As Capitals Rookie Camp got underway on Saturday, defenseman Bobby Nardella was the only rookie on the ice in a non-red or white jersey.
Nardella, who was loaned to Swedish Hockey League team Djurgardens last season, decided to have surgery on a nagging shoulder injury at the end of the SHL schedule so that he would be prepared to play at the start of this season.
He is not 100-percent yet.
After a successful campaign in Sweden, the 25-year-old defender, who signed a two-year extension with the Caps this summer, decided to go through with the surgery instead of returning to Hershey at the end of the AHL season.
“I’m kind of taking it day by day,” Nardella said. “It was just a lingering thing that I think happened a few years ago and it kind of flared up in Sweden, I was dealing with it there. I got it looked at again and we decided that surgery was necessary after the season.”
The former Notre Dame Fighting Irish rearguard believes that taking the risk and playing overseas in a new environment last season made him a better hockey player.
“I was on the power play for pretty much the whole year, top two pairs so I got to play a lot,” Nardella said. “Learned a lot, got better at hockey for sure. In the D-zone it’s really hard to defend there because there’s so much ice you gotta cover and guys can skate so well. So I think my agility and body positioning, defending guys down low [got better].”
On a team with multiple former NHL players, Nardella racked up 33 points in 47 games to lead Djurgardens in scoring.
“Offensively, you just had a little bit more time so plays kind of develop a little better because there’s more space.”
Nardella should be one of the first names the Caps call upon if they are in need of a fill-in on the blueline this season. He hopes to be fully healthy by the time Hershey opens up their training camp later this fall.
Headline photo: Elizabeth Kong/RMNB
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