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Prospect report: Caps boast 4 of the NHL's top 100 prospects

Prospect report: Caps boast 4 of the NHL's top 100 prospects

Hershey update: 31-17-8-3, 5th in the Atlantic Division. Last week: 3-0-0-0

Goalie Pheonix Copley made a successful return to the Hershey Bears winning both of his starts with 63 saves on 65 shots.

Copley was traded by the Caps from Hershey to the St. Louis Blues in the package that netted the team T.J. Oshie, but was reacquired in Washington’s deadline deal for Kevin Shattenkirk.

Check out what Copley had to say to the media after his first practice:

Copley’s first start came on Friday against Syracuse. You can watch the highlights here:

Despite a strong performance, Copley’s first start almost ended in disaster. In the third period, he collapsed onto the ice in what looked like a serious injury.

Washington needed a third goalie they could have faith in just in case Braden Holtby or Philipp Grubauer suffered an injury. If Copley were to suffer an injury it would mean the Caps would have no safety net heading into the playoffs. Luckily, it was revealed Copley was only dealing with dehydration and he started the next night.

Copley is definitely a player to keep an eye on. Should Grubauer get selected in the expansion draft by Vegas, the Caps will be in need of a backup goalie. Copley may well be that goalie next season.

You can also see in the highlights above an incredible move by defenseman Christian Djoos who is really coming into his own in the latter half of the season. When a players’ skill level begins to surpass the AHL, it becomes fairly evident. You can see by his goal that he has the stickhandling and skating ability of an NHL player. But does he have the size? Hershey’s website lists him as 6-foot, 161 pounds. He really needs to add some muscle, but I would love to see how he plays against NHL talent to see if he’s ready for the next level.

Stanislav Galiev also provided a highlight reel goal in what was a four-point weekend. In 39 games this season, he has 32 points. Christian Thomas also had another strong weekend with five points in Hershey’s three games. He has points in five straight games and leads the Bears with 22 goals, three more than Galiev’s 19.

Washington signed college free agents Hampus Gustafsson and Kris Bindulis to entry-level contracts on Tuesday. Gustafsson, a forward, scored 26 points in 36 games for Merrimack College this season while Bindulis, a defenseman, scored 12 points in 28 games in his freshman year at Lake Superior State.

SB Nation’s College Hockey blog provided scouting reports on both players:

At 6-4 205 lbs., Gustafsson is a prototypical power forward that is a big, strong presence around the net. His skating is an area that will need improvement to make it at the NHL level. While he lacks elite hands, he is good at collecting hard-working garbage goals in front of the net.

Bindulis is a good skater for his size and brings considerable physical presence for an offensive-minded defenseman. He struggled on the defensive end in his first college season, and still has a lot of work to do in that area, but has the raw potential to be an effective pro with time and development.

Both players will report to Hershey.

RELATED: Who's hot and who's not?: Ovechkin searches for scoring touch

Other prospect notes:

The latest edition of The Hockey News magazine evaluates the top 100 prospects and takes a look at prospect pool of each NHL team. Four of the Caps’ prospects made the top 100. Ilya Samsonov was the highest ranked among the Caps, coming in at No. 18. He is also the highest ranked goalie prospect in the NHL. Forward Jakub Vrana is No. 42. He made his NHL debut this season and looks to be a depth forward for the upcoming playoff run. He will almost certainly be on the NHL roster next season.

The biggest surprise in terms of the Caps is Jonas Siegenthaler who, at No. 77, ranks ahead of No. 89 Madison Bowey. It’s surprising to see Siegenthaler jump Bowey considering how highly regarded a prospect Bowey has been. This is likely a result of a very impressive performance by Siegenthaler in the World Junior Championship.

Siegenthaler did not play all that well during training camp, but family issues back home were clearly weighing on his mind. He is a player with tremendous potential, but we didn’t really get a chance to see it this summer.

The magazine also includes a look at each of the Caps’ top ten prospects written by yours truly so everyone should go out and buy it. You can find it here.

With the acquisition of Copley, the Caps no longer needed goalie Joe Cannata. He was traded to Colorado by the Caps in exchange for defenseman Cody Corbett. Here is what the blog Mile High Hockey had to say about the young defenseman:

He’s a great guy and I hope he gets a chance with Hershey or the SC Stingrays from this tryout. Never really developed much in the Avs system but he does have some good skills in the offensive zone. I honestly believe he could be far more effective as a forward.

It's playoff time in college hockey with conference tournaments underway throughout the country. Brian Pinho helped Providence win its opening round matchup against UMass in two games with one goal and three assists. He now has 16 points in his last 12 games.

