Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Capitals Sign Brandon Anderson

photo by Bridget Samuels (bridgetds/Flickr)

Just three days after being cut from training camp and returning to his team in Lethbridge, the Capitals announced today that goaltender Brandon Anderson has been signed to a three-year entry-level contract.  Anderson was undrafted and came into camp as a free agent.

Last year, Anderson was a step away from being sent down to the Junior A league, sitting as the third string in Lethbridge, having played just 5 games in 2008-09.  However, two injuries in 2009-10 meant that he got his chance to play for 37 games.  Despite his own lingering injury, he proved to Lethbridge coaches that he deserved the position of No. 1 goaltender this year.  He's expected to start in Lethbridge's season opener this Friday, and apparently, Anderson also proved his potential to Capitals management this past week.

Despite his youth and inexperience, Anderson showed promise during rookie camp.  He played half of the rookie game against the Philadelphia Flyers, and held the Flyers without a goal against him in the second period.  He let in two goals late in the third, but still played well against a Flyers rookie team with much more experience in the CHL and AHL.  After rookie camp, Anderson was invited to stay for training camp.  He participated in a practice with Group A on Saturday, but was returned to Lethbridge on Sunday.

Coach Bruce Boudreau indicated that Anderson improved during the camp, and that's no surprise.  Anderson had the chance to work with goaltending coach Arturs Irbe, a former NHL goaltender himself as well as an IIHF Hall-of-Famer.  In an interview with a local Lethbridge paper, Anderson said that he learned a lot from working with Irbe, and plans to continue to work on things Irbe discussed with him. 

Anderson said that he was disappointed when he wasn't drafted, but is obviously thrilled to have the Capitals offer him a contract:
"Not getting drafted was a bit of a bummer.  But then getting the invite to the Capitals camp there and you know, I guess I made the most of my opportunity and I thought I played well there."
His coaches are also happy with the outcome of camp.  Lethbridge Head Coach Rich Preston says that the signing gives them even more confidence in Anderson's abilities, and they were excited to see him signed to an NHL contract as an 18-year-old free agent - a rarity in the CHL.

Anderson's growing confidence is already evident.  All he said about stopping shots from stars like Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom was that it was "pretty tough."

Other news and notes:
  • Tom Poti was signed to a two-year $5.75 million contract extension today.  Poti had been signed through the end of the 2010-11 season, and the new contract now has him signed through the 2012-13 season.
  • Several cuts were made after today's training camp.  David de Kastrozza, Anton Gustafsson, Jake Hauswirth, Nikita Kashirsky, Dmitry Kugryshev, Ashton Rome, Patrick Cullity, Joe Finley and Todd Ford were assigned to Hershey training camp, which begins this weekend.  Samuel Carrier, Brett Flemming, Stanislav Galiev, Philipp Grubauer, and Garrett Mitchell were returned to their CHL teams.
  • The Capitals roster for the preseason game against the Columbus Blue Jackets has been released.  Cody Eakin, Andrew Gordon, Marcus Johansson, and Mathieu Perreault are among those seeing action tomorrow night.
  • Group A (featuring the top line of Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, and Mike Knuble) came away with the Duchesne Cup today.  All three groups were 1-1, but Group A scored the most goals over all games, and thus were crowned the winners.

P.S. Told ya to keep your eye on Anderson.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Rookie Camp Day 5: Rookie Game

 celebrating the 4-3 win (photo by me)

The rookies took the ice for the last day of their week of camp, and they hit the ice wearing brand-spanking-new Capitals sweaters.  Not the red practice jerseys of development camp, but actual home Capitals jerseys.  They certainly looked the part as they faced the rookies of the Philadelphia Flyers, and many of them lived up to the tremendous hype.

The same guys we've been talking about all week were the ones who impressed in the 4-3 win over the Flyers.  2010 third-round draft pick Stanislav Galiev opened up the scoring in the first period, with assists from Dustin Stevenson and Marcus Johansson.  

