ARLINGTON, V.A. — After a long day of work at Washington Capitals development camp, goaltender Clay Stevenson and roommate Chase Clark came across a couple of Bird scooters. The two hopped on, swiped their cards and took over the streets of D.C., exploring the sights around the city before getting ready to hit the ice the next morning.
The scooter adventure and camp marked Stevenson’s second time in the District. He had first visited in March when he ultimately ended up signing a two-year, entry-level contract with Washington that carries an AAV of $855,000. And for him, it was an easy decision to join the Capitals.
“It’s very open communication here, which was one thing I really liked in my pursuit of teams,” Stevenson explained. “They see and just want the best for me, and it’s great to come out here and work every day.”
Growing up in Edmonton, Stevenson had grown up watching the Oilers closely. And as he started to recognize the positions and flow of the game, he found a hero in Dwayne Roloson. And, right at that moment, Stevenson’s future was set in stone.
“I fell in love with his gear and his masks and colors and all that stuff,” Stevenson mused. “The kind of way the position moved and stopping pucks. All of it. Just liked it, liked the position. I always knew I wanted to be a goalie.”
So that was it. Stevenson knew his path and worked his way up the ranks. The towering 6-4, 195-pound goaltender spent three years with the BCHL’s Coquitlam Express, and after a standout final year that saw him post a .936 save percentage and go 30-2-0, he headed to Dartmouth to continue his career.
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Majoring in philosophy, politics and economics, Stevenson had his path figured out. However, his freshman season cancelled amid the COVID-19 pandemic that shut down college play. Then, the time came for him to hit the ice for his rookie campaign the Big Green, and he shined with a .922 save percentage and 2.70 GAA through 23 games. The sophomore also made the All-Ivy First Team and All-ECAC Hockey Third Team and won the Phelan Award (Team MVP).
“It’s a special place that I’m very fortunate enough to experience,” Stevenson said. “It’ll forever hold a special place in my heart. The teammates I’ve had, we were competitive and we worked hard all night, all games. I mean sometimes we wouldn’t get the results we wanted, but it was a great group. I’ll always cherish Dartmouth.”
His performance put him on the radar as a top undrafted free agent, and D.C. ended up providing the best fit. And at his first-ever camp, he got right down to business, emphasizing a couple of key areas where he wants to improve his game.
“With my hips and what not and getting my hips under myself is something I’m working on right now specifically,” Stevenson said. “Overall it’s just staying even-keel really. I mean, it’s just hockey. You go out there and you work to get better and you take it day by day and not try to look at the big picture too much is key for me.”
So far, Stevenson has felt right at home with the organization. He grew familiar with many of the faces when he first came to visit a few months back. But at camp, he found himself bonding closely with his fellow teammates, including Clark, a fellow netminder working his way up the ranks. That dynamic has made Stevenson feel even more at home with the Capitals.
“It’s funny. As we move up in hockey, you just started to be around peers and you get to know new people. It’s such a weird dynamic in hockey locker rooms,” Stevenson said. “You kind of jump in and just immediately start talking to people. The flow is easy, I can’t really explain it. It just clicks sometimes.”
Heading into next season, the plan isn’t clear for the 23-year-old. He ended the year with Hershey after signing an amateur tryout with the Bears after his season at Dartmouth. However, whether it be on the Bears roster or somewhere else in the system, Stevenson is ready to accept any role, and then fight for more.
But for now, he’s just happy to be here.
“My plans are to be wherever they put me and do my best and do my part for the team,” he said with a smile.