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Prospect Report: Evaluating the Caps defensive prospects


Prospect Report: Evaluating the Caps defensive prospects

Hershey update: 21-13-2-5, 3rd in the Atlantic Division. Last week: 1-0-1-0

Riley Barber had perhaps his best game as a professional on Saturday to help lead Hershey to a 4-3 shootout win over Springfield. Barber scored twice and added an assist on Chris Bourque's game-tying goal.

"I felt early on that Barber was on," Hershey head coach Troy Mann said. "You saw his hands on that power play goal. It was good to see him have a big night. The puck's not always going to go in, but he's stayed patient and kept working."

You can watch the highlights from Barber's big night here:

As good as Barber was on Saturday, Travis Boyd has been more consistent over the course of the season. He currently ranks 13th among rookies in the AHL with 24 points (7 goals, 17 assists).

RELATED: Capitals players were skating on the roads, too

Bears assistant coach Bryan Helmer provided mid-season evaluations for the team's defensemen. You can read his full comments here and it's definitely worth the time, but here are some of the highlights of what he had to say about the Caps' prospects:

Tyler Lewington

He makes rookie mistakes, but he responds well after doing that and that’s what I like about him. He has to be physical and strong in front of the net because we don’t have lot of those guys on the back end.

In his first year as a pro, Lewington has established himself as a physical presence on the blue line. It's tough to do that as a 21-year-old. He has only three points in 19 games with Hershey, but offense is not his strong suit. He's sticking with what he knows and it's working for him, especially because Hershey does not have too many physical defensemen.

Madison Bowey

I compare him to John Carlson when he came here and I was still playing. He moves in from the point and always seems to do it at the right time. He wants to make plays and make something happen and plays with a swagger. He just needs to try and not do too much in the defensive end.

The issue of doing too much in the defensive end can often be a problem for talented players as they transition to a higher level of competition. In the WHL, Bowey had the skill to make up for his mistakes in his own end. That's no longer the case in the AHL and he certainly won't be able to do it in the NHL. Still, you have to like what you see thus far in his first professional season. His offensive acumen remains high, though his skill is more as a set-up man than a scorer.

Christian Djoos

Chrisitian Joos is very talented and calm with the puck who slows the game down and always seems to make the right plays. He’s put on some weight, seeing a nutritionist and working real hard at that. His hockey IQ is off the chart because he sees the game so well, but he gets in trouble in our end because he gets out-muscled.

Djoos has tremendous talent, but his size is a major concern. Hershey's website lists Djoos as 6-feet, 162 pounds and that may be generous (Elite Prospects lists him as 159 pounds). At that size, he would get pushed around at the NHL level. How could he be expected to defend against a power forward like Milan Lucic, for example? It's good to hear he's putting on weight because the talent is certainly there. If he had Bowey's size (6-foot-2, 209 pounds), Djoos would likely be considered the top defensive prospect in the Caps' system. He's that talented.

Connor Carrick

He’s starting to get it as far as playing both ends of the ice, is on the special teams doing a real good job on the PK. Overall, his whole game is coming around.

Despite the increased role he is enjoying in Hershey, Carrick just has not been able to stick at the NHL level. There was a real opportunity for him given to stay with the Caps for an extended period because of the injuries to Carlson and Brooks Orpik, but he did not take advantage. With Bowey enjoying a great rookie season, I'm beginning to wonder if Carrick's ceiling may be as an occasional call-up rather than as a full-time NHLer.

Other prospect notes:

Vitek Vanecek returned to action on Saturday in his first start for South Carolina since returning from the World Juniors tournament. It did not go well as he allowed five goals on 22 shots in the overtime loss.

The silver-lining is that Vanecek seemed to play better as the game went along. He gave up a goal just 12 seconds into the game and three goals in the first period. He would allow only one more in the next two regulation periods and even stopped a breakaway in overtime before he was eventually handed the loss.

You can see highlights from the game here:

Brian Pinho is enjoying a terrific sophomore season for defending national champion Providence College. With an assist in Saturday's win, Pinho matched a career high five-game point streak. He has also matched his point total last season with 18 despite playing in 17 fewer games. 

MORE CAPITALS: Holtby: 'Our goal isn't to win the regular season'

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Blackhawks fans tossed after directing racist remarks at Washington's Smith-Pelly

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Blackhawks fans tossed after directing racist remarks at Washington's Smith-Pelly

CHICAGO—Four fans were ejected from United Center on Saturday night for taunting Devante Smith-Pelly as the Capitals’ winger sat in the penalty box.

The fans, according to a team spokesman, yelled “basketball, basketball, basketball” at Smith-Pelly, who is black. Smith-Pelly was in the box for fighting in the third period of an eventual 7-1 loss to the Blackhawks.

The taunts were confirmed by an off-ice official, the spokesman said, and the fans were subsequently removed from the arena.

Smith-Pelly did not speak with reporters after the game but is expected to address the incident at the team’s next media availability. The team is scheduled to practice Sunday at KeyBank Center in Buffalo.

Caps Coach Barry Trotz did not hold back when asked about the fans' comments.

“There’s absolutely no place in the game of hockey or our country for racism,” Trotz said. “I think it’s disgusting, and there’s no place for it. …It just shows ignorance.”

The Blackhawks responded on Twitter with an apology to Smith-Pelly, who is one of roughly 30 black players in the NHL.

February is Hockey is For Everyone month in the NHL.

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3 stars of the game: Caps suffer ugly loss to scuffling Blackhawks

3 stars of the game: Caps suffer ugly loss to scuffling Blackhawks

Just about everything that could go wrong did for the Capitals on Saturday in a 7-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Caps were coming off a strong 5-2 win over the Minnesota Wild on Thursday, but none of that carried over in the trip to Chicago. The Caps took on a Blackhawks team that had lost eight in a row, but Chicago quickly took control in the first period and never looked back.

Washington gave up 21 shots on goal in the first period and found themselves down 3-1 after the opening frame. Things did not get much better from there as they gave up another three goals in the final four minutes of the second.

Here are the three stars of the game.

1. Jonathan Toews: Toews opened up the scoring in the first period with a quick shot from the corner that caught Braden Holtby by surprise.

Later in the first, he recorded an assist as his pass sparked a breakout that led to Brandon Saad's deal that gave Chicago back the lead. The Caps tried to make a game of it in the second period, but Toews intercepted a pass from Brooks Orpik that led to a 2-on-0 with himself and Patrick Kane that Kane netted to give the Blackhawks a 4-1 lead and signaled to everyone that the rout was on. Saturday was only the second three-point night of the season for Toews.

2. Patrick Kane: Toews helped the Blackhawks take control early, but Kane helped provide the knockout punches in the second period. A bad pass from Orpik was intercepted by Toews that led to a 2-on-0 with Kane. Holtby made the initial save on Toews, but Kane was able to knock in the rebound for the goal.

Kane also added an assist on Artem Anisimov's power play goal which extended Chicago's lead to 6-1.

3. Tom Wilson: Before this one got out of hand, it looked like Wilson had erased the tough start for the Caps as he deflected a shot from Matt Niskanen into the net to get Washington on the board.

Saturday's tally was his third goal in two games and his 10th of the season, marking the first time in his career he has reached double digits in goals.