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Capitals prospect report: Vanecek an All-Star, Alexeyev, Fehervary impress at the World Junior Championship

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NBC Sports Washington

Capitals prospect report: Vanecek an All-Star, Alexeyev, Fehervary impress at the World Junior Championship

Alex Alexeyev is putting on a show at the World Junior Championship.

Playing for Team Russia, Alexeyev has six points (two goals, four assists) in five games. That ranks second among all defensemen at the tournament and is just two points off the pace set by the tournament’s leading scorers.

The Caps’ first round draft pick from 2018 scored his second goal of the tournament on Wednesday in a quarterfinal matchup against Slovakia. The goal was of the highlight variety as he carried the puck along the boards and cut to the middle so quick, forward Milos Kelemen who was tracking Alexeyev actually fell to the ice.

Alexeyev literally deked a player to the ground.

After Wednesday’s win, Russia advances to the semifinals on Thursday and will play USA.

Russia’s win over Slovakia ended the tournament for another Caps prospect, Martin Fehervary. Fehervary captained Slovakia and also looked impressive throughout the tournament with one goal and four assists in five games.

Both Alexeyev and Fehervary were named All-Stars of the tournament on Monday by TSN’s Craig Button. Of Alexeyev, Button wrote, “His smart, calm and poised puck play in all three zones has been a steadying element for the entire team.”

Button described Fehervary as an “Excellent skater who takes the initiative and drives the play for Slovakia from the defensive zone, in transition and in the offensive zone.”

CAPITALS PROSPECT NOTES:

  • The Caps had a third prospect at the junior championship in Tobias Geisser. Geisser was loaned to Switzerland, but has not appeared in any games in the tournament due to an injury concern. It is not yet clear what that injury is.
     
  • Hershey goalie Goalie Vitek Vanecek was selected to the represent the Atlantic Division in the 2019 AHL All-Star Classic. It is the first time he has been selected as an All-Star. Vanecek is 7-7-2, with a .909 save percentage, 2.55 GAA (eighth in the AHL) and one shutout. The AHL All-Star Game festivities will take place Jan. 27-28 in Springfield, Mass.
     
  • Tyler Lewington certainly left an impression in his first NHL call-up. In his second NHL game ever on Saturday, he recorded his first NHL goal, assist and fight for a Gordie Howe hat trick. He is back in the AHL now with the Hershey Bears which is ultimately where his talent dictates he should be, but it’s hard not to be impressed by how he played in his two NHL games. His play may have earned him a call-up for the next injury in the not too distant future.
     
  • Take a guess at who Hershey’s top scorer was for the month of December. It wasn’t Riley Barber or Liam O’Brien, but defenseman Aaron Ness. Ness recorded 13 points in 13 games (1 goal, 12 assists). He leads all Hershey defensemen in points with 19 on the season.
     
  • Goalie Ilya Samsonov turned in arguably his best game of the season on Sunday as he turned aside 22 shots in a 2-1 win over Providence. It was the first time Samsonov had held an opponent to only one goal in the AHL. In fact, he had allowed at least three goals in each of his past seven appearances, going only 1-6-0 in that stretch.
     
  • Axel Jonsson-Fjallby is struggling. Since returning to his SHL team, he has yet to score through 12 games. An article from the Swedish outlet Expressen tried to get to the root of the problem and…well, if what it says is true regarding what Jonsson-Fjallby’s expectations were this season, then Caps fans should be concerned. The translation of the article is rough as it comes from Google Translate, but the gist of it is that he came to North America after a breakout postseason performance in the SHL under the assumption he would be in the NHL. It does not seem like he was expecting to be sent to Hershey. Jonsson-Fjallby has tremendous speed, but the North American game takes some time to adjust to. To think he would simply step into an NHL lineup, especially for a championship team that returned most of its roster, seems presumptive. Hopefully, someone gets in his ear in the offseason and he comes to training camp next season with more realistic expectations for what his role will be and what it will take to get there. I do not foresee him coming back next season and stepping right into the NHL without any time in the AHL.
     
