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Capitals prospect report: MacLellan evaluates Samsonov's season, talks on his future

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Capitals prospect report: MacLellan evaluates Samsonov's season, talks on his future

Considering just how good a goalie Ilya Samsonov looked in the KHL, you could be forgiven for thinking he would make an easy transition to the AHL. It has not worked out that way.

The transition to the North American game can be harder on some than others and the numbers have been pretty ugly this season. In 19 appearances for Hershey, Samsonov has a 3.40 GAA and .871 save percentage.

Yikes.

But the Capitals are not concerned.

General manager Brian MacLellan acknowledged it has been a difficult year, but he still sees the talent behind the ugly numbers.

“I think he’s being challenged, I think that league is a hard league for goalies to adapt to,” MacLellan said. “I think his numbers aren’t great, but I think the way he is, the athletic ability is still evident in the way he plays. So, we’re still optimistic that he’s going to figure it out, but I think it’s been a challenging year in a difficult league for him. I think that going through this process is going to make him better in the end. I think he’s learning a lot, I think he has a lot more respect for the American League than he did coming into it. I think he’s adapting off the ice which is probably just as important as on the ice for his long-term development.”

MacLellan also said Samsonov is about where the team expected him to be in his progression.

“I think we would have anticipated this year to be up and down, he'd have good spots and weak spots and it'd take him a year to figure out the league and then next year he would be a good goalie in that league. I don't think he's behind or ahead of any schedule that he had.”

MacLellan’s faith appears well founded. After speaking on Samsonov, the young netminder recorded back-to-back shutouts, the first Hershey goalie to do so since Pheonix Copley on Oct. 19 and 26 in 2014, per Penn Live.

For now, Samsonov appears to be Hershey’s No. 2 goalie behind Vitek Vanecek who earned his first AHL All-Star nomination with a 2.87 GAA and .901 save percentage. But according to MacLellan, this year was all about adjusting for Samsonov. He anticipates him remaining in Hershey next season where he will have a much more dominant season in his second year of North American competition.

Other prospect notes:

  • Speaking of Samsonov, he remains the Caps’ top prospect according to TSN’s Craig Button. Button ranked the top 50 NHL-affiliated prospects and Samsonov came in at No. 27. Alex Alexeyev was the second Caps’ prospect to make the list at No. 33.
  • MacLellan also spoke one on one with Mike Vogel and said this about the team’s prospects: "I think [Connor] Hobbs is coming, he's getting more consistent in his game. We like his progress. Lucas [Johansen] has taken a step back here with the injury. We'll wait and see how he does in the last part of the year. Really optimistic about the two guys we drafted last year, [Alex] Alexeyev and [Martin] Fehervary. Both had strong world junior camps, both had good training camps and good rookie camps. We're excited about those two, also."
  • Vanecek is very excited about going to the AHL All-Star game.
  • Beck Malenstyn received some high praise from Hershey coach Spencer Carbery who called Malenstyn “our Tom Wilson.” Check out this feature on Malenstyn who is certainly making an impact in his first professional season.
  • Riley Barber has 14 points in his past 10 games. He owns a team-high 10 multi-point games this season. If the Caps find themselves in need of a forward call up, Barber will be near or at the top of the list. At his age (24), however, and on the final year of his contract, you have to wonder what his future is with the organization. He is a great player for Hershey, but has his chance of becoming a full-time NHLer passed him by?
  • Brian Pinho’s goal on Sunday against Lehigh Valley was the first game-winning goal of his professional career.
  • Mike Sgarbossa played in his 400th professional game on Wednesday and recorded an assist. He currently ranks first on the Bears in goals (17), third in assists (14) and second in points (31).
  • Chase Priskie has been nominated for the Hobey Baker Award, college hockey’s most prestigious award. He is one of 83 (!!!) nominees. Yes, 83. I don’t know why the Hobey Baker Award Foundation chooses to water itself down with so many nominees and it’s a shame because Priskie should be considered among the top finalists. Priskie ranks second in the ECAC in points (27) and is tied for first in goals (13) and he’s doing it as a defenseman. A statement released by Quinnipiac said “Among defensemen, Priskie ranks even higher as he leads the nation in goals, goals per game, power-play goals, power-play points, game-winning goals (5), shots (88) and shots on goal per game (4.00). He is also second with 27 points and third with 1.23 points per game.” (One thing to note, the statement says there are 81 nominees. I counted, there are 83). The first phase of the award process is a fan vote which you can do here. The voting is open until March 10.

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Trade, coronavirus makes for tumultuous year for Caps' defenseman Brenden Dillon

Trade, coronavirus makes for tumultuous year for Caps' defenseman Brenden Dillon

This is not the way Brenden Dillon envisioned his year going. At the start of the season, he had Stanley Cup aspirations with the San Jose Sharks. Now he is in a hotel in Arlington, Va., on the other side of the country both from where he started and from where he calls home, waiting for the NHL season to resume.

