Ben Raby, @benraby31
WASHINGTON - The path from Anchorage, Alaska to Washington, D.C. can make for a long journey with many stops along way, just ask former vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin. The newest member of the Washington Capitals, Alaska native Joey Crabb, would also concur.
Crabb left home when he was 16-years-old and moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan to join to the U.S. National Team Development Program. Since then, Crabb has played junior hockey in Green Bay, college hockey in Colorado and minor pro hockey in Chicago and Toronto. Crabb has also played 144 NHL games for the Atlanta Thrashers and Toronto Maple Leafs.
But finally on Sunday, 13 years after he first left Alaska to pursue a hockey career, Crabb was rewarded with his first one-way NHL contract. Crabb, 29, signed a one-year $950,000 deal with the Capitals on the first day of free agency.
"You always have to have a strong work ethic and keep working hard," Crabb said in a conference call Monday.
"I was always confident in my game and confident that I could play in the NHL. Obviously I would have liked to get there a little earlier… but I think it made me a stronger person and it helps mentally."
Crabb's hard work paid off last season in Toronto where he had NHL career-highs across the board with 11 goals and 26 points in 66 games. He also developed into one of the Maple Leafs' top penalty killers and defensive checkers with his plus-1 rating ranking second on the team among players with at least 22 games.
"I'm more of an energy guy with a little bit of two-way game," Crabb said.
"I can take the body and create energy and get in on the forecheck. I have some offensive skills a little bit too that I'd like to chip in with here and there. I really pride myself on penalty killing and I think there are a few guys like that on Washington already so I think it will be a good fit."
In simpler terms, Crabb is your typical grinder, a classic bottom-six forward who typically earns the respect of his teammates in short order. He will likely fit in nicely playing alongside the likes of Jay Beagle and Matt Hendricks.
"Obviously there's a tremendous level of talent [with the Caps]," said Crabb who has yet to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
"They're excited to win and they expect to win every year and that's what I'm most excited about. Coming in and playing with elite players will be fun, I've heard great things about [head coach] Adam Oates and it will be fun playing for him."
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