Just as the Washington Capitals did not expect Ryan Leonard to be available at No. 8 in the 202e NHL draft, they were also not expecting Andrew Cristall to be available at No. 40. Washington didn’t pass up the opportunity to draft one of the most electric playmakers in the draft.
“Obviously you want to go to a team that wants to have you and thinks you can help the organization. I couldn’t be happier,” Cristall said back at Capitals development camp.
His hockey sense and playmaking ability were off the charts, but the big risk with the 18-year-old was his skating ability. His straightaway speed and explosiveness were big weaknesses and he relied heavily on his edges and lateral movement.
Furthermore, his 5-foot-10 frame and 174-pound build were other factors as to why he fell down the ranks.
— Capitals Prospects (@jon_m_sorensen) September 17, 2023
“People sometimes can take an eye test and see if a guy is small out there and maybe write them off the list early,” Cristall said. “For me I definitely gotta go out there every day with a chip on my shoulder and prove myself right that I can be out there and compete. It’s something I’ve dealt with my whole life.”
The Vancouver native addressed his skating flaws by training with power skating coach Barb Aidelbaum. He worked with her three to four times per week and it paid off during the first day of Caps’ rookie camp.
“I definitely feel a step faster for sure. I was always kind of strong on my edges but now my straight line [skating] is a little bit faster for sure,” Cristall said. “Hopefully I can lean on that this year.”
“He’s very shifty. Diagonally he could really cut across the ice and make it difficult for the defenseman,” assistant general manager Ross Mahoney said. “But he’s working on his overall speed, which has improved but you have to be patient too. It’s been only five or six weeks since we’ve had a development camp. But yeah, there’s definitely improvements for sure.”
— Jacob Cheris (@JCheris17) September 17, 2023
The Capitals rewarded the former Kelowna Rocket with a three-year, entry-level contract back on Thursday, Jul. 6. It is unlikely that he will make the main squad right out of training camp, but the left-winger wants camp to be a learning experience on how to be a professional.
“I think for me it’s just to keep getting better day by day. I don’t really have too many expectations this year,” Cristall said. “Obviously [training] camp is to learn a lot and try and be a sponge to all the veteran guys that I’m gonna be on the ice with.”
Though he feels he has improved, Cristall knows that there is still a lot of work to be done before the new season begins.
By Jacob Cheris