Screenshot: Washington Capitals
After a longer-than-wished for offseason, the Washington Capitals kicked off the start of the 2023-24 season with the arrival of the team’s rookies and prospects at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland ahead of training camp in the near future.
Among the club’s attendees at Rookie Camp are several of the team’s 2023 draft class, as well as top prospects including Hendrix Lapierre, Vincent Iorio, and Alexander Suzdalev. While a good number of the future Capitals will not be breaking ground with the NHL club on Opening Night, several do stand a chance of earning a spot in the lineup.
“A team-building thing, getting away from the team facility in Washington”, said Assistant General Manager Ross Mahoney, who previously spent 16 seasons as the Caps’ Director of Amateur Scouting, “Exposing the kids to kind of a different environment, it’s such a good facility and so close by; it was in the works for about a year.”
Mahoney, who has played a part in drafting many of the team’s existing contributing players, has had the opportunity to evaluate further the next wave of the club’s stars, including defenseman Vincent Iorio and forward Hendrix Lapierre, both of whom were members of the American Hockey League Hershey Bears’ 2023 Calder Cup championship team earlier in the summer.
“I think Vinny’s skating’s improved too”, Mahoney said, “The experience for him and Lapierre and those guys winning a Calder Cup, the confidence level…but that experience winning it’s different watching them, as far as the way they carry themselves, more confident, just know what it takes now to win.”
Lapierre experienced his struggles while adjusting to his first full season of professional hockey, before finding his footing and contributing six points in 20 postseason games for the Chocolate and White.
“Maybe you start thinking a little too much in your own mind”, Mahoney summated, when asked about Lapierre’s experience in his first campaign, “I think now after having such a good year, and like I said, the finish to the year he had, and he contributed in the playoffs…I think watching him here it’s just like he’s out playing now he’s not thinking so much just out playing. He looks in really good shape.”
Suzdalev, who Washington selected in the third-round of the 2022 NHL Entry Draft (70th overall), opened some eyes last season with the Western Hockey League’s Regina Pats, recording 86 Points (38G, 48A) in 66 Games Played. The 19-year old native of Khabarovsk, Russia, has put himself on the Caps’ radar entering camp.
“The plan would be I’d like to see him make the jump to the American league”, said Mahoney, of whether Suzdalev would be returning to junior, “I mean he had a really good last year in Regina…he actually trained really hard over the summer too, he probably made one of the biggest improvements, strength-wise.”
“He’s a really smart player, you watch him shoot the puck out here today, he’s got a good shot but it’s a little light, get a little bit stronger, be better to hold position in front of the net for deflections or win more puck battles in the corners those sort of things. He’s always had the skating and the skills in a sense, but he was a little bit light…as it is for most of these younger fellas out here, the 18-19-year olds.”
“We’d like to see him do that [make the jump to pros], that’s the plan. But we’ll see how everything works out, it’s up to him.”
Another notable attendee is the team’s 2022 first-round pick, Suzdalev’s fellow Russian Ivan Miroshnichenko, who returned to the ice after a battle with cancer and signed his entry-level contract with Washington in May. Still adapting to life in North American and learning the English language, the presence of Suzdalev and Bogdan Trineyev has helped the young forward’s transition a bit easier.
“It’s good for Trineyeve and Suzdalev to take on a little bit of a leadership role and help a teammate out. I think it’s a good experience for them.”
“We always look at the Miro side of it, where people are helping him with English, I think it helps them too; gives them a little more responsibility and leadership, so it’s probably good for all three of them.” Mahoney highlighted Miroshnichenko’s shot as something that has stood out for him so far during camp.
To hear Mahoney’s full comments on the team’s prospects, see below:
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) September 17, 2023
By Michael Fleetwood