"He deserves all the credit because he’s worked to become a better player over the summers,” Providence head coach Nate Leaman said of Pinho in a feature written by Jeff Cox. “He’s had the hard matches every game. That’s what is impressive about his growth. He keeps finding ways to get better and finding ways to make plays.”

You can read the full feature here.

Pinho's play isn't the only thing he has developed while at Providence. His leadership is also a major part of his success with the Friars. You can read more in Mark Divver's piece on Pinho’s leadership in the Providence Journal.

Providence will play Notre Dame in the Hockey East quarterfinals this week.

Two Caps prospects will be playing in the NCHC quarterfinals Steven Spinner's Nebraska-Omaha facing Western Michigan and Shane Gersich's North Dakota set to take on St. Cloud State. Gersich led North Dakota with 19 goals and 34 points this season, earning him an honorable mention to the NCHC All-Conference team. In the ECAC Hockey Tournament Quarterfinals, Chase Priskie will lead Quinnipiac against St. Lawrence.

Finally, congratulations to Moose Jaw defenseman Dmitriy Zaitsev who scored his first WHL goal on Sunday.

MORE CAPITALS: Caps' playoff opponent watch: Battling Brooklyn

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4 reasons why the Caps beat the Senators

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USA TODAY Sports

4 reasons why the Caps beat the Senators

The Capitals head into Thanksgiving on a high note after a 5-2 win over the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday.

Here's why they won.

Line changes

Barry Trotz surprised everyone by changing up the lines and reuniting Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom despite coyly telling the media that he would use the same "group" just two hours before the game. The move worked, however, as an energized Caps team took the ice. The moves were not just felt on the top line, there was a boost all throughout the lineup to start the game and the energy the team played with was evident.

The Caps’ best offensive players looked like their best offensive players

Much has been written in recent days about the Caps’ top-six and its offensive struggles, but they seemed just fine against Ottawa. Ovechkin (1 goal), Backstrom (1 assist), T.J. Oshie (2 assists), Evgeny Kuznetsov (1 goal, 2 assists) and Jakub Vrana (2 goals) all had big nights.

Ovechkin's late first period goal

Multi-goal leads have been hard to come by for the Caps of late. Despite a strong first period, Washington held only a 1-0 lead as the first frame drew to a close. Instead of having a chance to regroup in the locker room, Ottawa found itself suddenly down by two as Ovechkin scored with just five seconds left. That goal set the tone for the start of the second period where Washington was able to tack on another two goals to take the 4-0 lead. Does that momentum carry over to the second without Ovechkin's late tally? I'm not so sure.

Killing a 5-on-3 power play in the second period

Despite the 4-0 deficit, the Senators hung around and scored in the second period to make it 4-1. Then Ovechkin was called for a high-stick and Backstrom got into a bit of a tussle with Ben Harpur after getting a high-stick from him. The ref sent Ovechkin, Backstrom and Harpur to the box. Just 44 seconds later, Tom Wilson joined them after getting called for a slash giving the Senators 1:16 of a two-man advantage power play. One goal would have pulled them within two with over a period left to play. This game was not over. This was a critical moment for Washington and the penalty kill delivered by killing off both penalties. After that, the game really was no longer in doubt.

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3 stars of the game: Caps' stars shine against Senators

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USA TODAY Sports

3 stars of the game: Caps' stars shine against Senators

On the eve of Thanksgiving, the Caps gave the home crowd something to be thankful for with a 5-2 win over the Ottawa Senators.

Barry Trotz elected to shake up the offensive lines before the game and it seemed to work. The Caps took control of the game from the drop of the puck and took a 2-0 lead at the end of the first period and never looked back.

Here are the three stars of the game.

1. Jakub Vrana

Vrana opened the scoring by crashing the net and was in perfect position for the rebound off of a shot from Evgeny Kuznetsov. His second goal came off a perfect shot, and I do mean perfect. This was the first multi-goal game of his NHL career and his third multi-point game. 

2. Evgeny Kuznetsov

This is why Kuznetsov should shoot more. Vrana's first goal came off a rebound from a shot by Kuznetsov. It was his first even-strength point since Nov. 6. On a power play in the second period, a loose puck came to Kuznetsov's stick. Rather than look for the pass as he has been his tendency, he did not hesitate. He shot it and the result was his third power play goal of the season. Kuznetsov finished with one goal and two assists.

3. Alex Ovechkin

Despite how dominant the first period looked for Washington, they still held only a 1-0 lead. What really set the tone for the game was Ovechkin's first period goal. A quick passing play from Nicklas Backstrom to Alex Chiasson to Ovechkin found the Great 8 behind Ottawa's defense. He finished off the play with the goal to put Washington up 2-0 with just five seconds left in the period. That turned a good period into a dominant one and really set the tone for the start of the second in which the Caps were able to put up another two goals.