Homegrown Blueline

Posted on January 14, 2013 by Mike Vogel

There were 200 defensemen who played 40 or more games in the NHL last season. Only 67 of those blueliners played more than half their team’s games for the team that drafted them. And only 38 of the 200 averaged 20 or more minutes per night while skating for the team that drafted them. Only Mike Green represented the Capitals on that list, but the Caps figure to have four homegrown defenders in the lineup on a regular basis this season when Green is joined by Jeff Schultz, Karl Alzner and John Carlson. All four are first-rounders chosen between 2004 and 2008 with Green being the oldest (he’ll be 25 in October) and Carlson the youngest (he turns 21 in January). Each of the above defensemen played in Game 7 of Washington’s opening round playoff series against Montreal last spring, helping to hold the Habs to just 16 shots on goal in a losing effort that night. It marked the first time in Washington’s franchise history that the club dressed four homegrown, first-round defensemen in the same playoff game. Four NHL teams (Buffalo, Nashville, Ottawa and Pittsburgh) each had three homegrown defenders average more than 20 minutes while playing 40 or more games last season, but none had as many as four such blueliners. It’s conceivable the Caps’ homegrown quartet could turn that trick sometime in the near future. Just last fall, Carlson was participating in Washington’s rookie camp. He was the latest in a string of talented blueliners the Caps drafted in the first decade of this century. Now, with all the young and highly touted defensemen having already graduated to the NHL, this year’s Caps rookie camp is without an attention-grabbing blueliner for the first time in a decade. “All of those guys you mentioned I think are different defensemen from the Greens and the [Steve] Emingers and the Carlsons and such,” says Boudreau in response to a query about who the next homegrown defender might be in the District. “They’re more stay-at-home. [Brett] Flemming may be a little more [offensive]; I think he could be an offensive defenseman.” There are nine defensemen on the Caps’ 2010 rookie camp roster; Flemming (a fifth-rounder in 2009) is one of just four who are Washington draft choices. The others are Joe Finley (first round, 2005), Josh Godfrey (second round, 2006) and Samuel Carrier (seventh round, 2010). The foursome of Green, Schultz, Alzner and Carlson is young enough that they could be expected to play together for years to come in Washington, but the realities of the league’s post-lockout salary cap system will likely prevent that from occurring. Three of the four teams that had three homegrown 40-game, 20-minute men last season lost one of those blueliners to free agency over the summer. Henrik Tallinder shuffled out of Buffalo, Dan Hamhuis nixed Nashville and Anton Volchenkov got out of Ottawa. Regardless of how young and promising the Caps’ blueline looks now, they need to always be in the business of developing the next ones. Of the 10 NHL clubs that did not have any homegrown 40-game, 20-minute defensemen in 2009-10, only one (Phoenix) managed to amass 100 or more points. Six of the 10 missed the playoffs altogether. “It’s really important, but we’ve got to develop them as what they are,” says Boudreau. [Free agent signee Dustin] Stevenson is a stay-at-home, [Jeff] Schultz-type guy in his first pro camp. I think he’s doing pretty good. “You monitor them and you keep seeing their success over time. We have coaches at every level to help these guys develop and make them into better players.” Washington enjoyed a great deal of blueline stability during its last three training camps. Seven of the team’s top defensemen – Green, Schultz, Tom Poti, Brian Pothier, Shaone Morrisonn, John Erskine and Milan Jurcina – were here for all three camps. But Pothier, Jurcina and Morrisonn have departed the District in calendar 2010, creating space for the likes of Alzner and Carlson. “We’re counting on them,” says Boudreau. “We haven’t had to foray into the free agent market because we believe these guys are really good players.” This Is Only A Test Day two of the Caps’ 2010 rookie training camp consisted of on-ice testing followed by a lengthy session of drills and systems work. “Cardiac” Jack Blatherwick and Steve Richmond were on ice with the kids for the testing portion of the day. Blatherwick has been doing this testing with the Caps since the end of the lockout; he worked with the late Herb Brooks for many years in the areas of training and conditioning. Richmond is the Caps’ director of player development; he broke into the NHL for the Brooks-coached New York Rangers in 1983-84. Eye Openers Boudreau mentioned Marcus Johansson, Cody Eakin and Joe Finley among those who impressed him, naming each for the second straight day. He added one new name on Monday. “I really like the effort a guy like Trevor Bruess puts in,” said the Caps bench boss. “He works so hard all the time and he’s such a powerful skater that you hope something good comes from it.”

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Generally Speaking

January 14, 2013

Of the 24 rookies in town for the Caps’ 2010 rookie training camp, only 11 are Washington draft choices. A similar ratio holds for the team’s summer development camps. In order to flesh out a camp roster so there are enough players for scrimmages and games (like Thursday’s rookie game against


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