Shortly after the first session of the Washington Capitals' prospect development camp concluded Monday, goaltender Philipp Grubauer took the ice with goaltending coaches Mitch Korn and Olie Kolzig.
As Korn instructed, Grubauer skated laterally with powerful strides, all while gripping a medicine ball to work on his body control.
After catching his breath, the 22-year-old, in town for the week to meet Korn and coach Barry Trotz, recalled his whirlwind 2013-14 season that saw him unexpectedly start 14 games and temporarily wrangle the starting position from Braden Holtby.
"I didn't expect before I came up I would have played so many games," Grubauer said. "You've got to earn your net, you've got to earn your spot and you've got to play well. It shows in this league like if you don't have success, it can go downhill really, really fast."
Recalled Nov. 30 when former Capitals goaltender Michal Neuvirth suffered an injury stepping on a puck during pregame warmups, Grubauer earned his first NHL victory Dec. 8 against the New York Rangers. Beginning with that game, Grubauer started 14 of Washington's following 20 games, creating a three-man logjam in goal.
He finished the NHL portion of his season with a 6-5-5 record, 2.38 goals against average and .925 save percentage.
"Even the first couple games, the first game I won was pretty amazing," Grubauer said. "Starting game after game after game was quite an experience, so I'm going to try to do the same thing this year or next year."
Despite Grubauer's emergence, general manager Brian MacLellan sought an experienced goaltender to back up Holtby, providing Grubauer with ample opportunity to continue his development as the No. 1 option with the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League. Washington signed Justin Peters, late of the Carolina Hurricanes, to a two-year, $1.9 million contract.
Grubauer respected the organization's decision and is prepared to make an unscheduled appearance in Washington again if necessary.
"I got sent down my first year to the [ECHL], my second year, I got sent down to [ECHL] Reading, and even this year, if I get sent down, it's not always a bad thing," Grubauer said. "I learn my things out of that and you keep fighting through that and show the coaching staff here that you can do the job.
"Obviously, there's some things that I've got to develop and I think the coaching staff and management think the same way. Maybe it's not bad that I go back to Hershey because I play more than I probably would play here. I'm looking forward to this year and maybe I'm up here next year."
Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamVingan and e-mail your story ideas to adamvingan (at) gmail.com.