The Washington Capitals’ rookie camp got underway this past weekend, with events taking place both on their home turf– MedStar Iceplex— and at Navy’s McMullen Hockey Arena in Annapolis, Maryland. Rookie Camp was led by Hershey Bears head coach Todd Nelson. Coach Nelson explained that holding part of Rookie Camp away in Annapolis was “kind of a team-building opportunity” for the young prospects. In addition to traditional on-ice drills and play, the rookies had the chance to meet fans and sign autographs, as well as have a little extra fun and undergo some “Naval Academy Training” by utilizing the school’s ropes course and zipline– which everyone seemed to enjoy!
It wasn’t all fun and games at camp, however. Matt Weyrich of Monumental Sports Network reported that the camp included some “intense drills.” On Tuesday morning, the prospects took the ice alongside Capitals greats Brooks Orpik and Olie Kolzig, along with other coaching staff. Kolzig ran drills with goalies specifically, while other players participated in board battles, breakaways, 3-on-3 play, and 1-on-1 break-in drills. Beloved Capitals play-by-play announcer Joe Beninati showed up at McMullen Arena as well, taking his chance to get to know the players and learn how to pronounce their names correctly. Beninani is somewhat of a perfectionist when it comes to announcing, so this was a fun and expected gesture from him.
A handful of Washington’s prospects have really stood out this summer. For example, Alexander Suzdalev of the Regina Pats impressed the organization with his summer of intense training and focus on bulking up and gaining muscle. The 19-year-old forward has two options for next season– play another year in the WHL or move up to the pros with the Hershey Bears. Capitals and Bears staff seem to be leaning toward the latter, as Suzdalev is a standout talent. He recorded 86 points in 66 games with the Pats last season, making him first among all WHL rookies in points. The young player has also taken on a leadership role of sorts, taking Russian teammate Ivan Miroshnichenko under his wing and helping him adjust to living in North America and speaking English. An upcoming season with the Bears would have Alexander Suzdalev helping the stacked team fight to maintain their Calder Cup championship title, which could be mutually beneficial.
The Kelowna Rockets‘ forward Andrew Cristall stunned Washington with his scoring ability (95 points in 54 games), but concerns about his skating speed and ability led him to be picked at number forty overall in the 2023 NHL draft. However, Cristall has worked hard this summer– and it shows. Capitals’ assistant general manager Ross Mahoney spoke to the media, saying, “He’s very shifty. Diagonally, he can really cut across the ice and make it difficult for a defenseman. He’s working on his overall speed, which has improved. But, you have to be patient too. It’s been only five or six weeks since we’ve had our Development Camp. But, yeah, there’s definite improvements for sure.” Andrew Cristall has been working with power skating coach Barb Aidelbaum this off-season, which has helped him to “feel a step faster”. Cristall had the opportunity to skate with Capitals veterans during informal skates but will be returning to the WHL for the upcoming season. With improvement, he is looking to be a very exciting prospect for Washington.
Just a year out from treatment for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, Russian-born player Ivan Miroshnichenko stunned the Capitals organization at this year’s Rookie Camp. “Miro”, as the team has dubbed him, is a physical player with impressive scoring ability, scoring 10 points in 12 games with Omskie Yastreby in the Russian juniors. His signature shot looks awfully familiar to Capitals fans– a dangerous one-timer from “Ovi’s office“.
According to the aforementioned Andrew Cristall, “his shot is pretty unreal. He seems to always find the back of the net.” Miroshnichenko is also not afraid to drop the gloves or throw hits on the ice. He registered 29 hits in 12 games with the MHL last season, which would translate to about 198 hits in 82 games in a regular NHL season. Miro is also a proven leader, taking on various captaincies throughout his time in the sport. His place in the upcoming season is undetermined as of now, but he shows great potential for a bright future with the Capitals!
The Washington Capitals Training Camp will begin on Thursday, September 21st, with media day and run through Sunday. All of Training Camp will be held at MedStar Iceplex in Arlington, Virginia, and on-ice sessions are open to the public. You can check the full schedule and training rosters here.