(Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)

Oates has taken another step forward this week, with development camp serving as a crash course on some of the players who might help the Caps in the future.

“I know the guys in the big club, but I’m obviously meeting [the development camp players] for the first time,” Oates said. “Seeing 40 guys go at one time, it’s hard to catch who everybody is.”

As usual, the development camp players have worked in­cred­ibly hard throughout the week, trying to make an impression. Thursday’s scrimmage even ended with a fight between 2012 third-round pick Chandler Stephenson and free agent invitee Max Iafrate, despite Oates’s request early in the week to avoid dropping the gloves.

Oates hesitated to single out individual players but said he expected to see more separation within the group, which includes eight of the team’s 10 picks in last month’s draft and nearly two dozen free agent invitees. He added that he’s been impressed with the pace of play in the three intrasquad games. This year’s format included more scrimmages with five scheduled in six days — up from three total last year.

Hershey Coach Mark French — coaching his third development camp at Kettle Capitals Iceplex — agreed with that sentiment earlier this week.

“They’ve all seemed to have a scrimmage where I thought they played well and a scrimmage where maybe they didn’t play as well as the other ones,” French said. “They’ve kind of taken turns, I think.”

Oates never had the chance to participate in a development camp during his career, but as an undrafted player who became a Hall of Famer, he may have a better idea than most about what the players, particularly the free agent invitees, are feeling this week.

“You come here and maybe you’re a little bit curious about it,” Oates said. “Then you get some points, and you skate around with the guys and you realize you kind of belong.”

More on the Capitals:

Cameron Schilling seeks role with Hershey

Patrick Wey savors college experience

Caps sign winger Wolski to one-year deal

Kolzig on lockout: ‘It was awful. It was awful’