in shape to give myself the best chance of making the team," Bowey said.
Saturday's scrimmage was a good start. Bowey was one of the players who stood out with his size, speed and skill. But, as he said afterwards, "This camp isn't the main camp with the big guys."
The scrimamge also marked the end of the team's "new look" camp. The camp was restructured this year to give the players more of an opportunity to experience the city and develop comradery among the prospects. It was a change both the new players and the more experienced ones seemed to appreciate.
Zach Sanford, a 2013 draft pick who has been through development camp before, said, "Compared to years past, I think, like everyone's been saying, it's been the best year so far."
While Johansen seemed satisfied with his performance over the week, he did mention that he had one regret.
"It was definitely cool to see the scenery," Johansen said. "I didn't get to check out the White House which is unfortunate, but that's ok."
If he turns into the player the Caps think he can become, he will have plenty of time to finally see the White House in the future.
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