To Sam Anas, playing in the National Hockey League has never been a dream. It is a goal.
“Sometimes you don't want to look at something like it's a dream,” the former Landon School star said. “You want to look at something like it's a goal. Dreams are almost unattainable. I go to the rink every day and the gym every day with the goal of trying to play in the NHL.”
Anas, the 22nd overall pick in the U.S. Hockey League's 2011 draft, trained from July 8-13 on the ice at Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Arlington, Va., with Caps' coaches and prospects in the Capitals Development Camp, training on a professional scale with an NHL contract potentially rewarding the top performers.
For Anas, 20, the camp is another leg of a long journey that has shaken his future just as fans shake the glass that lines the rink. One thing, however, is certain for Anas. This fall, after spending the past two years with the USHL's Youngstown (Ohio) Phantoms, he'll attend Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Conn. to play hockey and study sports management and business. After he graduates, though, he may not need his major to find a job — just a stick and skates.
Anas was first introduced to the sport when he was 2, he said, banging a ball around his Bethesda home's kitchen with a tiny hockey stick under the supervision of his Canadian-born father, Peter.
“The shots weren't coming too hard back then,” Anas said.
He began playing organized ice hockey at age 5 and instantly embraced the game, on the ice and off. When Washington went to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1998, he could name every player on the roster in numerical order.
“Even Adam Oates and [Olaf] Kolzig,” he said. “Being on the ice with them this week was really cool.”
Anas bounced around the elite levels of hockey until he slid in with Landon and the D.C. Capitals club team in high school. After leading the Bears to an undefeated Mid-Atlantic Prep Hockey League title as a senior, he committed to play at Quinnipiac, but the Bobcats' coaches suggested he play junior hockey first, which is common for many college hockey players.
“Growing up I never thought I'd be taking two years off after high school to go play and then go to college,” he said. “It was more convincing my mom to let me go.”
But now that Anas' time with the Phantoms has come to a close, his hockey future looms large. At the Capitals Development Camp he had a strong showing that will likely keep scouts attuned to the 5-foot-8 forward until his tenure at Quinnipiac is over.
“He's been very impressive,” Caps Director of Player Development Steve Richmond said. “It's a big step up in class and he's played very well. His hockey-sense is the first thing that stands out. ... If he didn't have the great sense of the game, he wouldn't survive out here or in the USHL.”
In four scrimmages at the camp, Anas notched two assists. The latest came when his wrist-shot on an odd-man rush ricocheted off the post. He collected his own rebound and fired another shot on net that was tapped in by a teammate.
“I thought I did pretty well,” Anas said. “I was a little worried about my speed and being able to play in that level. After a few days, I felt a lot more comfortable and I thought I had a good camp.”