Alex Ovechkin’s commitment to boosting his conditioning this summer did not go unnoticed by Capitals Coach Barry Trotz on Day 1 of training camp.
“To me,” Trotz said Friday afternoon, “he looked like it was easier for him. It was easier for him. When guys are going through that skate test, I can tell which guys are going to struggle with it and which guys aren't.”
Although Ovechkin told reporters that his weight is about the same as it was following the Caps' playoff ouster in May, Trotz acknowledged that the burly Russian’s fitness did indeed appear to be improved.
“Body composition, that’s probably the best way to say it than weight,” Trotz said of Ovechkin, who is still listed at 6-3, 239 pounds on the roster. “He’s gotten some of that gigantic strength and exceptional strength that he’s known for, he’s got some of that back. And that changes his body composition.”
Trotz added: “The weight is not necessarily [about] that, it’s more, are you fit? Are you a good athlete? Are you ready to go? I think he’s made a lot stronger commitment there, so that’s great.”
Over the summer, Trotz went to Russia to visit his son. While he was there, he met up with Ovechkin so that the two could talk about last season and what he wanted to see from Ovechkin going forward.
“I wanted to meet with him because he is the captain,” Trotz said. “I wanted to talk about last year because we really didn’t talk about it that much at the end of the year. We talked about a few things. One of the things was becoming an athlete again because that’s important in this business, especially with the way the game is going. It’s fast. You’ve got to be fit in this game to be productive. Some guys can get away with it [thanks to] a high skill set and a level. But at the end of the day, your foundation has to be fitness.”
Since arriving in Washington last month, Ovechkin has often been spotted around Kettler Capitals Iceplex with his personal trainer in tow. While Ovi didn’t divulge many specifics about his offseason training, the three-time league MVP said he did less weight lifting and added more running to his daily routine.
“This offseason my goal was just to feel very good on the ice, my breathing, so I can play longer, stay on the ice a little bit longer,” Ovechkin told CSN. “Be more faster, move a little bit faster.”
One of the challenges Ovechkin faces as he ages—he turns 32 on Sunday—is keeping up in a game that seemingly gets younger and faster every year.
“Right now,” he said, “I feel very good.”
Trotz, too, feels very good about what he’s seen so far from the Capitals’ captain, who’s looking to bounce back from his lowest goal output (33) in a non-lockout year since 2010-11.
“You always ask players to evolve [and] what can you add to your game that you haven’t added?” Trotz said. “In his case, the game is getting quick and he wants to stay relevant in the quickness aspect.”