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Sanford opened some eyes at development camp


Sanford opened some eyes at development camp

It was at the end of a long day of meetings and on-ice drills, but the energy level inside Kettler Capitals Iceplex had reached a crescendo.

Capitals coach Barry Trotz had divided the rink into thirds for a 3-on-3 tournament among the Capitals’ 34 prospects and the championship game had ended in a scoreless tie through regulation. Watching from his perch above the ice, Trotz ordered the game to continue until someone scored.

One overtime spilled into the next and players’ legs grew weary. Shots sailed wide and fans began wondering when an outcome might be decided. That’s when Zach Sanford weaved around two players and snapped a shot off the post and in.

While the Team Red celebrated like school children, the Caps’ coaching staff nodded in approval.

“Zach Sanford, I’m impressed with him and his development from last year to this year,” Trotz said at the conclusion of last week’s development camp.

“I guess the one guy, Sanford, I was impressed by during the drills,” Caps general manager Brian MacLellan said. “I like what he’s done.”

The Capitals’ 2013 NHL draft yielded forward Andre Burakovsky (23rd overall) and defensemen Madison Bowey (53rd overall) and Tyler Lewington (204th overall), each of whom is expected to play full-time in the NHL or AHL next season.

But the Capitals also felt strongly enough about Sanford to cobble their 84th, 114th and 127th selections and trade them to the  Winnipeg Jets for the chance to take Sanford 61st overall.

Since then Sanford has put seven pounds of muscle (from 190 pounds to 197) onto his imposing 6-foot-3 frame and after three development camps with the Capitals, his skill level is starting to show through.

“I think coming in this year I was a lot more confident that I could get better and pay a little more attention to what’s going to around me,” Sanford said.

“He’s got a lot going for him,” Caps assistant coach Todd Reirden said. “Strong, big body, great hands.”

Sanford, 20, plans on returning to Boston College for a second season with the Eagles. As a freshman last season he played in all 38 games for BC, managing seven goals and 17 assists for 24 points and a plus-10 rating.

“The coaches are great, the school is great,” said Sanford, who is from Auburn, N.H., and played high school hockey at nearby PinkertonAcademy. “The one big thing is it’s helped me mature a lot. Staying home and going to high school (then) staying away from home and having to do a lot more for myself, it helped me with managing my time better. It’s helped me mature a lot.”

Sanford said Boston College has given him the academic assistance to handle the responsibilities of class work and a busy practice and travel schedule. Reirden said collegiate players often come to development camps a little stronger than their junior hockey counterparts because they spend more time in the gym and less time playing games. Generally speaking, U.S. college players can play half the number of games as junior league players.

Sanford said he noticed a difference in this year’s scrimmages.

“I’m a lot bigger and stronger,” he said. “More mature. My hockey IQ has gone up a lot the past few years and I think that makes a big difference.”

Sanford said he’s also seen more involvement from Capitals fans in each of the three development camps he’s attended. Saturday’s Fan Fest scrimmage drew more than 2,500 fans and MacLellan said he would consider moving it to a bigger venue, maybe even the 10,500-seat GiantCenter in Hershey.

“It was great,” Sanford said. “This year was the best year out of the last three I’ve been here. There’s always people around asking for pictures and autographs. That makes it a lot more fun than just playing in front of empty stands.”

MORE CAPITALS: Capitals add some punch to their lineup

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Alex Ovechkin and wife Nastya Ovechkina welcome baby boy

NBC Sports Washington/USATSI

Alex Ovechkin and wife Nastya Ovechkina welcome baby boy

After lifting the Stanley Cup just over two months ago, something else very exciting has happened in Alex Ovechkin's life.

Saturday morning, Nastya and Alex Ovechkin welcomed their first child, a baby boy named Sergei, after Ovechkin's late brother. 

Ovi spent this week practicing at the Florida Panthers' facilities with other NHL players living in the surrounding area.

After the Cup's visit to Moscow, Nastya and Alex settled down at their apartment in Miami, staying put and preparing for the birth. 

The couple were married two years ago but didn't hold an official ceremony until July of last year. The celebration was as lavish as you'd expect.

She revealed her pregnancy shortly after the Cup victory, and has kept us up to date on life this summer via Instagram. A few weeks ago, the Ovechkins graced HELLO! Russia magazine, showing off Nastya's baby bump among their glamour shots.

💛 @aleksandrovechkinofficial #hello #hellorussia @hello__ru

A post shared by Nastasiya Ovechkina (@nastyashubskaya) on

Congratulations to Ovi and Nastya, and all our best wishes for health and happiness!


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Capitals draft pick admits he is...a Flyers fan


Capitals draft pick admits he is...a Flyers fan

Say it ain't so.

Mitchell Gibson is the first goalie the Capitals have drafted since Ilya Samsonov in 2015, but they may be thinking twice about their selection after a recent shocking interview.

Gibson spoke with a local Philadelphia CBS station and revealed that both he and his family...are Flyers fans.

Insert dramatic music.

"I think my family will always be Flyers fans in their hearts and I guess I will be a little bit," Gibson admitted, hopefully with guilt in his voice.

Gibson was selected by the Caps in the fourth round of the 2018 draft, but clearly the scouts did not do their homework. It's as if Gibson grew up a hockey fan in a place like Phoenixville, Pa. (about an hour outside of Philadelphia) without anticipating the future that he may one day be drafted by a rival team like Washington.

Shame, shame.

The young netminder tried to make up for his horrifying admission later in the interview.

"The Capitals are definitely treating me well right now so I would like to be their goalie," he said.

A likely story.

Gibson is only 19 and set to begin his first collegiate season at Harvard in 2018 so at least there is still time for Gibson to overcome his shameful past. And hey, it could always be worse. At least he's not a Penguins fan.