Capitals News & Rumors: Nelson, Kuemper, Rookie Camp

In this edition of Washington Capitals News & Rumors, we’ll take a look at Darcy Kuemper’s media tour comments, Todd Nelson’s start to life as the new head coach of the Hershey Bears, and the prospects who are standing out at rookie camp.

Hendrix Lapierre, Washington Capitals
Hendrix Lapierre, Washington Capitals (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

There’s plenty to unpack with the start of preseason just around the corner, including the Capitals’ utilization of young players. But, for now, let’s dive into the news.

Todd Nelson “Really Excited” About Joining Hershey

Hockey is back at MedStar Capitals Iceplex, as Washington holds its annual rookie camp before the start of preseason. There are plenty of new faces in town, including Nelson, who replaced Scott Arniel as Hershey’s head coach back in July. The 53-year-old arrives in Pennsylvania after spending four seasons as an assistant coach with the Dallas Stars. He is also a former head coach of the American Hockey League’s (AHL’s) Oklahoma City Barons and Grand Rapids Griffins.

The two-time Calder Cup champion is the 28th tactician to lead the Bears and is focusing on familiarizing himself with the organization before the season gets underway.

“I think [it’s about] just getting acclimated to everybody here. I know a few players, I coached Dylan McIlrath, I coached Anthony Mantha, Nick Jensen, Kale Kessy is coming to camp, but everybody else is new,” Nelson said during his first encounter with the media in Hershey.

“Also, I have a new staff myself, it’s a fresh staff, which I’m really excited about. Along with our philosophy, we’re trying to get to know Peter [Laviolette]’s philosophy.”

Nelson is also keen to find out how much control he will have in his new role, adding: “I’ve been with teams where they want to play exactly the same system in the minors, I’ve been with teams where the head coach goes ‘you’ve got your personnel, you figure out what systems work best for you and try to win hockey games’, so we’ll have that conversation after rookie camp’s done.”

Darcy Kuemper on Deck for NHL/NHLPA Media Tour

After signing a five-year contract with the Capitals on the first day of free agency, Washington’s new starting netminder was sent to Henderson, Nevada to represent the club on the player media tour. The 32-year-old was joined at the event by a handful of stars from across the NHL, including former teammate and Colorado Avalanche blueliner Cale Makar.

Kuemper, who was Washington’s landmark addition this summer, had previously spoken about his optimism concerning his switch to D.C.

“You never know where you’re going to end up,” he said after signing for the Capitals. “Everything happens for a reason, and it worked out and ended up with a great organization, a great team and super excited for it.”

Related: Capitals’ Kuemper & Lindgren Must Make Immediate Impact

The 6-foot-2 goalie was solid for the Avalanche last season, upholding a .921 save percentage and 2.54 goals-against average through 57 regular-season appearances. His performances dipped in the playoffs, although the eye injury he suffered versus the Nashville Predators is a more than valid excuse for it.

Darcy Kuemper Colorado Avalanche 2022 Stanley Cup
Darcy Kuemper, formerly of the Colorado Avalanche (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

“He just won a Stanley Cup,” Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan said of Kuemper. “He’s had a lot of good years, a lot of good performances. Seems like a good person, a good character, a good team guy. It’s exactly what we needed going into next year.”

With the Ilya Samsonov-Vitek Vanecek era in the rearview mirror, the Capitals are pinning their hopes on Kuemper to deliver them stability in the crease. Will he end up repaying Washington’s faith?

Lapierre, Iorio Impress at Capitals Rookie Camp

Hendrix Lapierre and Vincent Iorio have impressed at rookie camp, per Sammi Silber of Washington Hockey Now:

Lapierre and Iorio were all in on the drills, going hard in the 1-on-1 drills and not shying away from contact. Despite their tight-knit friendship off the ice, both were physical and aggressive while competing against one another. Lapierre and Iorio were also in high spirits, sharing laughs, combining for a couple of goals, leading by example and also showcasing their moves.

Sammi Silber, Washington Hockey Now

Lapierre endured a topsy-turvy campaign last time out, as he burst onto the scene by scoring in his Capitals debut but struggled upon his return to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. He recovered later in the season, recording 51 points (21 goals, 30 assists) in 40 regular-season appearances for Acadie-Bathurst Titan.

Iorio is another interesting prospect, as the 19-year-old was a standout performer for the Western Hockey League’s Brandon Wheat Kings in 2021-22, registering 44 points (11 goals, 33 assists) in 60 regular-season games from the blue line. He could feature in the AHL this season.

According to Elite Prospects, Washington is the fifth oldest team in the NHL. Iorio and Lapierre’s development is therefore extremely important to the future of the franchise and a positive sign ahead of training camp.

What’s Next for the Capitals?

Washington will return to the ice on Sept. 25 for an afternoon exhibition versus the Buffalo Sabres, before traveling to Pennsylvania four days later to take on the Philadelphia Flyers. With a difficult season ahead, the team must use the preseason as an opportunity to come together as a cohesive unit.

The Capitals will then open the campaign on Oct. 13 versus the Boston Bruins. Until then, stay up to date with the latest news and analysis from The Hockey Writers.