Stanislav Galiev has been through rookie development camp before. But this summer's event at Kettler Iceplex takes on a little more urgency now that he's too old to return to junior hockey.
Galiev, a 20-year-old winger, is one of the Capitals' top prospects. He doesn't have the elite high-end skill of Evgeny Kuznetsov, ranked by the Hockey News as the No. 1 prospect in the world last spring, but he's far closer to NHL ready than recent draft pick Filip Forsberg, who is still just 17.
Participating in his third development camp this week, Galiev is preparing for a role at Hershey of the American Hockey League in 2012-13 and -- maybe -- forcing his way up to Washington. But with a new coaching staff to impress, led by coach Adam Oates, and a host of veterans ahead of him in the organization's pecking order, that is no guarantee.
"It's kind of different now with new coaches, but still it is my third year here, and I'm happy to be here again," Galiev said.
Galiev came to the United States at age 16 and played a year in the U.S. Hockey League with the Indiana Ice before playing three more years of junior hockey with the St. John Sea Dogs in Quebec City. He had a distinguished junior career with two appearances in Canada's famed Memorial Cup. Galiev missed a large chunk of last season with a wrist injury but returned to post 16 goals and 18 assists in 17 playoff games. It is that kind of explosive ability as a scorer that intrigues the Caps -- even if Galiev needs at least a year of minor league seasoning.
"[Galiev is] certainly an excellent young prospect. We like him a lot," general manager George McPhee said last month. "It was a real good pick in the third round to get a kid like that who's been doing what he's been doing. He turns pro this year, and we'll work him in somewhere."
He should be able to take advantage of a more offensive system being put in place in both Washington and Hershey, and Bears coach Mark French anticipates getting Galiev minutes on the top line there -- provided he earns them, of course. And he'll at least get an early shot to prove himself during NHL training camp provided it starts on time with a potential lockout looming. There's still time this summer to get better.
"I need to improve my game in every area," Galiev said. "Be stronger and make good decisions with the pucks, no mistakes and I'll try to make the team [in training camp]."