It looked as though the Washington Capitals wouldn’t make a single trade as the 2023 NHL draft began to wrap-up in Nashville. But late in the seventh and final round, Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan finally made a deal, trading their seventh round pick in next year’s draft to the San Jose Sharks’ for their seventh round pick in this years draft. The Capitals used the additional pick to select Antoine Keller, goaltender for Geneve-Servette in the Swiss League.
Since he was drafted by the Capitals, everything has gone very quickly for Keller. The next day, the goalkeeper of the France U20 team took a plane from Geneva to the capital of the United States, heading for the development camp beginning on July 1.
“It’s where there are all the young players drafted and some players invited by the team. It’s really to know the staff, the infrastructure, the operation, ”explained Keller. “I went to Washington all expenses paid for a week to play hockey, it was great.”
Returning to his home in France just last week, Keller is leaving again this week to prepare for the new season with the Titan Acadie-Bathurst in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL).
“North American hockey is very different, already the rinks are smaller. For a goalkeeper, it changes a lot of things in terms of position and different games. I think Washington is really going to look at that this year, how I adapt to those rinks. I already talked about it with the goalie coach over there ( Scott Murray ). I like playing in small ice rinks, I had the opportunity to play there during the world championship in Norway and I really liked it.”
Keller, just 18, is added to the bottom of the Capitals fairly deep goaltending depth chart, but he is confident he can eventually work his way up through the system.
“I’m quite confident. I did the season with the pros in Geneva, all training and quite a few matches as a substitute. I followed them throughout the playoffs so I was able to see what professional coaching was like and for sure this experience will be of great help to me in Canada.”
By Jon Sorensen