Mike Testwuide answered midway through the second period, going high glove side on Philipp Grubauer.  A few minutes later, Brandon Anderson relieved Grubauer in net so the two could get some equal work.

A major presence on the power play unit was defenseman Josh Godfrey.  Setting up on the point, Godfrey unleashed his tremendous slapshot, beating the Flyers goalie not once, but twice, on two separate power plays in the second and third periods.  We hadn't seen much of Godfrey's offensive prowess before, but Coaches French and Boudreau say that his shot is why he was drafted.  French adds that his hard shot is "probably NHL-level now" but "his five-on-five play has got to be better."

After Godfrey's goals, the Flyers came back, with Eric Wellwood and Marc-Andre Bourdon scoring on Anderson, and leveling the scoring 3-3 with less than five minutes to go in the third period.

With less than two minutes remaining, Cody Eakin led a breakaway into the offensive zone, swept around the back of the net, and potted the game winner unassisted.

But in the locker room after the game, Eakin was the picture of modesty.
"It was a perfectly executed controlled breakout.  The goalie didn’t play it, so I just kind of wrapped around to the back end and it squeaked through."
Despite the goal being recorded as unassisted, Eakin credited his teammates for the setup.
"It was kind of lucky, but it was a good chip by Mitch [Garrett Mitchell]. It was a good breakout, and it led to a good opportunity."
Coach French gave a little bit more credit to Eakin.
"Cody scoring the winning goal there, he’s the type of guy we saw last year in the Calder Cup  that relishes those big-time opportunities.  When you need him he seems to come through; I thought he was excellent in the second and third period."
Eakin's looking forward to showing his chops in the upcoming preseason games.  He knows it's "a long shot" but says,
"I’m here, I want to prove that I can play here."
Marcus Johansson didn't score any goals, but assisted on two goals and was a critical member of the power play.  Coach Boudreau also pointed out that he was "strong on faceoffs and on the puck" and was "the most consistent player we had all night."  But Johansson said that he learned a lot from playing a game as opposed to just practice:
"Well of course you learn more in games, that’s what you’re practicing for.  I try to play my game as much as I can to learn about time and to be at the right point at the right time."
On possibly making the roster, Johansson added:
"I'm going to work hard for it."

Other notes and observations:
  • Samuel Carrier was solid on the blue line, but needs to work on his passing play.  On some passes he had trouble hitting the tape of his teammate.
  • Bruce Boudreau's honorable mentions after the lengthy discussion of Eakin and Johansson (and Godfrey) were: Philipp Grubauer, Dustin Stevenson, Brett Flemming, and Patrick Cullity.
  • When asked about Joe Finley, Mark French did express doubts on his playing at the AHL level next year.  He said that Finley needs to "play at a higher pace" in order to make it in the AHL.
  • At several points, Flyers rookies were trying to get under the skin of Marcus Johansson - chirping at him after whistles, playing him a little more physical.  Johansson never engaged, and always shrugged it off.  In post-game interview, he proved himself extremely smart and mature.
  • Alex Ovechkin stuck around for the rookie game after the vet skate in the morning, and came into the locker room after the game ended to congratulate the guys and chat with them for a few moments. The captain was all smiles, and according to Jared DeMichiel's Twitter, Ovechkin and Mike Green took the rookies out for a sushi dinner.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Rookie Camp Day 1: Catching Up with Dustin Stevenson

Stevenson is on knee, center, blue sweater (photo by me)

Dustin Stevenson started off our interview with "Sorry if I smell bad."  Think I'm going to like this kid. 
(And for the record, I couldn't smell anything.  Probably because I was so cold at that point that all my senses were dulled.)

Rink Rebel: You were the first player from the SJHL to be signed by the NHL, so how did that feel?

Dustin Stevenson: Oh, it felt great.  It's everyone's dream, I think, it was my dream for sure, to sign an NHL contract.  I didn't think it was going to happen this soon, but it definitely felt real great.

