Dave Prior was on hand at the 2011 NHL Entry Draft in St. Paul, Minn. as the Capitals added another prospect to their stable of young goaltenders in Norway’s Steffen Soberg. It was also the first time Prior met with reporters since Washington announced he would be resuming his role as goaltending coach and working with his former student Olie Kolzig, who will serve as associate goaltending coach.
“Olie and I spent I think 11 seasons together, I’m excited about it,” Prior said. “I think he’s going to do a good job. He certainly brings something to our goaltenders I can’t offer them, but he’ll still have some learning to do as a coach.”
Prior stepped down in 2009 after 12 years as the team’s goaltending coach in order to spend more time with his family but took on a role with Washington last season as a scout and goaltender development coach.
In addition to taking on his previous responsibilities, Prior’s next task will be to aid Kolzig, known for his fiery demeanor, in becoming a mentor to all types of goaltenders as the former Capitals great learns whether he wants to be a head NHL goaltending coach in the future.
“Olie knows good from bad goaltending as well as anyone, but the challenge in coaching is when guys aren’t playing well to get them playing good, and that’s a skill you acquire over time,” Prior said. “So I know he can help our young goalies and I’m going to assist him in polishing his coaching skills. If he really enjoys it and embraces it, I’d like no one better to succeed me in the organization as our NHL [goaltending] coach.”
As for the latest goaltender that the Capitals selected, Soberg was named rookie of the year for Getligaen, the top league in Norway. Soberg’s numbers for Manglerud of Getliagaen this season are far from overwhelming at a 4.17 goals-against average and a .884 save percentage and he’s considered undersize at 5 feet 11 but his competitive nature stood out.
“His team obviously was at odds against trying to beat Canada and Russia and Sweden and these bigger countries,” said Ross Mahoney, Capitals director of amateur scouting, of Soberg’s performance at the under-18 and under-20 world championships. “He bristled when the puck went in the net and he was very upset with himself when they did score. So, really liked his level of compete and his athleticism.”
This was the third time in the past four drafts that the Capitals selected a goaltender in the fourth round (Philipp Grubauer in 2010 and Braden Holtby in 2008). It marks the ninth time in the last 11 drafts that they’ve chosen at least one goaltender.
Like two of those drafted before him in recent years, Grubauer and Michal Neuvirth, Soberg has expressed a desire to come to North America next year to play in a Canadian Hockey League, which holds its European draft on Tuesday. Neuvirth won the Ontario Hockey League championship while coming of age with the Plymouth Whalers, Grubauer led the Windsor Spitfires to the Memorial Cup in 2010.
“I really do believe it’s the best league for goaltenders to develop in,” Prior said. “It’s always a challenge in that initial year to come over and make the adjustment to a much higher speed, much more physical game around the crease area.”
That said, Prior believes Soberg stands his ground well.
“He plays a very strong game in the crease, competes hard, takes no nonsense from the opposition,” Prior said. “I really appreciate him as a goaltender.”