  • Chase Priskie recorded his 100th career NCAA point. Here’s what his head coach, Rand Pecknold, had to say about him: “He’s such a high character person. I think he had a 3.95 GPA last semester. He’s going to graduate with his undergraduate and MBA in six years of schooling in four, you can’t say enough good things about him. He’s been a great captain, obviously having a great year. He’s been our best player this year.”
     
  • Benton Maass has missed the last six games for New Hampshire due to a shoulder injury, but head coach Mike Souza said Maass will return to action this weekend.
     
  • Steven Spinner has missed the last four games for Nebraska Omaha. He is serving a six-game suspension imposed to him by the team for a violation of team rules.

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Capitals prospect report: Ilya Samsonov earns first AHL win

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Capitals prospect report: Ilya Samsonov earns first AHL win

Things were not going too well for the Hershey Bears or for prospect goalie Ilya Samsonov at the start of the season.

The Bears did not earn a single point through their first five games. Samsonov, meanwhile, struggled through his first starts and then suffered a lower-body injury that kept him out for about a week.

Things, however, are finally starting to look up.

Samsonov returned from his injury to earn his first AHL win on Saturday. He stopped 19 of 22 shots against rival Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and also stopped both shootout shots he faced in the 4-3 win. Samsonov is now 1-3-0 on the season with a .860 save percentage and 3.70 GAA. Those stats certainly aren’t great, but the switch from European hockey to North American hockey is typically a difficult one. He should improve as the season moves on.

Just as Vitek Vanecek was forced to take the net briefly with Samsonov out, Samsonov may be given a similar task this week as Vanecek is dealing with an upper-body injury. Hershey has games on Friday, Saturday and Sunday so it certainly seems probable that Samsonov will get at least two of those starts.

Other Capitals Prospect Notes

·        The hot start continues for Liam O’Brien who scored two more goals over the weekend. He currently leads Hershey in both goals (6) and points (7). O’Brien looks like a high-end AHL player, but I am skeptical of his NHL prospects. He would certainly be a fourth line type of player, but if he can show he can be offensively productive and not just someone looking for the first opportunity to drop his gloves, there is still a chance, albeit a slim one, for him to climb into the NHL roster.

·        Riley Barber was held without a goal through the first six games of the season, but finally found the back of the net twice over the week with a goal in both Saturday and Sunday’s wins. Barber led the Bears in goals last season with 20 which made his slow start to the season a bit of a surprise. He is still someone hoping to break into the NHL so let’s see if these two goals open the scoring floodgates a bit for him.

·        Fresh off his player of the week honors,  Vanecek stayed hot with a 34-save win Sunday over Lehigh Valley. In his last five games, Vanecek is 3-1-0-1 with a .938 save percentage and 1.97 GAA.

·        While everyone has Samsonov penciled in as the Caps’ future starter in net, Vanecek is intent on disputing that. “Vitek wants to show people what he can do because I think he is getting a little bit lost behind Samsonov,” Bears vice president of hockey operations Bryan Helmer said. “He’s like, ‘hey, I’m still down here, too.’ He has that little bit of motivation to make himself better and … if he keeps going the way he’s going, he’s going to be successful in the NHL. If it is with Washington, it’s a pretty good one-two punch with Samsonov and Vitek down the road. To be honest, I think [Vanecek’s] ceiling is right up there with Samsonov. He’s getting better each year he has been over here.” Read Chris Kuc’s full story on Vanecek here.

·        Shane Gersich scored the shootout winner to lift Hershey past Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Saturday.

·        Beck Malenstyn scored his first professional goal in Saturday’s win.

·        Alexander Alexeyev was named the WHL On the Run Player of the Week on Monday. Among defenseman, Alexeyev is tied for first with seven goals and tied for second with 20 points.

