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Prospect Report: A big week for Vanecek


Prospect Report: A big week for Vanecek

Hershey update: 10-6-0-4, 3rd in the Atlantic Division. Last week: 0-1-0-1

Defense was optional on Friday night as the Hershey Bears fell to Lehigh Valley 6-5 in a shootout. Recalled from the ECHL, Tyler Lewington scored a goal in his very first game in the AHL as a floater from the blue line somehow weaved its way into the top shelf. He also showed the same willingness to drop the gloves as he has showed in South Carolina with a fight against Lehigh's Tyrell Goulbourne. Travis Boyd and Nathan Walker also each contributed a goal and an assist in the loss.

See the highlights here:

Walker added another assist on Saturday giving him three points in two games. Prior to that, he had managed only four points in his first 17 games of the season.

RELATED: Handful of Caps challenging for spots in World Cup

Other prospect notes:

How about that Vitek Vanecek? First, he was named the ECHL Rookie of the Month for November. On Thursday, he was named to the Czech Republic roster for WJC camp. He was one of four goalies named.

Plus, he's got a shiny new mask!

With the Caps trading prospect Pheonix Copley over the summer and Vanecek coming off of a tough performance in the IIHF World Junior Championships (.803 save percentage, 6.00 GAA), there was some worry that the Caps were suddenly thin in goalie depth. Vanecek is proving those fears to be unfounded with his play in South Carolina. In 12 games this season, Vanecek has a 2.00 GAA and a .919 save percentage.

Another goalie prospect is impressing as well all the way from Russia. Ilya Samsonov recorded a 26-save shutout for Metallurg Magnitogorsk of the KHL on Monday. He has played in 14 games this season recording a 5-2-1 record with a .929 save percentage and 1.87 GAA. Considering he is only 18 years old, his numbers put him in pretty elite company.

As noted by the blog Stars & Sticks, Samsonov is having one of the best season's ever for an 18-year-old in the KHL.

The Caps seem to have no trouble finding offensively skilled defensemen and it looks like they may have another in Connor Hobbs. Hobbs recorded four assists in three games for the Regina Pats last week. He leads Regina defensemen in points and is fourth on the team with 14.

An article in the Regina Leader-Post took a deeper look at how Hobbs has developed into an offensive weapon.

In the college ranks, defending national champion Providence is rolling and, as Mac Cerullo of the Eagle-Tribune writes, Brian Pinho is a major reason why. In his sophomore season, he has three goals and four assists in 12 games for the Friars.

Thomas DiPauli continues to light the lamp for Notre Dame. His goal against Western Michigan on Saturday was his team-high sixth of the season. You can see it in the highlights here:

DiPauli shows good hands and patience as he avoids the diving defenseman to net the game-clinching goal. In addition to leading the team in goals, he is also tied for the team lead in points (13).

MORE CAPITALS: Jagr asks fans not to vote him into All-Star game

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Who ya got? Trotz faces tough choice in net after Holtby's strong return

USA Today Sports

Who ya got? Trotz faces tough choice in net after Holtby's strong return

Braden Holtby has made Barry Trotz’s weekend very difficult, but in a good way.

Back-to-back games against the New York Islanders offered the Capitals an opportunity to play both Philipp Grubauer and Holtby. Grubauer stayed hot earning another win for Washington. On Friday, Holtby got his first start since March 6 and played very well.

“A win is good,” Holtby said after the game. “I felt pretty comfortable. Some things to build off of and things that I want to get better at. It was a step in the right direction.”


A 22 save effort on Friday was bookended by two big saves. The first shot Holtby faced was a turnover on the power play that led to a dangerous shorthanded scoring opportunity for John Tavares early in the first period. Then in the third, with the Capitals leading 5-3 and the Islanders trying to mount a comeback, Holtby turned aside a breakaway opportunity for star rookie Mathew Barzal.

“I thought he was pretty solid,” Trotz said. “He looked really confident.”

“I felt a lot better,” Holtby said. “Not that I was feeling horrible before, it's just you get refreshed. It's like anything, you have a week off work, a holiday or something, you come back a little refreshed.”

And that brings us to Sunday.

On Sunday, the Capitals play the Philadelphia Flyers. The Flyers are a team in playoff position in desperate need of points after seven of their last eight games.

When asked on Wednesday who he thought would start Sunday’s game, Trotz said, “We're in a result business and we need some results so we'll see who is looking the sharpest and gives us the best chance to win.”

Both Grubauer and Holtby were impressive in their starts over the Islanders. You can’t argue Holtby is suddenly the hotter hand after one win considering how well Grubauer has played of late, but if Holtby remaisn the team’s No. 1, shouldn’t he get the next start after a strong winning performance?


Trotz was asked after the game who would start on Sunday after Holtby’s win.

“They're both playing well so I can't even answer that right now to be honest with you,” he said. “I do know that we have a number of games this week and whatever way go, obviously I'm going to sit down with the coaches and whatever way we go, I think they're both going to get some time this week.”

“I think you have to take it game-by-game,” Trotz added. “Bottom line is that you've got to make a decision and go with it and if your decision is that goalie A is a little hotter or you've just got a gut feel then you go with it and you have to live with it good or bad.”

So for now, it sounds as if we will see a rotation in net as Trotz continues evaluating which netminder gives the team the best chance to win in the playoffs. It is a tough position for the Caps’ bench boss, but, if both goalies continue to perform, having to choose between a hot Grubauer and a resurgent Holtby is a good problem to have and much preferable to having to choose between backup Grubauer and slumping Holtby.

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Kuznetsov to be evaluated Saturday after leaving Islanders game with "upper body" issue

Kuznetsov to be evaluated Saturday after leaving Islanders game with "upper body" issue

The Capitals may have won the game Friday against the New York Islanders, but now they will wait to see if they also suffered a significant loss.

Kuznetsov left the game in the third period after taking a slash from Islanders defenseman Thomas Hickey which sent him sliding head-first into the boards. The team labeled the issue as “upper body” when it was announced he would not return to the game.

Head coach Barry Trotz was tight-lipped afterward on Kuznetsov’s status.

“They're going to re-evaluate him tomorrow and we'll have some clarity hopefully tomorrow,” he said.


You can see the play here:

When Kuznetsov is first slashed he immediately reacts. His feet then catch the stick of goalie Jaroslav Halak which sends him tripping and sliding hard into the boards. He sat on the ice for several minutes afterward and was looked at by the trainer before getting to his feet and slowly making his way to the locker room.

When asked after the game what he felt about the slash, Trotz said only, “Hockey play.”

One of the Capitals’ biggest strengths as a team is their depth down the middle. Any injury to a center, considering it is arguably the most important skating position on the ice, would be significant. An injury to the team’s top-line center would be even more costly.

Kuznetsov leads the team with 28 assists and ranks second in both goals (21) and points (69).