Max Iafrate was born in a Baltimore area hospital seven days after the Capitals traded his father, Al, to the Bruins for Joe Juneau. Barely four years old when his father retired from the NHL, Max Iafrate has pieced together memories of Al Iafrate’s playing career mostly from watching YouTube clips.
“Just going around the rink a little bit [in San Jose], looking for the mascot, that’s about it,” Iafrate said. “That’s all I remember.”
Max Iafrate, a 6-foot-2, 205-pound defensman, hoped to be attached to his own NHL squad by now, but after going undrafted last month, he’s participating in Capitals development camp this week as a free agent invitee. The 18-year-old is trying to earn an offer from the team his father played with for parts of four seasons in the early 1990s.
Growing up in Livonia, Mich., Iafrate had plenty of time to learn the finer points of the game from his father, a four-time All-Star defenseman known for his powerful slap shot, though Al Iafrate only actually coached his son for one season of youth hockey.
After posting career highs in points (16) and penalty minutes (97) last season with Kitchener of the Ontario Hockey League, Max Iafrate expected to hear his name called on draft night.
He had attended the NHL combine and ranked 70th among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting. Only one player ranked higher on that list went undrafted.
“He has good size,” Hershey Coach Mark French said on the first day of workouts. “He looks a little bit raw, but I’m sure this camp will be a good step in his development.”
Iafrate said he didn’t spend much time considering his options after the draft. He said the Caps were the first to offer a development camp invitation, and he quickly accepted.
He’s working this week to prove his worth as a defense-first blue-liner, a change from when he arrived in junior hockey as a more offensive-minded player.
“There are more opportunities” as a free agent, Iafrate said. “If you’re a seventh-round pick, you’re locked into that team for two or three years. Being a free agent, you have one great year, you’ve got a bunch of teams offering you contracts.”
Iafrate has history with at least one of his teammates this week. Before joining Kitchener, he played with recent Capitals first-round pick Tom Wilson at Plymouth and this season, he went against the 6-foot-4, 205-pound winger who was drafted in large part for his physical play.
In one late-season contest, Wilson got tangled up with Iafrate in a scrum. Wilson’s stick struck Iafrate in the mouth, breaking several of his teeth in half. Still, Iafrate said he and Wilson have been hanging out off the ice this week.
“I talked to him at the combine about it,” Iafrate said. “Just joking around, I don’t hold any feelings on the ice.”
(Photo courtesy of Capitals Outsider, which also has plenty of development camp coverage this week.)
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