RR: Most of the guys here are from collegiate hockey, KHL, CHL, how do you think your game would differ from that?

DS: I think I had good coaching where I played so I feel like I'm right with everyone in this camp, I don't feel out of place at all.  There are some good players here, and there's definitely a little bit more skill, but I feel like I fit in.

RR: Bruce had singled you out saying you had a good development camp, what did that do for your confidence?

DS: It helped my confidence a lot.  I mean especially for this camp, now coming back I kind of know where I fit in and where I sit with the guys and it definitely pumped the confidence up a bit.

RR: Obviously I understand why you picked the contract over your scholarship to St. Lawrence, but do you feel disappointed in a way that you had to forgo that scholarship?

DS: [shakes head] Not at all.  I don't look back on that decision at all, I think this is the best for my development, and that's a decision that me and my family made as soon as I got offered a contract.  So no, I'm not looking back on it.  I'm happy with the decision I made.

RR: People tend to compare your style to Chris Pronger, is that accurate?  Or who do you think your style of play is like?

DS: I guess it's fair to compare me to him, I'm not sure really, I just try and play my own style of game, but I guess I can see we're both kind of tall, puck-moving defensemen.

More interviews to come on Thursday!

Rookie Camp Day 1: Catching Up with Philipp Grubauer

photo by Dan Janisse, The Windsor Star

On day one of Rookie Camp, the guys went through various drills and then off-ice weight training. After all that work, I got a chance to speak with goaltender Philipp Grubauer for a few minutes about his upcoming OHL season.  
Rink Rebel: Are you looking forward to your season with Kingston?

Philipp Grubauer: Oh yeah, I'm looking forward to it, I think we have a good team, and we should be going back to the championship with this team.  Everybody has to do their job, and I'm looking forward to this year.

RR: And you'll also be in the WJC with Germany, are you looking forward to that as well?

PG: Yeah, I think we have a pretty good team as well there... So we should stay in the group [Germany is in Group A with USA] and our goal is getting a medal this year.

RR: During your playoff series with Barrie, you got run over by Darren Archibald. When you got up you had sort of a smile on your face, so what were you thinking?

PG: Yeah I mean I kind of knew it was coming to that point, we won that game 6-2 and there was only one minute left so they tried to do everything to disturb me. It was kind of funny to me because I knew it was coming.

RR: You had a shutout against your former team Belleville just a couple days ago, how was that feeling?

PG: It was an awesome feeling to get that shutout, because you're getting back to the old building, playing against your friends, and it was just an amazing feeling to show them that we can do it in Kingston too.

RR: Goalies are kind of known for their weird little quirks, I don't know if you've watched Braden Holtby prepare his crease, but do you have any quirky little things that you tend to do?

PG: I think I have my own game routine, every player has, but I don't do anything special.  Just a nap before the game, I always eat pasta, but that's pretty much all I do.

I should have more exciting interviews after the rookie game on Thursday. Dustin Stevenson interview is coming up next.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Rookie Camp: Guys to Keep Your Eye On

Rookie and training camp rosters were released today, and while everyone knows names like Cody Eakin, Dmitry Kugryshev, and Marcus Johansson, there are the unknown guys that are poised to impress.

 photo by Getty Images

David de Kastrozza
The University of Maine alum was signed by the South Carolina Stingrays this past March.  He joined the team after the signing, and in the three games he played, he registered two assists.  At 6'3" and 205 pounds, the winger is best known for his physical presence (particularly in front of the net), and despite his size, he's a skilled and agile skater.  de Kastrozza was responsible for a Team Red breakaway goal during the final scrimmage of this year's development camp.
Similar to: Brooks Laich

photo by Norwich Athletics

Nikita Kashirsky
Another college alum, forward Kashirsky was a standout on the Norwich University Cadets, earning accolades like RBK first-team All-American (twice), ECAC East's "Player of the Year," and a spot on the ECAC all-conference first team.  Kashirsky grew up in Bethesda, but also played in Moscow - he is a close friend and former teammate of Alex Ovechkin.  Kashirsky joined the South Carolina Stingrays after graduating from Norwich in 2009, and with his skillful puckhandling and knack for scoring, helped them towards the Kelly Cup that year.  Last year, he split the season between the AHL's Springfield Falcons and Manitoba Moose.
Similar to: Alexander Semin
photo by goaliej54

