Stephenson anxious to earn first pro contract

Stephenson anxious to earn first pro contract
July 20, 2013, 1:00 pm
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Now that the Capitals’ weeklong development camp is over and players have lugged their equipment bags back to their summer residences, we’re taking a look back at the impressions left by a handful of Caps’ prospects and what lies ahead for each.

Today: Left Wing Chandler Stephenson

Chandler Stephenson would love to show the Capitals what he can do with a full hockey season. He just needs to have one.

Taken by the Caps in the third round of last year’s NHL draft [77th overall] Chandler is one of those do-it-all, two-way left wingers who has shown he can be a point-a-game player at the junior level.

Last season, he accumulated 45 points [14 goals, 31 assists] in 46 games with the Regina Pats of the Western Hockey League. But for the third straight season, Stephenson had to deal with a lengthy injury.

Early in the season, Stephenson was tracking an opponent and took a direct path to hit him.

“He turned out of the way and his back skate came down on the tongue of my left skate,” Stephenson recalled.

Stephenson left the game and was taken to a nearby hospital, where it was found he had a partially severed tendon in his foot and could miss as much as eight weeks of the season. But because the tendon was not completely torn, Stephenson missed just 14 games and returned to the Pats’ lineup shortly after Christmas.

“They were thinking late January or early February, so it was good in that respect,” Stephenson said. “Nobody wants to get hurt and it was hard sitting out and watching all of those games. But with the therapy and rehab the tendon healed a lot quicker than they expected and I was back in there.”

Stephenson, 19, also missed 17 games the previous season with a torn medial collateral ligament. The year before that, as a 16-year-old, he missed 12 games for the Pats with a lacerated foot.

“I’ve yet to play a full season in the WHL,” Stephenson said. “But I’m healthy now and I can’t wait to get started.”

Stephenson said he had no idea what to expect at last year’s development camp, but was prepared for the pace of this year’s scrimmages.

“This year I knew how good the players would be and the compete level in the scrimmage games,” he said. “At the end of the season I worked towards what I needed to do to get to that level.”

Stephenson, who stands 5-foot-11, 190 pounds, grew up in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, the younger cousin of former NHL tough guy Joey Kocur. He also played hockey for the Saskaton Blazers with left wing Boston Leier, who was a free agent invitee to this year’s development camp.

Stephenson has yet to sign a contract with the Capitals and is anxious to show them he’s worthy of that commitment with a strong season in Regina.

“I’m going to push for a contract,” he said. “At the same time, I want to help my team as much as I can and try to earn that contract. My teammates will help me with that, too, but that’s a main goal for me.”

Stephenson said he walked away from this year’s camp knowing more than he did a year ago. In addition to going “healthy grocery shopping’ with Capitals head athletic trainer Mark Nemish, Stephenson said he had a chance to listen to what Caps coach Adam Oates had to say about the lie of his stick.

“There are a lot of things I didn’t know,” Stephenson said. “Like there are certain curves where you have to take an extra stride to get your shot off. If you lose that one stride a defender can catch you. It’s pretty interesting what you can gain by making a minor change.”