Sunday, July 25, 2010

Glimpse of the Future: Caleb Herbert

To get us through these last couple of months until training camp, I will look at some of the lesser-known prospects in the organization who have unexpectedly impressed.  This will be called "Glimpse of the Future" and this will hopefully be the first of many I am able to do. Enjoy!

As Capital’s Development Camp wrapped, there were quite a few players getting high accolades.  Evgeny Kuznetsov, Marcus Johansson, Dimitri Orlov, and Joe Finely were all among those most talked about after the final scrimmage had ended.  These stars shone bright, but there was one 2010 draft pick that flew relatively under the radar: Caleb Herbert.

The Minnesota native (and part of the American/high school invasion in this year’s draft) just graduated from Bloomington-Jefferson High School.  The school is one of the more prestigious teams in Minnesota’s already elite high school hockey system.  He is committed to play at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, but is expected to play one year in the United States Hockey League before he makes the transition to college.  He was also chosen for the United States U17 Select team.

He was not as flashy as the players previously listed, but he was extremely solid at camp. He was one of the better skaters, and his soft hands lead to a release that is like a lightening strike.  It is that quick scoring ability that the Caps were known and feared for last season.

The most important part of Herbert’s game is that his feet never stop.  He is always moving, skating, and using his agility to elude defenders.  He is a powerful skater and can maneuver quickly through bodies in tight spaces.  He isn’t big, at only 5’10 175 lbs., but he is willing to do the dirty work.  He also has a great head for hockey, sees the ice well, and thinks the game well.  Those are key traits for successful centers.

In the Elite League this past fall, Herbert scored 15 goals and 42 points for a share in the scoring title.  In the 2009-2010 season, he scored 55 points (26 goals and 29 assists) in 25 games for Bloomington-Jefferson.  He was a finalist for Minnesota’s Mr. Hockey Award for the most outstanding high school senior hockey player in the state. 

There are still some concerns with Herbert’s discipline and positioning in the defensive zone.  His size will also, of course, always be a slight against him.  However, to be a good, small player you need superb skating ability, and that is what Caleb Herbert has.  Head Coach Bruce Boudreau also recognized Herbert’s skill at the camp, saying “I think skill-wise, Caleb has been doing really good.”

This is a kid with speed and a finishing touch.  That combination dominated the high school level in Minnesota, but Herbert did realize he will have to step up the intensity when he got to camp and saw the kinds of players he will be up against to make it.  “I’ve noticed the intensity is a lot higher obviously from where I played last year,” said Herbert, “But it’s good. You see the top guys out here and you kind of model your game after them, stay intense and stay focused.”

His development will take a few years, but Caleb Herbert could very well turn into a skilled, bottom 6 forward that are needed so dearly for the playoffs.  He probably won’t contribute to primary scoring with players like Alex Ovechkin and Nicky Backstrom locked up for ten more years, but he could expand the ever-popular secondary scoring of the Capitals.  Herbert is just one of the many bright stars we saw at camp, but he a potential late round gem that is definitely one we should all keep an eye on.

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