Showing posts with label zach miskovic. Show all posts
Showing posts with label zach miskovic. Show all posts

Monday, September 19, 2011

Miskovic ready to take on new role

photo by Caps in Pictures
At this time last summer, Zach Miskovic wasn't having such a great training camp in Washington. In fact, he wasn't having one at all. In last year's July development camp, Miskovic sustained a hit by the massive Joe Finley during an intersquad scrimmage, and Miskovic injured his left knee.

The injury didn't require surgery, but it meant that Miskovic didn't even set foot on the ice again until he'd already been sent down to Hershey's training camp in late September 2010. He played in 58 games with the Bears last season (missing some time due to a separate injury mid-season).

After a healthy summer this year and a new one-year contract to extend him through the 2011-2012 season, Miskovic has renewed focus. Finally getting in a normal off-season training routine during the summer was "really exciting" for Miskovic. He says he feels good and is ready for the season, and is looking forward to see how Hershey's recent changes pan out.

Thinking of new players on the Bears roster like Christian Hanson, Ryan Potulny, and Jacob Micflikier, Miskovic said, "I think the team's looking great. Obviously Washington and Hershey want to put together the best team there that they can and I think they brought in a lot of skilled players that can bring a lot to the table. I'm looking forward to start."

Last year, Miskovic had said that his sophomore season greatly benefited from having defensive veterans like Brian Fahey, Sheldon Souray, and Lawrence Nycholat as mentors. Now with those players leaving Hershey, Miskovic, 26, has to become somewhat of a veteran himself.

"I've talked with [Hershey head coach] Mark French and [assistant coach] Troy Mann about [taking a mentorship role] and they expect me to step in and be more of a leader on the back end and help some of the younger guys that are coming up, since I know the system. I think I can be that," Miskovic said. "I'm excited for that potential role and we'll see how it plays out. We've got a lot of good defensemen that have come in and I'll work hard to be in that [leadership] position."

In particular, Miskovic may serve as a mentor to Dmitri Orlov, with whom Miskovic was paired during Sunday's drills. It's a pairing that has the potential to be a real game situation for the Bears. Already Miskovic has chemistry with the Russian rookie, despite the obvious language barrier. 

"It's fun to play with him," Miskovic laughed. "Obviously communication's a little difficult at times, but he knows how to play the game. It's just reading off one another and see what happens."

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Growth of Hockey in Illinois: Conor Allen

photo by Bridget Samuels/bridgetds

Being from Chicagoland, I was pleased to look at the full development camp roster and see a Chicago native attending Capitals camp: defenseman Conor Allen.

Since I've been living in DC for eight years, I always enjoy chatting with a fellow Chicagoan. I was able to speak with him today, unbeknownst to me, our entire exchange was caught on video and is now on the Caps' website and I'm quite embarrassed at monopolizing Allen.

But I digress. Thinking about the two other Illinoisans in the Capitals system, Zach Miskovic and new signee Danny Richmond, it occurred to me to ask Allen, younger than those two, if he personally has seen youth hockey grow in Illinois, particularly since the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup in 2010.

My suspicions were correct. "Everyone loves hockey right now, it's amazing," he said of the effect the Hawks' Cup win has had on hockey involvement in Illinois. "Illinois is getting stronger and stronger every year. We have a great triple-A system, club hockey, the only problem is we don't have a college to go to." No university in the state of Illinois has an NCAA Division I hockey team (though the University of Illinois has hinted at someday adding a Division I team).

Conor Allen, who opted to head east to play hockey at University of Massachusetts Amherst, is a full-on product of Illinois hockey. He played with Team Illinois and the Chicago Blues, a Tier II hockey system that offers a full youth hockey program. 

Allen spent the 2009-2010 season in nearby South Dakota with the USHL's Sioux Falls Stampede, where he scored 15 points (7g-8a) and was a +9. He was twice named Defensive Player of the Week during the season.

Allen just completed his freshman year at UMass-Amherst, scoring six points (2g-4a) in 31 games. But he won't be signing an NHL contract anytime soon; he chose college hockey for a reason. 

"When you grow up in the United States, you idolize the college hockey route and the players. Education, especially in my family, is a big deal. All my brothers and sisters went to school; my dad's a professor," Allen said. 

"And nowadays you can make it to the NHL playing college hockey. You play great hockey and get your education for free. It's really a great way to do it, and you also get the experience of being a college student which is really valuable."

Allen is set on returning to college next year, but he's looking to get some NHL exposure while completing his education. "It's always good to get exposure, live like a pro for a week, and feel it out. Hopefully I can keep the relationship going, and someday be a Capital."

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Game Recap: Bears 1, Bruins 2

The Hershey Bears controlled the puck throughout the first two periods, outworking and outshooting the Providence Bruins, but a brief lapse in the early minutes of the third period cost them, with the Bruins scoring two quick consecutive goals in mere seconds that the Bears couldn't match.

