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Prospect report: Vanecek is exceeding expectations in Hershey

Prospect report: Vanecek is exceeding expectations in Hershey

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

Hershey had a tough week losing three out of four games to snap a five-game winning streak.

It was another good week offensively for Jakub Vrana who notched two goals and an assist. He currently leads the Bears in goals with seven. Travis Boyd also had an impressive week with two goals and an assist. Boyd has very quietly been racking up the points this season and now ranks third on the team with 11. When contemplating who could get a call-up at some point this season, don’t count him out.

Chandler Stephenson notched his first goal of the season and Nathan Walkers scored twice on Wednesday to lead the Bears to their only win over the week.

In net, Vitek Vanecek did everything he could in his two starts to keep Hershey in it especially in Sunday’s game against Lehigh Valley. Vanecek turned aside 28 of the 31 shots including two breakaways in the first period.

Check out the highlights from the game:

Vanecek is often overshadowed by the young Ilya Samsonov who the Caps drafted in the first round in 2015 (more on him later), but he has been a pleasant surprise this season in his first season in Hershey. In six games, he has a 2.35 goals-against average (GAA) and a .920 save percentage. Those are good numbers.

Obviously, Vancecek still has things to work on as you can see based on the highlights. That long range shot he lets in from the boards is just plain bad. He also seems to really struggle with traffic in front of the net and tracking the puck. Teams are going to screen you, good goaltenders need to track the puck and battle through screens.

But at 20 years old, Vanceck is still very much developing and he has exceeded expectations thus far with his overall body of work in Hershey.

RELATED: Backstrom, Oshie are en fuego

Other prospect notes:

Samsonov still does not have a regulation loss this season in the KHL with a 7-0-3 record, 2.36 GAA and .919 save percentage. The KHL is the second best hockey league in the world and Samsonov has no looked out of place at all there despite being just 19 years old. As the Caps spent a first-round pick on him, he is expected to be this team’s future in net and given what he has done in the KHL, he appears to be right on track.

In another goalie update, Adam Carlson is playing well in the ECHL for South Carolina. When starter Parker Milner was dealing with skate issues on Thursday, Carlson stepped in stop all 15 shots he faced in the Stingrays’ 5-1 win. Carlson was handed a loss on Saturday, but played well with 28 saves on 30 shots.

Check out the highlights here:

In his first professional season, Carlson has a 2.29 GAA and .923 save percentage. Not bad for a guy with only one year of college hockey under his belt.

Shane Gersich put on an absolute show this week for North Dakota. On Friday, he gave the Fighting Hawks the win over Denver on Friday with a beautiful spin move to score in overtime. On Saturday, Gersich dazzled again scoring both of his team's two goals.You can watch the highlights of Gersich’s two goals here:

Gersich is really coming into his own this season with six goals and eight assists in 11 games and he’s getting those points in different ways. On Friday, you saw the skill, on Saturday you saw the grit with Gersich fighting in front of the net for both of those goals.

Another player to get excited about is defenseman Connor Hobbs. Check out his two-goal performance from Sunday’s game:

Hobbs tallied three goals and three assists in three games for Regina of the WHL last week. While it’s important to keep in mind the level of competition when evaluating the offensive numbers (defense tends to be optional in junior leagues), you can see from the highlights that Hobbs has good instincts and one heck of a one-timer. See if you can spot where the puck ends up after that second goal. That just shows you the kind of power he had on that shot.

MORE CAPITALS: Prediction recap: Caps exceed expectations against Pittsburgh

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Can Pittsburgh's past be a goalie rotation blueprint?


Can Pittsburgh's past be a goalie rotation blueprint?

It’s happened. The Caps no longer seem to have a No. 1 goalie anymore, they have a No. 1 and 1a.

That’s right, we have a goalie rotation in Washington.

“There's no sense riding one,” Barry Trotz said after practice on Monday. “[Braden Holtby] is coming back and looking better every game and [Philipp Grubauer] played pretty well for a long stretch so why not have both of them going?”

Grubauer got the start Sunday in Philadelphia and Holtby is slated to get the start Tuesday against the Dallas Stars. After that we will have to wait and see.


Trotz has no layout for which goalie he wants to start and when in the remaining ten games. He is not thinking about each goalie splitting five games or which one he wants to use more.

Nope. Trotz has just one thing on his mind. It is all about who starts the next game, that’s it.

“I think you just go with a guy that's hot at the time and your team feels comfortable with and go from there,” Trotz said.

So where does this leave the goaltending situation when it comes to the playoffs? A goalie rotation is all well and good in the regular season, but he has to have one starter for the postseason, right?

Not necessarily.


When Trotz was asked if he philosophically believed in having one starter for the playoffs, Trotz initially said he would not answer, but then said, “Why don't you ask Mike Sullivan what he thinks.”

Sullivan, of course, is the head coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins who has led his team to a Stanley Cup in each of the past two seasons despite turning to both goalie Marc-Andre Fleury and Matt Murray in both seasons.

While Pittsburgh’s goalie rotation was largely based on injury, however, it still provides an example of how using both goalies can work in the playoffs and that seems to be the path the Caps are headed on at the moment.

Said Trotz, “You just have to go with your gut who you think is going to get the job done.”

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NHL Power Rankings: The home stretch

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NHL Power Rankings: The home stretch

We are down to the home stretch. Only 10 games remain in the Capitals' regular season. Those 10 games will ultimately decide if the Caps finish in first place in the Metropolitan Division and who they will play in the first round of the playoffs.

Washington currently sits in first place in the division, two points ahead of the Pittsburgh Penguins and four points ahead of the Philadelphia Flyers. Of those 10 remaining games, only three come against teams currently in playoff position. The most critical of these comes on April 1 when the Caps travel to Pittsburgh in a game that could ultimately decide the division.

The Caps still hold a narrow lead in the standings, but where do they stand in the rankings? See this week's updated NHL Power Rankings here.