In addition to Capitals pro development coach Olie Kolzig, there has been another familiar face assisting with the club’s development camp at Kettler this week.
Jeff Halpern, a Potomac native who went undrafted and signed with the Caps as a free agent, was invited by Caps general manager Brian MacLellan to attend this year’s five-day camp, which concludes on Saturday with a 10:30 a.m. scrimmage.
“I was happy he called,” said Halpern, who last played for the Phoenix Coyotes in 2013-14. “It’s a chance for me to be a part of this and help out where I can. It’s been neat to see some behind-the-scenes stuff.”
Caps assistant general manager Ross Mahoney said both parties can benefit from Halpern’s knowledge of the game and ability to communicate.
“He’s a former captain,” Mahoney said. “Jeff has always been not just a player of high character but a very intelligent player and we can always use more help like that. And I think Jeff would like to get into the area of coaching. It’s a good opportunity for him to give to the kids and also learn from some of the veteran coaches.”
A 1999 graduate of Princeton, Halpern said his rookie camp in 1999 was far less organized than the five-day campBarry Trotz has set up this week. Nearly every hour of the day is accounted for the 36 players invited to camp, half of which are free agents hoping to sign their first pro contracts.
Certain that his playing days are over, Halpern says coaching is a career he’d like to pursue and this has been his first exposure to the preparation that goes on before the players hit the ice.
“It’s funny,” he said. “Having played against Nashville and Pittsburgh, you see the influence of Barry Trotz and Todd Reirden in some of the schemes that have been brought here. It’s neat to see it all pulled together.
“I watched a lot of Caps game from the seats this year, from the sidelines, and it’s neat to see the details that went into those games. I never had the chance to be in a coach’s room for a full day and see how prepared and thorough they are, from team play to individual play. It’s amazing to see a lot of the work that goes into it.”
Having last played with the Capitals four seasons ago under Bruce Boudreau and Dale Hunter, Halpern said he has seen the club mature into a team that has a legitimate shot at winning the organization’s first Stanley Cup.
“I think they were a legitimate contender last year,” he said. “It’s hard to say it came together quickly because a lot of those guys were the same players as in years’ past. But they were a game away from winning that series (against the Rangers) and moving on.”
Halpern said the Caps will miss the impact of Troy Brouwer, Joel Ward and Mike Green, but he thinks the arrivals of right wings Justin Williams and T.J. Oshie will bring a different dynamic on the ice and in the locker room.
“Any time you bring new guys in there’s a bit of a transition period,” he said. “The two guys they brought in happen to be world-class players and very suited for the players the coaching staff hopes they play with. I think for an organization that’s always looking to get better, they did that.”