Capitals Goalie Coach Kolzig Discusses Royals Netminders
By Candice Monhollan
READING, Pa. – Washington Capitals associate goaltending coach Olaf Kolzig has been a figure seen numerous times in the boxes at Reading Royals games, keeping a close watch on prospects Philipp Grubauer and Brandon Anderson.
I caught up with the veteran of 719 NHL games Saturday night during the 4-1 Royals win to see what he thought about the progression of the goaltenders and what the future may hold for them.
Candice Monhollan: Lately, it seems the Washington Capitals have taken pride in stockpiling their system with capable, strong goaltenders. Would you agree?
Olaf Kolzig: “The last half dozen years, I’d say that. Fortunately when I played, that really wasn’t the case. We didn’t have a lot of goalies in the system at the time and it allowed me to have a long career with Washington. Obviously, starting with [Michal] Neuvirth and [Semyon] Varlamov, and now we’ve got Grubauer, [Braden] Holtby, Anderson and [Sergey] Kostenko. It’s a nice luxury to have.”
CM: With the NHL lockout, how has it changed plans on where goaltenders were going to start the season? Have Grubauer and Anderson been taking this as a positive starting out with the Reading Royals?
OK: “It’s the only way they can take it. Ideally, we’d like to have Holts up in Washington and Philipp up at Hershey and have Andy play the majority of the games here with Sergey trying to get in as many games as he can. Unfortunately, those aren’t the circumstances and they’ve had a fantastic attitude. I don’t think Philipp was rewarded for the way he played early on in the season in the fact he wasn’t getting the wins. As a young guy, sometimes that can affect you, but Phil’s pretty mature beyond his years and didn’t let it deter him and now he’s rattled off four wins in a row. Andy started out with a shutout, had a rough second game and has really rebounded well tonight. As a coaching staff, we really couldn’t be prouder of the way the guys are playing.”
CM: Have you been able to watch Grubauer and Anderson develop over the last couple years?
OK: “Andy, not so much. The only time I saw Andy when he came up to Hershey at the end of his junior season. He really played well when he was there. In practice, he was always tough to beat for the guys. I just noticed from training camp until last week when I was here at practice how much he’s improved. That’s really good to see because I haven’t see a whole lot of him. I worked with Phil last year when he was with South Carolina and, realistically, he should have played in the American League last year, but it was a numbers thing. He went down to South Carolina with a fantastic attitude, played a ton and had a fantastic year. Unfortunately he got injured at the end of the season, but he worked hard in the summer to rehab his injury, came in great shape with a positive attitude, knew the situation and he came down here and it was business as usual. He still knows what he wants. He wants to make it to the NHL. He knows it’s a process and instead of coming down here with a pouty lip, he looked at it like, ‘Hey, it is what it is and I’m just going to do what I can do.’ When this lockout ends, he knows he’ll be in Hershey.”
CM: Can you describe the strengths and weaknesses of Grubauer and Anderson?
OK: “The strength for Andy is his competitiveness. He actually plays better in the games than he does in practice. We’re working on his lateral mobility. His puck handling is really good. We just need to corral him a little better and to make some better decisions. Phil is just a very athletic goaltender. One weakness – and maybe it’s not even a weakness yet at this level – might be his glove and the position he holds his glove. His puck handling could be a little more improved, but that’s something that as a goalie, once you get confidence and you do more and more reps, it becomes less of something to be concerned about. As far as stopping the puck, the both of them are very competitive. They’re sound positionally.”
CM: I’m sure both Grubauer and Anderson have dreams of making it to the NHL, but realistically, could both of them end up at that level one day?
OK: “It remains to be seen. I think Phil is a little further ahead than Andy. Phil has an outside chance of making the NHL just based off of his progression the last two years, but you never know with a guy like Andy. Competitiveness and mental attitude sometimes make up for talent. That’s not to say Andy is not talented, but Phil is a little more talented. Andy is a competitor and mentally tough. It’s hard to say. You just have to see how a guy progresses every year. This is Andy’s first year as a pro and just based on what I saw at training camp to what I see now, it’s great progression. You never put a limit on a player, you just see how they progress over the course of a season and over the course of a couple years before you make that determination.”