Well, it’s beginning to look a lot like hockey season…as long as you stay indoors, blast your ac to around 50 degrees, and ignore the fact that baseball is being played. This week, across the hockey-sphere, most NHL teams kicked off their prospect development camp and re-ignited the frenzy of emotions that come with the beginning of each hockey season. Unlike past seasons, I was not able to attend the Penguins development camp this year, but not because I had a scheduling conflict, but because recently I moved to the Washington, DC-Metro Area, home of the Washington Capitals. Before I make my first official update with goings on in Capitals land, let me explain a little bit about my situation.

In 2004, I moved to Virginia to attend school in the Richmond area, but always closely followed my team, the Pittsburgh Penguins, via radio broadcasts and eventually via the Slingbox, allowing me to watch every Pens game, every season. Although my fandom had not faltered, the excitement surrounding the closest team began to infiltrate news broadcasts, internet reports and blogs, and other mediums. I was fortunate to be able to catch a few of the Capitals game via local broadcast or even the occasional trip to DC, and to my disbelief, I actually found myself rooting for them (against the other 28 teams in the NHL). Just like the Penguins and the Chicago Blackhawks, I found a young exciting team with players who could make something exciting happen every time their skates touched the ice. As much as you may dislike a certain team, sometimes it’s hard to deny the talent that certain players on that team have, and that is exactly what happened to me. Although I am a diehard Penguins fan, one who watched the Penguins humiliate the Caps at every turn, I really started to enjoy watching Alex Ovechkin, Alex Semin, Nik Backstrom, and Mike Green play. The Capitals quickly became my second-favorite NHL team.

Well, flash to 2011 and the point of this article. I recently moved to the DC-metro area and have seen a lot of development so far regarding the state of hockey in Washington and as someone who will be able to closely follow the team, I plan on providing periodical updates on tidbits that might be interesting to Pens fans or even just hockey fans.
_______________________________________________

This past week, instead of attending Penguins development camp, like I am usually able to, I opted to attend the Capitals development camp at the Kettler Capitals Iceplex, their practice facility. Although I have been to multiple Capitals game, including pretty much every game between the Caps and Pens at the Verizon Center between 2005 and 2008, I was surprised to see the atmosphere of the practice facility on Saturday, which the Caps had called “Fan Fest.” What I saw was a complete change of culture from the team and a noticeable change in attitude of the fans. Although the event was held in a place roughly the size of Southpointe, it was jam-packed with people and activities for kids, player signings, and of course, the actual development camp. I remember going to games as late as 2006 and I would have been impressed if that’s the crowd they would’ve drawn for a game against the rival Pens or Flyers. Similar to how Pittsburgh has always been the Steelers domain, but has seen a recent trend upwards in the Penguins Popularity, Washington, DC has always been a city fascinated with the terrible play and dealings of the Redskins and has always treated the Capitals as a second-tier franchise, until now. Additionally, talk around camp focused on what the team needs to do to succeed. None of the answers included winning the Winter Classic, a division title, or the President’s trophy. The focus has changed for the city and the players themselves, this is not the same team that had “arrived” and it’s something that might worry Pens fans, if it wasn’t for Boudreau behind the bench each season. Nothing has changed in that regard, he is still the ice cream loving, cussing coach who is focused on everything but the playoffs.

With regards to the development camp itself, the focus was on three players, one of which wasn’t actually at the camp. Stanislav Galiev, Dmitri Orlov, and Evgeny Kuznetsov. Orlov and Galiev seem like the real deal and will probably get a chance this year at some point with the Caps. They are both solid players and seem to come from a mold not seen by Caps prospects in the past, they can actually play defense…most of the time. Another interesting thing of note is that no first-rounders attended camp. Every 1st rounder before 2009 is playing with Caps and 2010’s 1st is in KHL, which brings us to Evgeny Kuznetsov, who was picked by the Capitals with their 1st round pick in 2010, and is currently in the middle of a 2 year contract deal with a KHL club, but is likely to join the Capitals at the conclusion of that contract. Additionally, some punches were thrown at the final scrimmage, including those by Stevenson, a large prospect who dominated one of the other prospects during a 2nd period fight during the scrimmage.

Next time up:

- The Tomas Vokoun deal. What this means for the Southeast division and the Eastern Conference, and whether it actually makes a tangible difference for the Capitals playoff hopes. – The loss of Eric Fehr, an underrated player for the Capitals that was traded recently and why it may come to haunt them.