Amid the tattooed sleeve of a snorting bull, an eagle, the birthdays of his grandparents and two terrifying skulls awaiting the addition of hockey helmets, the defenseman known as “Big Mike” had inscribed the following words: It’s a long way to the top.
“My AC/DC song,” said Michal Cajkovsky, though everyone at Capitals Kettler Iceplex calls him by the easier nickname, and for good reason. Throw in the Mohawk, the height (6 feet, 4 inches) and the muscle, and Cajkovsky wouldn’t look out of place in a “Game of Thrones” episode, swinging a sword in some castle or along some mountainside.
But here in Ballston, where rookie camp arrived at its midway point over the weekend, Cajkovsky finds himself facing a similar challenge as the Australian band whose words are forever crawling up his left triceps. AC/DC saw a long way to rocking and rolling. Cajkovsky’s compass points towards the NHL.
The journey began at home, in Bratislava, Slovakia, and then continued for three seasons with two teams in the Ontario Hockey League. Before last season, he signed an AHL contract with the Hershey Bears and ultimately logged 66 games for the ECHL’s Reading Royals, where his cannonball left-handed shot netted him 36 points and 14 goals, which ranked first and second, respectively, among ECHL defensemen. By then, he had been named to the ECHL all-rookie team.
Now Cajkovsky, tattoos and all, is working toward a roster spot with the Bears, with Coach Troy Mann keeping close watch during rookie camp. Cajkovsky wasn’t a fighter in the ECHL, where his 28 penalty minutes ranked 14th on Reading’s roster, but his OHL tenure included plenty of time spent in the box (roughly 1.5 minutes per game). Last preseason, he dropped the gloves twice for the Capitals, first at Boston and later at Chicago.
“I like it,” he said. “I don’t mind fighting. If I have to, I will fight.”
That physicality, Mann said, could help Cajkovsky earn a roster spot in Hershey, where the Bears already carry a deep blue line. If not, it’s back to the ECHL, this time for Washington’s new affiliate in South Carolina.
“When it comes to play in Hershey, he’s going to need to be physical for his size, he’s going to need to make sure he takes care of his own end,” Mann said. “It’s not going to be all about putting up points for him. He’s got to become a more well-rounded defenseman to play quality minutes in the American Hockey League.”
Seventh-round pick Elgestal ‘so happy’ after draft
Kevin Elgestal was in Minnesota when the second day of the 2014 NHL draft happened, and shortly before everything wrapped up the forward’s phone began buzzing.
“I got some messages and I was so happy to come here,” the native Swede said. “It’s hard to explain. It’s National Hockey League. It just feels awesome.”
Elgestal went 194th overall to the Capitals, and before long was in Washington skating for development camp. Then he returned for rookie camp this week.
“It’s awesome,” he said. “All the people that’s around here in Washington is fun. The skating’s really good. We’ve been a lot of testing these two days. Yeah, it’s awesome.”
Elgestal came from Frolunda in Sweden, where he had 35 points in 44 games during 2013-14. He also played for Sweden in the IIHF under-18 world championships, where he logged 27 penalty minutes and three points over seven games.
Did he mention being here was awesome?