All 46 players at the Capitals' development camp have a story to tell and Stan Galiev is no different.
He was 16 years old and knew only a few words in English when he decided to leave his home in Moscow and play hockey for the Indiana Ice of the United States Hockey League.
"Obviously, it was a hard decision because I was only 16 when I first came to the USA," Galiev said after his first day at Kettler Capitals Iceplex, where the Caps' development camp continues through Saturday. "The first couple months were hard, but guys from Indiana helped me a lot. I think I made the right choice."
Four years later, Galiev is considered the top forward prospect at the annual summer camp and, ironically, he could take the roster spot once reserved for fellow countryman Evgeny Kuznetsov, who recently signed a two-year contract to remain in Russia's Kontinental Hockey League.
Galiev, 20, signed his first pro contract last August, a three-year, entry-level contract totaling 1.855 million if he plays in the NHL and 202,500 if he plays in the AHL.
By all accounts, Galiev could spend next season splitting time between the Capitals and the AHL Hershey Bears. But if the Caps remain quiet in the free-agent market, Galiev could be given an opportunity to fill the vacancy left by Alexander Semin.
If there is one thing Galiev has proven since leaving Russia it's that he can put the puck in the back of the net. After leading the Indiana Ice to the Clark Cup championship with 64 points 29 goals, 35 assists in 60 games, Galiev was taken by the Saint John Sea Dogs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
In his first season with Saint John, Galiev netted 15 goals and 45 assists and that was enough for the Capitals to take him in the third round 86th overall of the 2010 NHL draft. In three seasons under Saint John's coach, former NHLer Gerard Gallant, Galiev recorded 144 points 65 goals, 79 assists in 151 games. Wrist surgery limited Galiev's season to just 20 games last year, but he recovered nicely down the stretch when he led the league in playoff scoring with 16 goals and 18 assists in 17 games.
It was in those playoff performances that Galiev showed his incredible explosiveness. In 57 career playoff games for Saint John over three seasons, Galiev posted 34 goals and 46 assists for 80 points.
Now in his third development camp, Galiev said he is hoping to add more muscle to his 6-foot-1, 188-pound frame so that he can withstand the physical rigors of pro hockey.
"I want to improve my game in every area," he said. "Get strong, make quick decisions with the puck, don't make mistakes and try to make the team."
Galiev said he's excited by Adam Oates' offensive system, calling it "more aggressive" than the one installed by Bruce Boudreau last summer.
As for his decision to leave Russia before most teenagers learn how to drive, Galiev said he can't think of his life any other way.
"I don't know what would have happened if I stayed in Russia," he said. "It's a different game here than in Russia. It's a smaller rink, you can't be weak, you have to be strong. Everything is different."
But the goal of playing in the NHL remains the same.
"It's my dream," Galiev said with a smile, "and I'll work hard for it."