While the Washington Capitals had a relatively well-conducted offseason that included keeping franchise great Alex Ovechkin on a new contract and re-acquiring goaltender Vitek Vanecek from the Seattle Kraken, the loss of Spencer Carbery, the Head Coach of their American Hockey League affiliate Hershey Bears, to the Toronto Maple Leafs was a blow to the organization, after the Bears had experienced great success during Carbery’s tenure. New Bears Head Coach Scott Allen spoke to the media at the conclusion of the Capitals’ Rookie camp on Monday, and discussed the upcoming season, Connor McMichael, and more.
Allen, who was promoted to Head Coach after two seasons in Hershey following Carbery’s departure, raved about his experience the last few days and the adjustment period as the bench boss in Chocolatetown. “It’s enjoyable. It was a strong three days. The organization, outstanding organization, from top to bottom. From Washington, through Hershey, even right down to our East Coast League affiliate in South Carolina, it was enjoyable.”
Allen then spoke about the adjustment period taking over in Hershey, “You know what, it’s been an easy adjustment. We have such a strong staff, it helps in a big way that makes it a lot more enjoyable”.
Allen also spoke of Capitals top prospect Connor McMichael, who spent the majority of last season in the AHL following the loss of the Ontario Hockey, and praised the former first-round pick (25th overall in 2019). “I think very highly of Connor McMichael, going from my time with him last year in Hershey and even these three days on the ice here. The biggest thing for any pro is consistency and I think he learned a lot about that last year and it was really good for him because in a regular season he wouldn’t have been able to play in the American Hockey League, he had to go back to junior, so it would have been almost a wasted year for him. He had to step up his game playing against older, stronger, more mature players and he learned what it takes on almost a daily basis to be the best he can be and that’s going to be the challenge for him here”.
On how close McMichael is to the NHL, Allen was noncommittal, indicating McMichael’s play would indicate such a timeline, “That’s tough for me to say, you know what I’m going to leave that up to him. This week, the next few weeks through camp and the preseason games here in Washington are going to be big”. Allen also indicated McMichael appears to be bigger, stronger, and praised him for being more confident with and without the puck.
Allen spoke on the 2021 Rookie Camp attendees, many of whom were participating in their first camp with the Caps, and seemed impressed with the group, “First of all, solid group of guys, they all worked extremely hard. We had small numbers, so what we tried to do, we tried to put some things in that we could get a little bit of a read on how they compete and how they battle, the hockey sense and those types of things. So I think all those things were impressive for us. It’s tough without having a ton of 5-on-5, because a lot of the game is played 5-on-5, but with what we saw in these last few days was certainly encouraging.”
On his role in the development of the Capitals’ prospects and players within the organization, Allen emphasized the need for the entire staff to commit to every player, saying, “Well I think it’s an extremely important role, first and foremost, for not only myself but our entire staff, especially we’re in the salary cap era now, so it’s very important that you are able to develop guys in-house, that come in, whether it’s on their entry-level contract or that next contract that they can fit in, especially with teams like the Washington Capitals right now. So I think it’s an important role in this organization and it doesn’t matter to us if it is a drafted player, a free agent signing, we strive to bring out the best in every player. Unfortunately, not every player, even when they max out on their potential, are not all going to be NHL-ready, it’s the best league in the world, the best players in the world, but it’s our job to make sure we’re getting the most, and squeezing the juice out of every player”.
Allen also stated his belief that the organization’s success in the last few years (the Capitals won their division five consecutive seasons prior to last season and captured the Stanley Cup in 2018, the Bears went 104-50-9-8 in a three-year period ending in last season, and the South Carolina Stingrays reached the Kelly Cup Finals last season) is an indication that the organization’s approach to development is working, “I truly think it is. We strive to win championships throughout, obviously starting with the Stanley Cup, and right on down the line”.
Finally, Allen spoke of defenseman Martin Fehervary, who it is believed will feature on the Capitals’ blueline this season, and admitted that while he expects the rearguard to do well, there could be some growing pains as well, “Marty is a very strong kid, first and foremost, an excellent skater. Another guy that has a fair amount of confidence in his game and his abilities. I look for him to play well. I truly believe, me personally, the toughest position to break into the National Hockey League and stay in the NHL, is as a defenseman. I expect some growing pains, but again it’s going to be up to him, to have a strong camp, and prove he is not only capable of playing in the NHL, but staying in the NHL”. Allen also added that Fehervary has maturity to his game.
The Capitals’ training camp begins September 23.
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) September 20, 2021
By Michael Fleetwood