After Shining for Canada, Alzner Ready for Caps Camp

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Karl Alzner, the Washington Capitals' top draft pick in June, always seems to be smiling. Yesterday, his smile was a little broader than usual at Kettler Capitals Iceplex, two days after completing another successful stint with Canada's junior team.

Alzner was a driving force behind Canada's rout of Russia in the Super Series, an eight-game exhibition for junior-age players that wrapped up Sunday. The 18-year-old defenseman amassed a goal and three assists and consistently was among the tournament's best players as Canada went 7-0-1.

More important, Alzner said, the experience prepared him for the rigors of his first NHL training camp, which begins Friday in Ballston.

The Super Series "was the best pre-camp for this," Alzner said. "I'm sure the rest of the [juniors] loved the way it worked out. Because a lot of us are going to pro camps right after, it really got us ready for [NHL] pace."

Alzner was so smooth, efficient and poised in the Super Series, in fact, many observers concluded that the 6-foot-2, 206-pound British Columbia native was the most NHL-ready of the bunch. Whether he builds on that momentum and cracks the Capitals' lineup next month will be determined over the coming days and weeks.

"He is as advertised: a steady, reliable defenseman," General Manager George McPhee said. "He keeps you out of trouble in your end. He moves the puck and keeps it simple."

As for Alzner's chances of making the Capitals' roster, McPhee said: "We feel like we're in a position where we don't need to rush anybody. But if he deserves to be here, we'll make room."

Alzner said he has not discussed his immediate future in Washington with the coaching staff or club management, but is looking forward to getting "a sense for where I am, where they think I am."

"I'd love to be here if I could," Alzner said, referring to playing in Washington. "Obviously, when you're facing talent like [ Alexander] Semin and [ Alex] Ovechkin, it's going to be a lot different than playing against 18-year-old junior players. I would love to stay."

Alzner, Nicklas Backstrom and 18 other rookie camp participants will take on Philadelphia's rookies today at the Flyers' practice facility in Voorhees, N.J.

-- Tarik El-Bashir

© 2007 The Washington Post Company