Karl Alzner has a couple million reasons to smile.
Following a four-year stint with the Calgary Hitmen, Alzner bid adieu to the Western Hockey League yesterday when he signed a reported three-year, $2.6 million US contract with the Washington Capitals.
“I just couldn’t believe that it had finally happened,” Alzner said. “I couldn’t get the smile off my face.”
Washington general manager George McPhee then confirmed that Alzner has played his last game in a Hitmen uniform.
“Karl will be playing pro next year,” McPhee said. “He won’t be going back to junior. I don’t think it would help his development. It’s time for him to play pro.”
Before returning to the Hitmen for his 19-year-old season last fall, Alzner had his first taste of NHL action by suiting up for an exhibition game.
“I had a lot more confidence after playing that one game,” said Alzner, who will attend the Caps’ summer development camp in Arlington, Va., from July 7-12 before returning to Washington for main camp prior to next season. “My expectations are going to be the same as last year. I know I’m going to be nervous and excited at the same time.”
McPhee said that the two-time World Junior gold medalist and WHL Player of the Year will have a legitimate shot at sticking with the Caps next fall.
“Whether he stays with our team is up to him,” McPhee said. “If he’s good enough to play here and make us a better team, then he’ll play. We’ll make room for someone who can make us better and we expect he can make us better.”
For his part, Alzner said he’s “going to be shooting” for the best possible result which will be staying in Washington.
“I want to stand out and make a good impression,” said Alzner, who had seven goals and 29 assists in 60 games as Hitmen captain this past season. “I’m expecting to be in the best shape I’ve ever been in.”
After working on all “the little things” during in his final WHL season, Alzner said he would like to be more like Mike (as in Washington defenceman Mike Green) at the NHL level.
“I want to be more of an offensive threat,” said native of Burnaby, B.C. “I want to be better in every part of the game but that’s the main one I’m going to be focussing on for now.”