A Pair of FirstsPosted on January 14, 2013 by Mike Vogel
For the first time in four years, the Caps had two first-round picks in the first round of the 2012 NHL Draft. Both of those players have been on display here this week at the Capitals’ annual summer development camp here at Kettler. With the 11th overall pick in the draft, the Caps were able to land Swedish winger Filip Forsberg, who was projected to go in the draft’s top five picks by most experts and prognosticators. An unprecedented run on defensemen by the teams picking from slots four through 10 left Forsberg for the Caps, a glittering prize they never expected to be able to land at No. 11. “Especially from the top of the circles in, he is really dynamic with the puck,” says Caps director of amateur scouting Ross Mahoney of Forsberg. “He is hard to knock off the puck. He’s got a quick release on his shot, and he can make passes, too. He does like to shoot. He likes to score.” At 17, Forsberg is the youngest player in camp this week. He is under contract to Leksands in the Swedish League for one more season, then he hopes to begin his North American career here in 2013-14. A big-bodied (6-foot-1, 188 pounds) player with good reach, Forsberg relishes the challenge of playing on the smaller North American ice surfaces. “It’s a much more physical game over here,” says Forsberg. “That’s a big part that you have to get used to. I am trying to work on that every practice, just getting bigger and stronger and hopefully that can help me with my game.” “I’m a pretty big player. And if I can use my big body as a tool to my game, that would be great.” Speaking of “pretty big players,” there’s Tom Wilson, who was the second of the Capitals’ two first-rounders this summer, the 16th player chosen overall. Wilson, a winger from Plymouth of the OHL, has an NHL-size frame at 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds. Injuries have limited Wilson’s availability over the last two seasons, but he is one big, tough and mean hombre on the ice, a guy who relishes the responsibility of protecting his teammates. Wilson has also shown the ability to put the puck in the net, totaling seven goals and 13 points (along with 39 penalty minutes) in 13 Memorial Cup playoff games for the Whalers. “He had a few injuries during the year,” notes Mahoney of Wilson. “He broke his hand when he had a fight with Dalton Thrower in the Canadian Prospects’ Game. So that kind of hampered his offensive contributions. But in the summer he played with Canada’s team – the U-18 team – in the [Ivan] Hlinka Tournament, and he did show good hands and good sense there. He had a very good playoff point-wise for Plymouth. “I think because he is a big body and he likes to finish his checks and be a physical player that maybe sometimes we might think he is not as skilled as he is. But he actually has good hands and he’s good around the net. But that’s part of his development, too. Learning different things from the coaches, especially a coach like Adam Oates who had such good offensive skill. You know he’s going to learn even more by being at these development camps.” Wilson is clearly enjoying himself this week. “The facility is really second-to-none,” says Wilson. “It’s unbelievable here; they treat us like gold. I haven’t had a ton of time to look around Washington. Maybe later in the week we’ll do that; I know a couple of the guys want to. Right now I’m just kind of on top of the world. Being at a pro camp is really exciting. It’s a good group of guys and it has been pretty competitive so far.” As for his work on the ice, he is putting the emphasis on what got him here – banging bodies. “I am just trying to keep the energy up, play physical, play my type of game and see where that takes me,” he says. “Just doing everything at speed. At a camp like this the guys are fast, the older guys who have played at college. The NCAA is a fast league. I think just working on my speed, doing stickhandling at full speed and shooting at mid-stride sort of thing. It’s just cool to be around all the guys who all bring something different to the table. You can definitely pick up little things from everyone.” Wilson also met one of his new teammates for the first time this week. Defenseman Connor Carrick, a fellow 2012 draftee, is forgoing a commitment to the University of Michigan to join Wilson in Plymouth this fall. The two are playing on opposite squads this week, and Carrick dropped Wilson with a beautiful open-ice bodycheck in Tuesday’s scrimmage. “I met him for the first time on Sunday,” says Wilson of Carrick. “I think he’ll help us out a lot [in Plymouth]. We were joking about it [Tuesday]. He hit me pretty good in the scrimmage. Earlier in the scrimmage I told him I’d give him a little break on a hit, and then two periods later he’s laying me out. But it was a good hit and it’s part of the game. I’d like to see him do that a few times in Plymouth. That’ll be fun.” Several current Capitals’ mainstays like Brooks Laich, Mike Green, Nicklas Backstrom, Karl Alzner and others participated in one or more Caps summer development camps over the years. Forsberg and Wilson hope they’ll be next in line to graduate from summers in Arlington to winters in the District.
Friday was an eventful day at the Caps’ annual summer development camp. Midway through the morning’s scrimmage, the team announced that it had signed Filip Forsberg to a three-year, entry-level contract. The deal pays Forsberg a sum of $832,500 per season (plus bonuses) at the NHL level and $70,000