The Bears lost their fire a bit in the first five minutes of the third period, and the Bruins quickly took advantage.  After the two surprise goals, the Bears seemed to wake up and put the pressure back on the Bruins.  It took about five minutes for the Bears to score their first and last of the night.

Scoreless in the first two periods, the Bears had a lot of quality chances, but Bruins goaltender Nolan Schaefer always had the answers.  Coach Mark French acknowledged that Schaefer was on his game tonight.  He was seeing the puck very well, and French said that the Bears needed "to take away his eyes.  I didn't think we did that enough."

With top scorer Andrew Gordon as well as Mathieu Perreault and Jay Beagle currently on the Washington Capitals roster, scoring goals hasn't been coming quite as easily to the Bears.  French praised his team's defensive effort, but defense won't necessarily win you hockey games.
"We're not giving up much defensively," French said.  "But the object of the game is to score goals and we've got to do a better job of that."

He later added, alluding to call-ups and injuries, "We've got to find a way to score goals with the guys we have."

Defenseman Zach Miskovic, the third star of the game (and the only Bear to receive a star), was a real presence on the ice.  He had an assist on the Bears goal, and was the player who sent it on the way to the net where Andrew Joudrey was able to tip it in.

Miskovic also showed a new side of himself, getting chippy with Bruin Jeremy Reich in the first period, and later dropping him with a cross-check to the chest after he interfered with Keith Aucoin.  Speaking about the altercation with Reich, Miskovic said, "He wanted to mess around with Coiner (Keith Aucoin) a little bit, and we just can't have that with one of our top players.  So just trying to stand up for some of our guys and do a little extra job there."

Miskovic, who's not typically known for chippy play, was the subject of praise from his coach.  French was pleased that Miskovic "physically stepped up without hesitation.  I think that plays to his maturation."

Miskovic credited the experienced defensive corps on the Hershey blue line with his development.  Specifically, he named Nycholat, Fahey, and Souray as the veterans he's learning from most on the defense.   Should he continue on the trajectory he's on, he should be a complete and solid blue-liner for the Bears.

The Bears face the Charlotte Checkers Sunday, and former teammate Oskar Osala.  The Checkers defeated the Binghamton Senators in a 4-2 victory Saturday night.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Focus on Prospects: Dustin Stevenson

With rookie camp coming up in under 2 weeks, I wanted to look at some of the prospects that may be invited. I'll do profiles of a couple of guys until rookie camp - if there's someone you want to hear about, let me know!  But for my first choice, let's take a look at defenseman Dustin Stevenson.

photo by bridgetds

Name: Dustin Stevenson
Position: D
Shoots: Left
Height: 6'5"
Weight: 220 lbs
Birthdate: 1989-08-12
Hometown: Gull Lake, Sask.

While one of the Caps prospects not currently playing in the CHL, KHL, or Collegiate, Dustin Stevenson is arguably the star of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League (SJHL).  The SJHL, for those curious, is a Junior A league, which is considered to be a step below leagues of the CHL (which are Major Junior leagues).

But don't count Stevenson out based on that.  Last season, the La Ronge Ice Wolves (which Stevenson captained) won the Credit Union Cup, making the Ice Wolves SJHL Champions.  At the end of that same year, Stevenson was named the SJHL Player of the Year after notching 11 goals and 36 assists, third among defensemen in the league.  He also became the first SJHL player to ever be signed to a pro contract while still with the SJHL (signed right in the middle of the SJHL Credit Union Cup finals).

Not too shabby for a hulking kid from a town of under 1,000 people.
(To provide perspective, when I was a senior in high school, my high school's student population was about 2,500.)

However, SJHL players age out once they are over 20, and with Stevenson just turning 21 this month, he must move on from his team.  Before his signing, he had a hockey scholarship to attend St. Lawrence University, which has produced Hershey Bear Zach Miskovic as well as a handful of current NHL players and coaches.  However, in signing a pro contract, Stevenson had to forgo his turn at a college education and NCAA play.  Though it's not like he's terribly upset that the Capitals signed him.
"For sure, it's a dream come true. Ever since I was a young guy, my dream was to sign with an NHL team. I still haven't wrapped my head around it completely but it's definitely a dream come true."
Many reports say that Stevenson has a Chris Pronger style of play, but he's no goon.  With the size and strength perfect for a defensive defenseman, the speed of a power forward, and the work ethic of a seasoned captain, Stevenson is a coach's dream.  His coach in La Ronge, Bob Beatty, was delighted but not surprised by the signing:
"There's so much potential there.  He's such a good character kid. We know he's going to put in the effort to get better and obviously Washington feels the same way."
Stevenson is also on Bruce Boudreau's radar after an impressive development camp showing.  Stevenson was one of the players that Boudreau singled out in his "all-camp team."  Since Stevenson will not be able to return to the SJHL and will not be attending St. Lawrence due to the fact that he's signed a pro contract, I'd expect him to join the South Carolina Stingrays next season.  A little more pro experience is needed for this self-proclaimed "late bloomer," but he's well on his way to becoming a great addition to an NHL blue line.