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.
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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