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Prospect Report: Hershey drops to second in their division

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Prospect Report: Hershey drops to second in their division

Hershey update: 36-18-4-7, 2nd in the Atlantic Division. Last week: 1-1-1-0

The Hershey Bears dropped to second place in the Atlantic Division this week with two losses to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. The Bears then proceeded to vent their frustration onto Lehigh Valley with an 8-0 win. It was the largest margin of victory in the team's history.

With 15 goals in three games, many of the Bears' top players put up some pretty impressive numbers over the week. Both Jakub Vrana (three points) and Travis Boyd (four points) recorded at least one point in each game. Nathan Walker continued his push to become the first Australian to play in the NHL with four points. For those who are not familiar with his story, the York Daily Record published a profile on him detailing how he got to this point in his career. As you would expect, it was quite the journey as Australia is not known for its hockey leagues.

Defenseman Madison Bowey also had a big week with four points. He remains quite clearly the Capitals' best defensive prospect. Here's a profile by Scott Seningen of The Hockey Writers on Bowey published last week. In it, Seningen writes, "[Bowey] will most likely be in the AHL one more season, or at least, part of it before we see him in a Capitals uniform during the regular season."

Most projections on Bowey from this season seem to agree. Given the Capitals' depth on the blue line, I believe he will impress this summer and push for a roster spot, but will ultimately start the season in Hershey. With no Connor Carrick in front of him, however, Bowey will be among the top candidates to be called up in case of injury and I believe he will make his NHL debut at some point next season.

Another top defensive prospect, Jonas Siegenthaler, made his AHL debut on Wednesday in Hershey's win over Lehigh Valley. He tallied one assist. Forward Kevin Elgestal who was added to the roster the same time as Siegenthaler has not yet played for the Bears.

Riley Barber continues to pad his stats with a goal and two assists over the week. Barber has really shined of late and has become one of the team's top offensive weapons, but it took some time for him to develop over the course of his rookie season. Check out this article from Lancaster Online detailing Barber's first professional season.

RELATED: Trotz, Caps trying to make rest their 'weapon'

Other prospect notes:

As the playoffs near for the NHL, several of the Caps prospects have already begun their postseason tournaments. The collegiate season will continue for Thomas DiPauli (Notre Dame), Shave Gersich (North Dakota), Brian Pinho (Providence) and Zach Sanford (Boston College) as each of their teams have made the NCAA Tournament. Games begin on Friday and the Frozen Four will take place starting on April 7.

Tim McGauley's Brandon Wheat Kings finished as the top team in the Eastern Conference in the WHL. For the season, McGauley finished with 49 points in 51 games. He will be joined in the playoffs by Connor Hobbs and Colby Williams of the Regina Pats who qualified as a wild card team.

Hobbs tallied 41 points and was named Regina's top defenseman in the team's postseason awards. Williams finished a tough regular season with 12 points in just 19 games. This will be his final season in the WHL, but he has not had any time to reflect as he has been battling with injuries all season long.

My best guess for Williams' future would be that we will see him in South Carolina next season in the ECHL. The wrist injury he has been dealing with since the summer remains a major concern and I believe he has a lot to prove in his first professional season before he gets a shot in the AHL.

If Williams does go to the ECHL, it will definitely be with South Carolina as the Caps announced on Monday they had extended their affiliation agreement with the Stingrays through the 2017-18 season. Three Caps draft picks have played with South Carolina this season including goalie Vitek Vanecek. Caleb Herbert was also reassigned to the Stingrays by Hershey on Thursday.

MORE HOCKEY: Capitals prepare for return of their 'game changer'

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Burakovsky will miss the first round, but Caps won't rule him out for remainder of the playoffs

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USA TODAY Sports

Burakovsky will miss the first round, but Caps won't rule him out for remainder of the playoffs

Andre Burakovsky will be sidelined for the remainder of Washington's first-round series vs. Columbus, but he isn’t necessarily out for the remainder of the playoffs, Coach Barry Trotz said on Friday.

Burakovsky suffered an undisclosed upper-body injury in Game 2 and has not been on the ice since.

Trotz said the 23-year-old top-six winger needs “minor” surgery.

That procedure, however, will not preclude Burakovsky from returning to the Caps’ lineup in subsequent rounds, should Washington advance.

“That's why I said minor surgery,” Trotz added, asked if Burky might return at a later date.

This latest surgery is the second for Burakovsky this season. In late October, he had a procedure to repair a broken left thumb and missed the next 20 games.

Since his departure in Game 2, Jakub Vrana and Chandler Stephenson have taken turns replacing Burakovsky on the second line with Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie.

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Will the Caps be able to take advantage of home ice in Game 5?

Will the Caps be able to take advantage of home ice in Game 5?

There's a saying in sports that goes, "A series doesn't start until a team loses at home." For the Washington Capitals and Columbus Blue Jackets, their series won't start until someone wins at home.

Four games into the series, the road team has won every game. Columbus took Game 1 and Game 2 from Capital One Arena and the Caps answered back by winning Game 3 and Game 4 in Ohio.

"We came [to Columbus] to try to get the first one," Barry Trotz said after Thursday's win. "Did that. We came here to get the second one. Did that. All we've done is just got on even terms."

Now the series is a best of three with two of those final three games in Washington, but how much of an advantage does that really give the Caps?

"We've got to make sure that we're ready to go," Trotz said. "I think we have been since we got here. We've just got to do it at home."

The various playoff struggles the Caps have suffered in the Alex Ovechkin era have been well-documented to this point. One particularly maddening issue is the team's struggles to win at home. Since 2008, the first year the Ovechkin-led Caps made the playoffs, the team is just 28-25 in home playoff games. Since 2015, Trotz's first season as head coach, the Caps are 12-10 in Washington.

Part of that is just the nature of hockey. Upsets are prevalent in the playoffs in the NHL and home-ice advantage does not mean as much as it does in other sports. But it should mean more than 28-25.

Besides having the crowd on your side, home ice also provides matchup advantages. The home team gets the second line change at home, meaning during a stoppage in play the home coach gets the opportunity to see who the opponent puts on the ice before making his own change. For the Caps, this means getting Dmitry Orlov and Matt Niskanen on the ice against Artemi Panarin.

Trotz has matched his top shutdown pair against Columbus' top line all series long. According to Natural Stat Trick, when Niskanen was on the ice in Game 4 he held Panarin's Corsi For percentage to 36.36. When Niskanen was not on the ice, Panarin's percentage shot up to 71.43. 

Theoretically, it should be much easier for Trotz to get those favorable matchups at home. Now all the Caps have to do is take advantage.

"Our home record hasn't been really great in the last little stretch at the end of the season here and obviously the first two games of the playoffs," Trotz said. "We owe it to our fans, we owe it to ourselves to take advantage of that."

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