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Former Stingray Dovgan is Stronger, Smoother

09/17/2008 2:34 PM -
ARLINGTON, Va. - It's hard to top Viktor Dovgan's how'd-you-spend-your-summer story.

The defenseman trained in Russia with reigning Hart Trophy winner Alex Ovechkin. That task is akin to trying to fly like Superman.

"It was very difficult in the beginning," Dovgan said through an interpreter. "I tried to keep up with him, but Sasha is Sasha. He is who he is. He is the best player in the world.

"I tried to keep up with him. I tried to do the same cross country training and the same gym training as he did. In the end, I was keeping up a little bit. It was good motivation for me to go against a guy like him."

After spending last season playing for CSKA Moscow, the 20-year-old returns to North America this season. He spent 2006-07 with South Carolina (ECHL) and also played one game for the Hershey Bears.

"I want to make one thing clear: I did not run away from Washington," Dovgan said. "It was an agreement between me and the team that I would spend one year in the Super League to put on some muscle, to improve my game, and then I would come back. That's exactly what happened."

Said Caps GM George McPhee: "He had to come back over because he was under contract to us. We have this agreement with the Russians, I think, to respect one another's contracts. And he's under contract to an NHL team. So he came back."

The 6-2, 202-pounder didn't attend Washington's prospects camp in July, but he is on hand this week for the club's rookie camp at Kettler Capitals Iceplex.

Dovgan is expected to play for Hershey.

At the opening rookie camp session, Dovgan impressed Caps head coach Bruce Boudreau, who coached Mississippi for three seasons winning the Kelly Cup championship in 1999, with his intelligence and ability to avoid checks by forwards.

"I think he's going to be a competitive, competitive player," Boudreau said.

Dovgan had a limited role and limited playing time with CSKA Moscow in a league that is arguably second only to the NHL in caliber. He played in 16 games and recorded zero points.

That was a big change from his North American debut season in South Carolina, where Dovgan played 56 games and produced five goals and six assists.

"It was very difficult, because I had a lot of trust from the folks in Carolina and a lot of playing time," Dovgan said. "In Moscow, at the start of the season, it didn't look like I had the same kind of trust. They did not let me play power play; they did not let me play short-handed. But, eventually, I thought I got on better terms with them and they started to trust me a little bit more."

Dovgan is more physically mature than the teenager who landed in North America two years ago.

"I feel a lot stronger," Dovgan said. "One year of adult hockey really does a lot for you."

NOTES: Jay Beagle, who played for the Idaho Steelheads as a rookie in 2006-07, is participating in rookie camp but is not expected to play in Thursday's rookie game against the Philadelphia Flyers. ... Dovgan said his son, Ilya, and wife, Oksana, who is studying architecture, are slated to join him in the U.S. in December.

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