Session 1 was a repeat of last year's drills and the now-famous wind sprints. Big names in group 1 included Stefan Della Rovere, Joe Finley(rumored to be starting the season in Hershey this year), Anton Gustafsson, Dmitri Orlov, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Braden Holtby, and Cody Eakin. Cody Eakin looked pretty decent in his drills, his speed was impressive. Holtby was solid in the nets, as expected. #needsmorebradley Stefan Della Rovere was certainly perky today, he had a lot of energy and looked to be in high spirits. He showed some decent hands and a lust for finishing the play, sometimes he had a little too much lust for it. Joe Finley looked like a riding mower against cars, his skating still leaves much to be desired, and he was definitely struggling in his wind sprints. Dmitri Orlov looked pretty sharp, he had some nice plays and looked improved from last year. Jake Hauswirth, another invitee from last year, also looked improved and often joined Della Rovere's fun.
The more interesting session was session 2 that began at 2:45 pm. It included 2009 1st round pick Marcus Johansson, Stanislav Galiev, Garrett Mitchell, Zach Miskovic, and Philipp Grubauer. I focused my attention on the player most likely to crack the Caps lineup, Marcus Johansson, and his white-sweatered linemate, Stanislav Galiev.
Johansson looked to be by far the most polished player on the ice, even though he admitted to me that he was a little rusty. He did have a few drills where he let the puck get away from him, and he once let out his frustration with a whack of his stick on the glass. Even with the rust, Johansson showed why he was a 1st round draft pick and why he played 14 and a half minutes a night in the Elitserien, one of the world's top hockey leagues. He exuded calmness and control in his play, and while he didn't show a natural goal-scorer's touch, he did show a few goal-scoring moves, showing his penchant for going 5-hole and displaying a nice backhand. He doesn't have Rocket Richard eyes or a habit of crashing the net, but he did show good hand-eye coordination on deflections. His effortless stride was a major help in the wind-sprints.
Johansson put nearly every pass on the tape, and every pass around the goal was not just on the tape, it was in the wheelhouse for the shooter so he could release it immediately on net. His timing was exquisite, he used every available inch and second to make a great play and he threaded passes through seams only he cold see. Passing is his forte and it comes naturally to him, but it is his vision that will make him an excellent playmaker.
He showed an ability to protect the puck from defensemen and maintain his balance and control the puck against at least these rookie defenders. He also showed a good forechecking ability and an ability to take the puck from opponents, a harbinger of his ability to play third-line minutes this fall.
I had the chance to speak to him briefly after the skate. I told him I thought he looked good out there and he replied, “I was a little rusty.” I next asked him if he was ready to play 14 minutes a night in the NHL after playing 14 a night in the Elitserien. “I hope so. I've been getting ready.”
Galiev looked very talented but rough around the edges. Reminiscent of former Capital Sergei Berezin, Galiev was a puck-hog shooter, a shoot-first, shoot-second type of player. His eyes lit up around the net and he eagerly pounced on rebounds. When he knew he didn't have a shot, he rarely had a passing option, either. That type of player can be very useful, Berezin had five 20+ goal seasons and topped out at 37. Galiev ought to be ready to crack an NHL lineup in 3 years, once he develops and rounds out that natural offensive talent.
The other player that looked impressive was U of Miami player Andy Miele. The speedy 5' 8 forward certainly didn't have the polish of Johansson, but he had good speed and good vision to go along with accurate passing. He looks like he could get a pro tryout. He put up good numbers on a successful Miami team that played at Verizon Center during the Frozen Four in 2009.Follow Andy Green on Twitter.