Coach Bryan Murray took note yesterday of the manner in which some of the Washington Capitals' youngsters had outskated and outhit veteran players during the first week of training camp.
In talent, strength and personality, the Class of '85 clearly has an edge over previous rookie groups. Certainly, none ever before contained a competitive arm wrestler, an ambidextrous golfer and a native of that ice-free state, Florida.
The arm wrestler is defenseman Grant Jennings of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, who has pursued that sport for three summers and recently participated in the Canadian championships in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.
Jennings had a valid excuse for his failure to perform very well at that high level. He is a left-hander and there was no category for southpaws, so he was forced to compete right-handed.
On the ice, Jennings has impressed with his solid checking and solid punching. In Monday's rookie game against the Philadelphia Flyers, Jennings scored a onesided decision over Greg Smyth, the man the Flyers made their first draft pick in 1984 largely because of his fistic reputation.
Jennings, 20, never was drafted, although he was the defensive partner of Wendel Clark -- selected first in the 1985 draft by Toronto -- when they were the Saskatoon Blades of the Western Hockey League, and had far better plus-minus figures than Clark.
"I was a little disappointed to get passed over again, but once five rounds had gone by, I was glad I wasn't picked real low," Jennings said. "Several clubs were interested and I signed with Washington not long after the draft. Hopefully, I'll make Binghamton this year, get called up for a few games here and show a lot of other teams they made a mistake."
Left wing Jamie Nadjiwan startled participants in the Capitals' recent charity golf tournament by borrowing clubs from left-handed teammate Scott Stevens as well as right-handed members of their foursome. His strategy is simple.
"When I shoot left, the ball goes right and when I shoot right the ball goes left," Nadjiwan said. "So I figured which way to shoot by where I was on the course. But I always putt left-handed."
Nadjiwan uses both hands when he plays tennis and is a switch hitter in baseball. He throws and bats right-handed, but shoots left-handed on a hockey rink.
As a seventh-round draft pick, the 6-foot-1, 195-pound Nadjiwan figures to be returned to his junior team in Sudbury. Since he is married, however, and junior wages are not conducive to raising a family, he hopes that somehow he will stay in Washington.
"I'll be depending on this hockey team for the rest of my life, and I want to get started as quick as I can," said Nadjiwan, 19. "I know there are things I need to work on, like receiving the puck. I've got another problem, too. My eyes were 20/50 and 20/40 when I took the eye test, so I have to go to an eye specialist."
Nadjiwan could not believe his eyes when he skated his first shift in Friday's rookie game against the Flyers. He heard someone yell, "Come on, Nadjy," and looked up to see his wife sitting in the stands after an all-night drive from Canada. Then he shot the puck and scored Washington's first goal.
"We had talked the night before and she drove down right after with my brother-in-law," Nadjiwan said. "I couldn't believe it. I'm glad I made it worth the trip."
Current NHL rosters show such exotic birthplaces as Paraguay (Willi Plett), Taiwan (Rod Langway) and Switzerland (Mark Hardy), but no player was born in Florida.
Defenseman Dallas Eakins hopes to remedy that situation, although he is only 18 and knows it will take added experience and some filling out of his 6-1, 185-pound frame to pull it off. Eakins was born in Dade City, Fla., and was 7 when his father, a Canadian, moved the family north of the border.
"As far as sports go, the only thing I did in Florida was throw a baseball around," Eakins said. "That's what I'd probably be doing now if we hadn't moved.
"I've played hockey since I was 8. The first year, they made me a goalie, then I escaped to play forward. I've been a defenseman since I was 14."
Eakins passed his initiation against the Flyers rookies Friday by scoring a goal and by pounding Shane Whelan in a spirited fight. Now that he has made a bit of an impression, he is content to return to his junior team at Peterborough, Ontario.
"I was really nervous at first, but this camp has given me confidence," Eakins said. "If I go home today, I'll be a far better hockey player. I watched Rod Langway and, just doing that, I picked up a lot."
Larry Murphy's Marauders, with four players from Scott Stevens' winless Steamrollers replacing disabled personnel, took the camp intrasquad title yesterday by defeating Dave Christian's Destroyers, 6-3 . . . Joining the burgeoning injury list were wingers Alan Haworth, infected tooth, and Vito Cramarossa, groin pull.