Wednesday, September 1, 2010

30 Caps in 30 Days: Karl Alzner

(During the thirty days of September, I'll be trying to preview the seasons of thirty players currently under contract with the Washington Capitals and who have a good chance of spending some time in red, white, and blue this season. Because of college applications, school, and other things, I may not be able to stick to my planned schedule of a-Cap-a-day, but I'll try my best. Advanced stats are given from ranked against other players at the same position, in the same organization, at 5-on-5, unless otherwise noted. Age is on opening night. Today, Karl Alzner)
Karl Alzner: age 22, 6'2", 210 pounds, shoots left.

Contract: two-way entry-level, $1.675 million, 2011 RFA

2009-2010 linemates: 33% John Erskine, 16% Shaone Morrisonn, 12% Milan Jurcina
2010 playoff linemates: 74% John Carlson, 10% Mike Green

2009-2010 raw stats:
NHL: 21 GP, 0-5-5, -2, 16 shots, 8 PIM
Playoffs: 1 GP, 0-0-0, +0, 0 shots, 0 PIM
AHL: 56 GP, 3-18-21, +34,  75 shots, 10 PIM
Playoffs: 20 GP, 3-7-10, +7, 35 shots, 4 PIM

2009-2010 advanced stats: 9th (last) in Corsi QoC, 8th in Corsi Rel QoC, 8th in Corsi QoT, and 9th in Corsi Rel QoT.
2010 playoffs advanced stats: 1st in Corsi QoC and Corsi Rel QoC, 4th in Corsi QoT, and 3rd in Corsi Rel QoT.

(Photo courtesy Caps Snaps)

WOWY (yellow is how much better the player is with Alzner, green how much better Alzner is with the player):

After Karl Alzner showed lots of promise during the 2008-2009 NHL season, 2009-2010 was a bit of a disappointment for Caps fans. Alzner was not able to make the jump to be a full-time NHLer and may have had his place as the top prospect skater in the organization usurped by a player drafted a year later than him, John Carlson. Still, Alzner remains a solid NHL prospect, with solid skating, vision, and defensive instincts, and looks to have a spot penciled in on the 2010 opening night roster.

Alzner in order to take a top-4 role needs to be more consistent. Alzner in the NHL level has looked excellent in two call ups, especially in the first few games, and has struggled in the others. At times his decision making with the puck seems slow in the NHL, but that may be because he often just played a night or two before in the American Hockey League and had more time to make decisions, and no doubt spending most of his time with Corsi-nightmares John Erskine and Shaone Morrisonn doesn't help much. Now that he seems to have an NHL job locked in, it's his responsibility to focus in and train himself to be more confident and effective in all facets of the game.

The expectations for Alzner are quite high. In the AHL, he was a top-pairing defenseman and the anchor of the team's defense. In the NHL, the expectation is similar, but not in the near future. The hope is that his skating and defense-first attitude makes him the perfect partner for Mike Green, but for 2010-2011 season at least, Alzner should be a top-5 defenseman who plays like a top-4. Despite his tough season in 2009-2010 at even strength, his penalty killing was pretty good, and he has had stretches of great discipline and solid positional defense. A defensemen who does the same thing every night--in a good way--becomes successful at the NHL level, and Alzner will try and fit that mold. He'll be expected to fit that mold.

Expect him to play most of the season (assuming health, which hasn't been an issue thus far). He will likely have some struggles here and there, especially when he plays with Erskine and Sloan, but look for him play better deeper into the season as he grows his awesome beard gets more comfortable in his role. Alzner has consistently shown an ability to clear the puck safely out of the zone, and on a teammate's stick too, as well as to use the boards and other arena quirks to his advantage. If he can solidify a true top-4 role, good offensive contribution in addition to reliable defensive play along the lines of four or five goals and 15-20 points isn't out of the question.

I expect Alzner to play with Carlson and for that pairing to initially split leftover minutes from Green-Schultz with Poti's pairing, but to gain ice time as the season wears along and he gains more experience. And who knows, he just might put it all together and end up instead of Schultz on the top pair.

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