"What a year it's been, really," Dillon said in an interview with NBC Sports Bay Area. "I think for anybody, not just myself or not just a hockey player or a Sharks player specifically, if you were to talk to us in August what things would be like come March time, what it would be. I think it's just at this stage with how everything's gone for me, I almost feel like a little bit of just a lone ranger with where I'm at."

Dillon has been with the Sharks since getting traded by the Dallas Stars in November 2014. During his time there, he made the playoffs in each of the last four seasons including a run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2016. After several years there, San Jose began to feel like home. That was evident in the emotional postgame interview Dillon gave when contemplating if he had just played his last game with the Sharks.

"Leaving San Jose, I was there for a long time, had a home there, had everything kind of stability," Dillon said.

He added, "It's not just somewhere that you work, it's not just somewhere that you move to for hockey. It becomes your home, it becomes your family, your teammates. It becomes second nature where the streets, the people you meet not just at the rink but at the grocery stores, the mall, whatever it might be. You really build those relationships and then really with one phone call your life can completely change."

That phone call came on Feb. 18 when the Capitals traded for the veteran defenseman to shore up the team's blue line.

The trade itself wasn't a surprise. On an expiring contract and with the team being where they were in the standings, Dillon knew he was likely to get traded. When he got word he was going to Washington, he was excited for the opportunity, but that transition to a new team is rarely an easy one.

"You're going from, in my case, one side of the country to the other," Dillon said. "You're going and meeting 22, 23 new coworkers that you're going to see every day. I was very lucky to come to a team like Washington where, when I did come out this way, the guys, I was sitting right in between [Alex Ovechkin] and [John Carlson]. It was pretty cool to be a part of that. I think just the opportunity for me on the ice, it was a perfect fit for my kind of game, being able to skate, move pucks and play my physical brand of hockey. I think it was pretty seamless."

Now that transition has been put on hold as life decided to throw another monkey wrench Dillon's way with the spread of the coronavirus.

With the season paused, Dillon has stayed in an Arlington hotel trying to stay in shape and adjust to his new life. But he is making the best of it with his new teammates.

"There's been a lot of guys here who even during this time, whether it's just a few of us getting together and playing some tennis in the area," Dillon said. "I mean there's a good chunk of guys that are still in town so it's kind of been nice to at least have a little bit of that other than staring at a wall. I've done more puzzles and watched more Netflix than I think a lot of people could. I think though when it does come to the actual hockey part of things, it has been good out here. "

Dillon's mentality has remained positive through it all.

Though emotional about leaving San Jose, Dillon is excited about the chance to come to Washington to compete for a Cup. After a few weeks, he has a good idea of where the good spots are for food in Arlington and Washington, and he is thankful for his new teammates who have made an effort to make him feel welcome.

Dillon is excited for the opportunity that lays before him, he is just anxious to get going again.

"It was fun to be a part of a lot of success in San Jose for the five, six years that I was there," Dillon said. "I will forever cherish that time, from the fans to the city and I'll definitely go back and visit and see some of my friends that are in the town. But to come out here, already it's been a great, great group of guys from management to the coaches to the players specifically too. Really made me feel at home."

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Donut miss this: The best T.J. Oshie photo edits after 2-goal simulation game

Donut miss this: The best T.J. Oshie photo edits after 2-goal simulation game

Everyone loves a good donut, whether glazed, frosted or just plain old-fashioned (if you’re into that sort of thing). You know who really loves donuts? T.J. Oshie and his family.

Back when hockey was still being played, Oshie’s daughter Leni challenged her dad to score a goal and she would get him a donut in return.

Sure enough, he scored and they enjoyed what looked to be one of the best donuts ever eaten.

Now that we have entered the world of simulated hockey, Oshie’s pair of goals in NBC Sports Washington’s simulated game against the Rangers Thursday night meant we were going to see some donuts today.

The Capitals social team took it the next step, tweeting out a cut out photo of TJ Oshie celebrating and put it in front of a picture of a shelf full of donuts. From there, Caps fans went to work. Here are some of the best creations from Capitals nation.

Celebrating alongside his Nationals brethren as they won the World Series last November.

Oshie meeting Santa for the first time!

An excited Oshbabe hitting the dollar on the big wheel and earning that cool $1,000 on the Price is Right.

In the front seat of a roller coaster.

Seeing a fully-stocked shelf of soup at the grocery store.

And even better, TOILET PAPER!!

"Faster than a speeding bullet! More powerful than a locomotive! Able to leap tall buildings at a single bound!" It’s Super Donut Man.

Big fan of his own shirt chug at the parade!

Wait Krispy Kreme sponsors who?!?! Get this man a donut deal STAT.

And I might be a little biased, but my personal favorite: T.J. being a little jealous that his best friend is smooching his other best friend.

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