White is Right

It was a great evening at the ’Plex tonight, as the Caps’ first ever summer development camp at Kettler took center stage with a Blue vs. White scrimmage. White prevailed by a 5-3 count, and a decent crowd showed up on a Wednesday night. The game was played in two 30-minute halves with a running clock. The ice was resurfaced during the intermission.

Because of varying vantage points, it wasn’t always easy to tell who scored. I can tell you than Mathieu Perreault tallied twice for the Blue bunch. The first came after a nice deke that was followed by a backhand tuck on newly signed netminder Simeon Varlamov. The second was a rebound putback that beat Justin Mrazek. The other Blue tally came from Mike Radja, who’s readying for his senior season at UNH. Radja took a smart pass from Joe Finley, gained the zone, beat his man wide with speed and then flipped the puck high over Varlamov’s glove.

The White tallies I noted came from MSU’s Bryan Lerg, defenseman Patrick McNeill and 2007 draftee Justin Taylor. I was told that Yale’s Sean Backman also netted a White goal, but didn’t see it so can’t swear to it.

Some other notes from the night:
First-rounder Karl Alzner looked solid and lived up to his scouting report. He made smart plays with the puck and was rarely caught running around or out of position. He moves fluidly and is very mobile.

Finley’s puck-moving skills were better than advertised. He had an up and down contest, but mostly up in these eyes. He’s going to be a big part of the Fighting Sioux in 2007-08, and it will be interesting to see where he is at this time next year.

Francois Bouchard showed a lot of skill and some dangling ability. He also seems to have a nose for the net. He played on a line with Nicklas Backstrom and Pasi Salonen. Although they did not score, this trio created scoring chances.

Backstrom was adept at bringing the puck up ice, and was extremely alert at covering for his blueline teammates who were caught up ice in transition on more than one occasion. He didn’t stand out noticeably, but probably will before the week is out.

Oskar Osala was involved physically throughout the contest. He likes mixing it up along the wall and in the corners.

In Finley, Alzner, McNeill, Viktor Dovgan, Sean Collins, Sami Lepisto and Jamie Hunt, the Caps have a nice group of pro-ready defensemen. They have another bunch who are already competing for NHL jobs and another handful (including 2007 draftees Josh Godfrey and Theo Ruth) who could be pro-ready in a year or two. Not all will make it of course, but enough of them should to put the Caps’ backline in good stead a few years up the road.

Varlamov, Daren Machesney and Michal Neuvirth all looked good in goal, with Neuvirth standing out in particular. Varlamov had to deal with a lot of early shots and a great deal of traffic in front and he handled those situations well. He’s a little rough technique-wise, but he’s a kid. Machesney was impressive at last year’s camp and he played well on Wednesday. A 2005 draftee, he’s the furthest along of all the Washington netminding hopefuls. Machesney is coming off his first pro season. Neuvirth is more polished than Varlamov at this point. He showed a quick glove hand and was the only one of the five goaltenders who escaped without surrendering a goal.

Finally, it was great to see Glen Hanlon, Bruce Boudreau and the other coaches and to catch up with all my pals in the media and blogging arenas. Thanks also to the fans who took a moment to say hello, and hope to see plenty more of you all as the week wears on. With four games in four days, look for some separation by the elite players and some possible temper-flaring as the days pass.

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6 Comments on “White is Right”

  1. Smitty Says:

    Looks like you saw pretty much what I saw, though I was a little harder on Backstrom. He looked great when he had the puck, but when the White team had possession he looked very hesitant about challenging for it and gave them a lot of room. Granted, it’s just one scrimmage in the middle of July, and his first in North America playing our style and he’s got all the time in the world to get over any jitters and start getting physical.

    I was particularly impressed with Alzner, Finley, Bouchard, and Neuvirth.

  2. gusty161 Says:

    The two that really impressed me were Alzner and Perrault. Alzner was everything they said he would be; poised with the puck, solid positionally, an excellent passer and he always seemed to know what he was going to do the moment he got the puck. Perrault just seemd to have that inate “hockey sense” that told him were to go on the ice. He seemed to have a very quick first step and appears to be a natural scorer. He could be the sleeper in this group. If only he were just a little bigger.

  3. dumpnchase Says:

    Smitty,
    I’m always somewhat hesitant to write anything based on these mid-summer scrimmages. Some guys are traveling from halfway around the world, and others haven’t been on skates much since the end of their respective seasons. Whether a guy looks good or bad in one of these camps or scrimmages, it’s important to remember they’re all just kids and it’s a wee sample of the guy’s whole career. Bottom line is that it’s great to see hockey in July and I always eagerly antipipate this week.

    Gusty,
    Agreed on both Alzner and Perreault. Perreault looks a bit bigger to me than he did last summer. The hockey sense is a good thing to have, it’s something you can’t teach.

  4. Smitty Says:

    Mike – I agree with you wholeheartedly, it’s just that with all the hype surrounding him I can’t help but hold him to a fairly high standard… I’ll settle down I’m sure, but that’s just how my deranged brain works.

  5. Funkyglovefacewash Says:

    I envy you guys getting to watch the scrimages. I can’t think of a more exciting group
    of Caps prospects in the 28 years I’ve followed the team. Unfortunately, I won’t be
    able to make it to Kettler so it’s nice to read opinions from some who are lucky enough
    to be there. I’m particularly excited to see good reviews for Finley. I have high hopes
    for this giant to develop into the premier shut down D-man that we sorely need. I’ve
    seen him in 3 games on t.v. and was very impressed with his skating but what I liked
    most was his physicality and nasty side. Anyone that went in the crease when he was
    out got punished and yet he rarely got caught out of position. I have a hunch this guy
    will be signing a pro contract with us before completing his 4 years of college. I know
    Hershey is getting crowded but I think Finley may be advanced enough, not just
    physically but also mentally, to benifit more from continuing his development in the
    A.H.L. rather than the NCAA.


  6. […] White is Right It was a great evening at the ’Plex tonight, as the Caps’ first ever summer development camp at Kettler took […] […]


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