Five thoughts on the Capitals rookie game


Tom Wilson (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

Capitals prospects wrapped up rookie camp Monday with a 1-0 loss to the Flyers’ rookies at KCI. While it wasn’t the fight-free contest Coach Adam Oates would have liked, with four bouts, the contest wasn’t a complete rodeo, either.

Here are five thoughts from the final installment of rookie camp:

1. Tom Wilson’s grit: The 2012 first-round pick had an eventful afternoon with two fights, a chipped tooth and a crushing shoulder check that gave Flyers defenseman Mark Ant a concussion. Even against the basketball team of prospects — 11 of the Flyers players were listed at 6-3 or taller — from Philadelphia, Wilson’s size and won’t-back-down attitude were on full display.

What does it really show for him to repeatedly drop the gloves in a rookie game, though? Wilson is the lone prospect camp attendee with a shot of making the NHL roster and his brawn has stood out against those his own age for some time now whether in development camp or the OHL. While the Capitals encourage his sandpaper style, the pugilistic arts aren’t what they will ask him to provide whenever he is ready to turn pro. It won’t be what determines whether he’s ready to make the jump this fall, either.

(John McDonnell/The Washington Post) (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

2. Andre Burakovsky’s size: The puck handling and on-ice smarts Capitals management praised were there, but so was the reason why Burakovsky won’t be ready for the NHL for a year or two. He was shoved off the puck multiple times and was manhandled by the Flyers on a few occasions as well, including one trip into the offensive zone that saw his journey stopped mid-stride and when he was separated from the puck with a shoulder check.

Over the next few seasons, filling out his frame will be as important for Burakovsky (listed at 6-1, 178 pounds) as learning the North American game. It will be interesting to see how he evolves as he adds more size.

3. The development of Connor Carrick: The defenseman has impressed both the Washington and Hershey coaching staffs, with Oates saying earlier this week that “he’s become more than just a junior player to me.” He held his own Monday against significantly larger opponents, but did miss one of the better open scoring chances of the afternoon. The question for Carrick becomes this: Where will he play this year?

He’s eligible to play in the AHL, and that might be a legitimate possibility at this point. “We’re still talking about that,” Oates said Monday. “He’s obviously had a great summer. It’s one of the subjects we’re talking about.”

4. Chandler Stephenson’s skating: The lesser-known member of the rookie squad’s top line made a strong impression of his own with his skating and playmaking ability. The 2012 third-round pick was noticeable nearly every time he was on the ice, setting up his teammates and helping to keep offensive possessions alive. In a setting where all eyes are on the organization’s top-tier prospects, Stephenson managed to draw plenty of attention to himself.

5. Training camp: Now that rookie camp has concluded, the official start of training camp (first on ice practices are Thursday) can’t get here soon enough. Once camp starts, though, it will be a whirlwind as the Capitals play three preseason games in the first seven days of camp. The full schedule and rosters are expected to be released later today.

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Katie Carrera · September 9, 2013