Hershey update: 24-13-3-6, 2nd in the Atlantic Division. Last week: 2-0-0-0
The Hershey Bears went into the AHL All-Star break hot with a point streak of nine games. That ninth game was a win due largely to the performance of Riley Barber who had four points and recorded his first professional hat-trick — a natural hat-trick no less — in a 5-1 win over Syracuse on Saturday.
Check out the highlights here:
Sure, the third goal was an empty-netter, but don't count against him. It was a tremendous game by Barber who is really coming into his own in Hershey. He has seven points in the last four games and is 16th among AHL rookies with 25 points (11 goals, 14 assists).
Travis Boyd is also having an outstanding rookie season and is tied for sixth among rookies with 28 points (10 goals, 18 assists). Boyd recorded a goal and an assist in Hershey's two games last week.
Connor Carrick joined Chris Bourque from the Bears in the AHL All-Star Game. Carrick took part in the hardest shot competition in the skills challenge and registered a 95.0 mph shot. Here's a recap of the skill challenge from Chocolate Hockey.
Carrick tallied an assist for the Atlantic Division in the All-Star Game against the Central Division.
Other prospect notes:
Congratulations to Jonas Siegenthaler for scoring his first goal for the ZSC Lions last week. Check it out here:
Some injury updates from Regina where both of the Caps' prospects are currently out with injury. We already knew that Colby Williams is dealing with wrist issues stemming from an injury he suffered over the summer. Now, however, Connor Hobbs is out as well. According to Greg Harder of the Regina Leader Post, Hobbs hit his head on the ice during a fight in a game on Jan. 15 and suffered a concussion. It is the second concussion he has suffered this season and could miss significant time.
Stars & Sticks continued releasing updates on the top Caps prospects last week with profiles on Siegenthaler, Carrick, Barber (timely), Ilya Samsonov, Madison Bowey and Jakub Vrana. Be sure to check out each profile for some great analysis. Here are my thoughts:
The Caps traded into the second round to get Siegenthaler and it's not hard to see why. At only 18 years old, Siegenthaler is 6'3" and 220 pounds. Yet, he remains an extremely skilled skater. The comparison to Brooks Orpik is an apt one, though I believe Siegenthaler will be a better skater.
Carrick is the only one of these profiles that I disagree with. Author Bradley Davis writes that Carrick "is one of the most exciting prospects that the Washington Capitals have right now. He has a great chance of making a big impact in Washington within a couple of years."
I'm not so sure.
At only 21, Carrick has already established himself as Hershey's top defenseman and he's only getting better, but there are two issues that give me pause on him. One is his size. The Caps' website lists Carrick as 5'11", 185 pounds. I've seen him in the locker room and that may be a tad generous. He needs to add some muscle.
The second issue is that when the Caps recalled him this season in clear need of defensive depth, he lasted three games before being sent back down. You need to be very careful when evaluating players based on when they are recalled and for how long, teams and coaches have to balance protecting prospects while also getting them playing time. Really good prospects stay in the AHL because it's better to play at a lower level than sit in the press box in the NHL. Having said that, with both Brooks Orpik and John Carlson injured, there was an opportunity for him to get some playing time and he could not take advantage. He looked completely lost in his brief stint and it's not as if this was Carrick's first rodeo. He already had 34 NHL games under his belt coming into this season.
Yes, Carrick is 21 and yes, he is still getting better, but I'm not as optimistic as Stars & Sticks that he has much more than third-pair potential. I wouldn't be surprised if he made the Caps roster in two years and I also wouldn't be surprised if he was a career AHLer.
Go ahead and throw out what ever you think the ceiling is for Barber. The 21-year-old winger has overachieved at every step in his career and is doing it again in Hershey. He was a sixth-round draft pick for the Caps and yet he is now establishing himself as an offensive threat in the AHL.
Barber's offense, however, isn't even his best attribute. It's his leadership that really shines and for that reason, I see him going farther than his talent would seem to dictate. He could have a very solid NHL career as a second or third line winger.
The Caps' drafting Samsonov was met with a lot of confusion, but his potential is undeniable. He has tons of raw talent, he just needs time to develop it. The good news is that the Caps have nothing but time as they boast one of, if not the best goalie in the NHL in Braden Holtby who is only 26.
Bowey's performance at the junior level was a very exciting indication of his potential and he has done nothing to temper those expectation in the AHL. He is a future top-pair defenseman with great offensive instincts. He has both the size and the talent, but most importantly he is the type of defenseman that has become so coveted in this era of NHL hockey based on the increasing importance of puck possession.
It's not hard to envision a future top pair of Siegenthaler-Bowey patrolling the Caps' blue line.
In Hershey, Vrana has showed flashes of the talent that made him a first-round draft pick. A wrist injury kept him out for 20 games and a suspension forced him to miss another two. He did not appear to lose a step after he initially returned from the injury and is likely to become one of the Bears' top offensive weapons again now that his two-game suspension is up. He is a bit small, but he has definite first-line potential at the NHL level.