BY EILEEN McALEER
On Saturday, the Washington Capitals will travel to Bellville, Ont. to play the Winnipeg Jets in their first preseason game of the year. For most of the team, this won’t be their first NHL preseason game, but for a few members of the Capitals’ training camp roster, Saturday will be their first minutes in an NHL game. Among this group of players is 19-year-old forward Chandler Stephenson.
Stephenson participated in the Washington Capitals’ Rookie Camp last week, and was ecstatic when he received the news that he was invited to training camp. When he called his parents in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan to share the good news, they were understandably excited. “They kind of just started laughing. It wasn’t a normal laugh, it was like an ‘are you kidding me, this is your dream coming true’ kind of laugh. It was great to share with [my parents],” Stephenson said. “They would always take the time to take me to games when I was growing up. They’ve done a lot, so I [don’t] want to let them down.”
Stephenson seems to be far from letting his parents down. In preparation for Saturday’s game, Stephenson practiced with the Capitals’ Group A on Friday at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. Among the players in Group A were current Capitals stars Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, and Mike Green. As of Friday’s practice, Stephenson was slated to play tomorrow on a line with Troy Brouwer and fellow Rookie Camp attendee Nathan Walker. Stephenson is relishing the opportunity to play with some of the NHL’s best players. “ I’ve just got to prove that I can play with these guys and keep up with them,” he said. “That’s the main thing. I’ve gotten the opportunity to do that and I just want to show them that I can play here and I want to play here.” When asked about the opportunity to play with NHL veteran Troy Brouwer, Stephenson couldn’t hide his enthusiasm, “Obviously it’s very exciting to be on a line with Troy Brouwer,” Stephenson said with a smile. “Words can’t really describe it. Growing up I always wanted to play in the NHL. Now, getting to hang out with the guys and just experience what it’s like to be in the NHL is just an unbelievable feeling.”
While Stephenson plans to spend the rest of his Friday keeping pregame jitters at bay, he knows that when game time comes around he needs to look at it from a different point of view. “It’s just another game, and I’ve been doing it my whole life,” he said. “I’ve just kind of got to go at it like that.”