With the Capitals rookies set to complete their four-day camp in Estero, Fla., today with a 10 a.m. game against the Nashville Predators, a handful of players already have made a strong first impression on the Caps’ coaching and management staffs.
Jakub Vrana, forward
Whether he can withstand the physical punishment of the North American game remains to be seen, but the 19-year-old Czech has game-breaking speed and hands of gold. He showed both in Sunday night’s 5-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning in the second of three games for the Caps rookies.
Taken by the Caps with the 13th overall pick of the 2014 NHL draft, Vrana scored his first goal of the tournament when he raced down an alley-oop pass from defenseman Madison Bowey and scored on Tampa goalie Adam Wilcox for the first goal on Sunday night.
Vrana is a left shot who can play either wing. Bears coach Troy Mann said after Saturday’s game that he’d like to see Vrana use his linemates better and limit his attempts at beating opponents one-on-one. Mann said he saw that on Sunday night.
Connor Hobbs, defense
Taken by the Caps in the fifth round of the 2015 NHL draft, Hobbs will play this season in Regina under former NHL head coach John Paddock, but through two games he leads all Caps rookies with two goals. His second came on a second-period slap shot from the point on Sunday night.
Madison Bowey, defense
Considered the Caps’ top defensive prospect, Bowey pick up a goal and an assist against the Lightning, setting up Vrana’s mad dash down the right wing and blasting a power play point shot through Wilcox for his first goal of the tourney.
Bowey, 20, is expected to begin his first pro season in Hershey but if he continues with a strong training camp he could warrant consideration from the Caps.
Caleb Herbert, right wing
Following Saturday’s 2-1 loss to the Panthers Mann said he wanted to see more out of Herbert, who was taken by the Caps in the fifth round of the 2010 NHL draft. On Sunday he delivered with a pair of assists on goals by Hobbs and Nathan Walker. Herbert, 23, is expected to begin the season in Hershey but is hoping to establish himself as a reliable AHL callup.
With a 1-0-1 record the Caps can win the tournament with a win over the Predators on Tuesday morning, a fact thart has not escaped Mann.
“I think it’s important that these guys work on some more things, because ultimately they’re going back to Washington to hang out with the big boys starting on Friday,” Mann told reporters.
“I think it’s important that they continue to work on the system play that (Caps coach Barry Trotz) is going to introduce to them and it’s a little bit of a leg up for them going into training camp where they know the neutral zone forecheck.”
Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin, who turns 30 on Thursday, has arrived in D.C. and is expected on the ice for today's informal workouts with the Capitals. Free-agent center Derek Roy, 32, is also expected to participate.