Dylan Yeo
The 5'11" defenseman debuted in the ECHL in 2007 with the Victoria Salmon Kings (with whom he was named ECHL's Defenseman of the Year for 2008-09), and spent 23 games over 2 seasons with the Manitoba Moose during callups.  In 2009, the South Carolina Stingrays signed him, and in 49 games played, he earned 30 points.  He also spent 4 games in Hershey last year after being called up.  Yeo tends to be more offensive, perhaps due to his height, but he's certainly strong at 210 pounds.  Yeo also has other talents - during his time with the WHL's Calgary Hitmen, he once sang "O Canada" before a game.
Similar to: Mike Green

photo by Lethbridge Hurricanes

Brandon Anderson
The only goaltender attending rookie camp who has not been drafted or signed by the Washington Capitals, Anderson is an 18-year-old undrafted free agent currently with the WHL's Lethbridge Hurricanes.  He played his first full season as the No. 3 with the Hurricanes last year, but is still inexperienced and had a shaky start to the season, later improving to a 3.49 GAA and .892 SV%.  His stats, however, can also be attributed to an injury that nagged him last season.  Hurricanes coaching staff believe in his potential - next year, he is expected to be the starting goaltender in Lethbridge.
Similar to: Too early to tell!

Note: The fan becomes a member of the media - I've been awarded credentials for rookie and training camps, so expect some in-depth content here and on The Fourth Period's website during camp!  If you have questions for any attendee, let me know in the comments.  I may ask them!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Focus on Prospects: Caleb Herbert

This is the third installment of my countdown to rookie camp series.

photo by mnhockeyprospects.com

Name: Caleb Herbert
Position: C
Shoots: Right
Height: 5'10"
Weight: 180 lbs
Birthdate: 1991-10-12
Hometown: Bloomington, Minnesota
When Caleb Herbert got the news from his agent that he'd been drafted by the Washington Capitals in the 5th round (142nd overall), he was at work.  Selling parking tickets to cars coming onto a beach in his hometown.  It seemed a fitting situation for a humble high school grad from Minnesota.  "It was an awesome feeling," Herbert said.
For the past three years, Herbert played with Bloomington-Jefferson High School's team.  Known for his speed, he was a standout on the team, scoring 55 points in just 25 games played in 2009-10, and he finished the regular season with a +37.  But while Herbert comes from high school hockey, he's no stranger to professional hockey situations.  In the summer of 2008, he was on Team USA in the Ivan Hlinka U-18 tournament.  He scored two goals in the final game of the tournament, and helped USA to a 6-5 win over Switzerland.  For his efforts, Herbert was named Team USA's Player of the Game.
Graduating from high school earlier this summer, Herbert is getting ready for the next step in his hockey development.  He was snapped up in the 2009 USHL Entry Draft by the Sioux City Musketeers with the 172nd pick.  He'll spend one year in Sioux City, as he's committed to University of Minnesota-Duluth starting 2011-12.  On his college selection, Herbert seemed excited about his team:
"The [University of Minnesota] Gophers didn't really cross my mind.  I just had an interest in Duluth.  I really liked the coaches there, they're getting a brand new rink, and their program is on the rise, so I think it's a good time to go in there and work hard, and hopefully move on to the Capitals after that."
Herbert had a lot to learn at this summer's Capitals development camp, but coach Bruce Boudreau indicated that he was impressed with Herbert's quick learning.
"Skill-wise, Caleb is doing really good.  When you've only played high school hockey, the structure isn't what it is at this level.  He had a little trouble catching on a little bit on the- not on the drills, but on the way we play because it's more go go go."
With NCAA rules about signing NHL contracts, we likely won't see Herbert in the Caps organization for another 5 years.  But in 5 years, he'll still be only 23 and will have gained valuable experience at a collegiate level.  Look for him to make a splash in the world of college hockey.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Focus on Prospects: Samuel Carrier

