A Super Send-Off to Mid-Summer Puck

Cup'pa JoeIt really was a special, camp-concluding Saturday out at Kettler Capitals, and little of that had to do with the play on the ice, which was fast-paced and good fun. We had our largest turnout of laptops to date for our final scrimmage live-blog, and the new friends who joined us wonderfully ratcheted up the fun and insight. A special thanks to Reed from Capitals Kremlin, Alex from the Capital Letter, and Leslie from Musings of a Hockey Mom for enlivening this Development Camp as they did.

We enjoyed most, perhaps, the participation via Minneapolis of one Tara Bruess, sister of Trevor. With previous camp live-blogs I’d marveled at the breadth and reach this new media tool can secure — we’d actually had hockey fans in Sweden and France follow our chatter and join in the dialogue. Saturday brought us the terrific novelty of a super proud ‘sis hanging out in our chat-space to keep tabs on ‘bro. Tara expressed to us the wish of being in the rink for the scrimmage, and we invited her to attend next year and join our live-blog. She just might.       

We received a surprise visit from Mr. Leonsis, who decked out in bright green yachting shorts and stylish shades seemed primed to depart camp for some weekending at Maryland’s or Viginia’s Eastern shores. John Walton, too, stoppped by and offered championship Bearhugs for the bloggers. This was a spring where I particularly profitted from John’s extraordinary support for new media in pro hockey rinks — I will be telling blogger colleagues for years about his advocacy of this blog during the 2009 Calder Cup finals — and I like to think of our relationship with JW and Tim Leone and so many in and around the Hershey organization as a microcosm of the larger synergy which exists between the Hershey and Washington hockey communities. That’s one of the best in all of hockey, as far as I’m concerned.       

And when the topic is support for new media, the discussion begins with Ted Leonsis — a fact that Walton reflected upon in his blog near the end of the weekend:

“No owner in sports has done more to advance social media and hockey coverage in the 21st century than Leonsis, a fact I reflected on as he visited with us. Some teams shy away from new media; Leonsis embraces it. He’s doing a lot of good not only for the Capitals, but for the game of hockey itself with his progressive thinking and attitude. It was nice to talk with him for a bit yesterday.”

This was John Carlson’s Development Camp, less a coming out party (that was last year) and more a coronation. All that buzz he generated during the winter and especially in the spring around his rapidly maturing game received a full-on reckoning from Washington’s hockey media all week long. I’m not sure I saw a single session after which Carlson wasn’t confronted by a fresh set of microphones and cameras. And his coach in London, Dale Hunter, put an exclamation point on the frenzy by proclaiming him not only a legitimate NHL roster candidate for next season but a prospect whose impact upside was significant. In fact, when Mike Vogel asked Huntsy to compare Carlson with a player from Hunter’s era, the coach suggested Hall of Famer Larry Murphy, before noting that Carlson skates better than Murphy did.   

Carlson’s standing out at camp was not a surprise, but 17-year-old Dmitri Orlov’s was. He, too, looked like a teenager who could be kept around for fall camp’s second week. Orlov doesn’t speak English, and part of what made this camp special for us was the cooperation we received from fellow camper Dmitry Kugryshev in carrying out an interview of Orlov after Saturday’s scrimmage. 

With Kugryshev’s assistance we learned that Orlov was elated to learn he’d been drafted by the Caps, knowing the team to have so many prized young Russian talents already in the organization, and that his aim is to remain in North America to play hockey this fall, either in Washington or Hershey.

“He is a future Washington Capital,” Alex of Capital Letter wrote on his blog in his camp wrapup, and I agree. Orlov will celebrate his 18th birthday this Thursday.

Kugryshev was one of camp’s outstanding performers up front, I thought. I saw a strength on the puck that Coach Boudreau pointed out, and he looked infinitely more comfortable in his second Development Camp. For some while it’s been assumed that he’d return to Patrick Roy and the Remparts of the QMJHL, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him stick with Hershey this fall. 

Speaking of Q League standouts, Acadie Bathurst alum Mathieu Perreault I thought had a brilliant week. His skating, which was never a weakness, has strengthened. He is a willing-to-pay-to-see playmaker, and his 50 points skating largely on Hershey’s fourth line in his rookie season in the ‘A’ don’t get the acknowledgement I think they should. I expect him to be a top-six impact forward for the Bears in 2009-10 and to get a cup of joe up with the big club at some point. Perreault acknowledged during camp that he’s struggled to make himself bigger with training, and it may well be that he’s reached something close to his pro hockey frame. The odds then may be against him, but he’s impressing in so many facets, and making so many elite plays, I give him a solid 50-50 shot of breaking through.

I’ve singled out a quartet of outstanding performers for 2009 Development Camp, but that’s by no means an exhaustive list. Braden Holtby was strong in net; Trevor Bruess was a fast-paced pest with decent skills; Phil DeSimone I thought exhibited impressive poise and playmaking moves. We’ve a lot of promise to keep tabs on this coming season on college campuses, in Major Juniors, and down on the farm. On the futures front, of late the song remains the same, and it’s a most pleasant melody.  


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