Second in my series counting down to rookie camp, we have Samuel Carrier.  Let me know if there's someone you want to know about.

photo by Harry How/Getty Images
Man I love this awkward photo shoot

Name: Samuel Carrier
Position: D
Shoots: Right
Height: 6'1"
Weight: 186 lbs
Birthdate: 1992-04-28
Hometown: Varennes, Québec

To set the tone for this post, I'd like to share someone's first-hand experience of Samuel Carrier.  Twitter friend Sarah (of somethingsbruin.net) went to a QMJHL preseason game of the Lewiston MAINEiacs as they played the Victoriaville Tigres.  She promised to keep an eye on our Sam to see how he played.  I'll let her take it away:
"[Carrier] got elbowed from behind by [Tigre] Vincent Marcoux into the half wall.  He fell down, stood up, turned around and punched the guy in the face."
Now THAT'S what I like to hear.

The feisty French Canadian was the 2010 6th round (176th overall) pick of the Washington Capitals, and seemed delighted to be coming to the team.  He's said that he enjoys watching Mike Green, as Carrier is also an offensive defenseman who enjoys occasionally joining in on the rush.  And like Green, he too is valuable on the power play due to his offensive skills.

Carrier was drafted by the Québec Remparts in the first round (10th overall) of the 2008 QMJHL Entry Draft.  He had set several records with his Midget team (he has the record of most goals by a rookie defenseman in a single game, as well as landing in the top 5 of most goals by a rookie defenseman in a season).  But yet Carrier's offensive instinct didn't seem to kick in until last season.  He spent his first QMJHL season with the Remparts (home to Dmitry Kugryshev and head coach Patrick Roy).  But despite the talent there, he didn't exactly have a breakout rookie season.  Although he had some success in Midget, in 56 games with the Remparts in 2008-09, he scored only 9 points.

After the season's end, Carrier was traded to a struggling Lewiston team in a multi-player, multi-pick deal.  His first season there in 2009-10, he seemed to hit his stride.  In 66 games, he scored an enviable 42 points (10 goals, 32 assists).  Five of those ten goals came on the power play.  Carrier helped the MAINEiacs to the playoffs last year - a team that was last in the Central division the season before Carrier arrived.  The MAINEiacs didn't make it past the first round, but Carrier did score a power play goal in the series against Drummondville.

Hockey's Future stresses Carrier's youth and inexperience when they point out areas where he needs improvement.  He sometimes is out of position chasing after the play (though it's not like we haven't seen that before; see #8 on this list) but he is effective along the boards in the defensive zone, puckhandles well, and has a heavy, accurate shot from the point.  Carrier may not ever make the NHL, but he was still draftable due to his potential:  
"Carrier is by nature an offensive player from the backline and has some skills and creativity that set him apart from prospects his age - which is why he was drafted.  He is still young enough to develop the complimentary elements to make him a successful attacking defenseman and potential power play specialist at the NHL level."
Carrier is only 18 and therefore will return to play with the MAINEiacs this upcoming season, but he seemed to take a lot from this year's development camp.  While not making a huge impression like Johansson or Kuznetsov, he was solid on the blue line and took the experience very seriously.  He showed maturity in his approach to camp, but I also loved Carrier's naïveté - in an interview on a Potomac cruise for the attendees, Carrier admitted that he "didn't know" there was a river in Washington:

Ah, to be young and Canadian.