·        Alexeyev’s recent play caught the eye of The Hockey News’ Ryan Kennedy who named him one of the hottest prospects in the hockey world. He wrote, “The league’s player of the week, Alexeyev is a Washington Capitals first-rounder who plays a great two-way game, complete with size and skating. At his best, he can control the play and right now his 20 points through 15 games ties him for tops among defensemen in the league. NHL arrival: 2020-21” Read the full article here.

·        Kody Klark signed an entry-level deal with the Caps last week. Naturally, plenty of people reached out to the proud father Wendel Clark for his reaction. “He’s extended his game, he’s earned three more years of trying to get to the next level,” Wendel said of his son. “Now he has to put the weight on, but I’ve told him there are no skinny guys in the Clark family, it’ll come.” See the full story here on Canoe.com. Clark has had a bit of a slow start to the season in the OHL, but he managed a goal and an assist on Sunday and hopefully, that will spark a hot streak from him.

·        It’s been a tough start to the season for the University of New Hampshire, as the Wildcats entered this past weekend without a win. They are winless no more, however, thanks to prospect defenseman Benton Maass, who scored the overtime-winning goal over the Catamounts of Vermont on Saturday.

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Capitals Prospect report: Despite a rumored return to Sweden, Jonsson-Fjallby remains in Hershey

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NBCSW/Scout Pruski

Capitals Prospect report: Despite a rumored return to Sweden, Jonsson-Fjallby remains in Hershey

It’s a brand new season in Hershey. The Bears had a rough 2017-18 campaign, finishing last in the Atlantic Division and missing the playoffs. This season, the Bears look like a completely new team with the addition of several Caps prospects including Swedish forward Axel Jonsson-Fjallby.

The rumor mill this week had some wondering if Jonsson-Fjallby was going to take his golden locks back home to Sweden after only two games in the AHL. Rumors spread Monday and Tuesday saying he was going to return to his SHL team Djurgardens IF, but those rumors are untrue.

I reached out to Hershey and was told that Jonsson-Fjallby remains in Hershey and there are no plans for him to return to Sweden at this time.

Hershey also tweeted out this update to prove Jonsson-Fjallby was still with the team.

You do not know what a player’s specific situation is when it comes to family or how he is adjusting to living in a new country, but from a pure hockey perspective, Jonsson-Fjallby would be wise to stay in Hershey. There he can adjust to the North American game and better position himself to compete for a spot on the Caps in the coming years.

There could even be an outside chance of a call-up this year if the need arises.

Jonsson-Fjallby’s best asset is his speed. If there’s a situation in which the Caps need to plug a player in its fourth line for a game or two, Jonsson-Fjallby could be a good choice because of that speed. Obviously, Shane Gersich or Riley Barber would probably look like better candidates for longer-term call-ups, but it does not seem out of the realm of possibility that Jonsson-Fjallby could be considered if the Caps suffer a few injuries among the team’s forwards.

That obviously won’t happen if he goes back to Sweden.

The fact is, the North American game can be hard to adjust to. Not many players can play in Europe and then step directly into the NHL and be effective. Just ask Sergei Shumakov.

A move back to Sweden for Jonsson-Fjallby would be a step in the wrong direction for his NHL career. Luckily for him, there appears to be no truth to the rumors that he was planning on leaving.

Other Prospect Notes:

·        Hershey has elected to start the season without naming a captain. Instead, the team will go with six alternate captains. Riley Barber, Liam O’Brien and Aaron Ness will wear the A for home games while Tyler Lewington, Michael Sgarbossa and Colby Williams will get the A for away games.

·        Ilya Samsonov started in the Bears’ opening game on Saturday in what was his first ever professional start in North America. Hershey lost the game 3-2 to Syracuse with Samsonov making 28 saves on 31 shots.

·        The seasons for junior hockey leagues are in full swing. In the WHL, Eric Florchuk is off to a hot start with three goals and eight points in eight games for Saskatoon. He was named the WHL’s third star for Oct. 3. Teammate Kristian Roykas-Marthinsen has two goals and three points. Riley Sutter has two goals and six points in six games for Everett. Alex Alexeyev has been red hot to start with three goals and nine points in seven games for Red Deer. In the OHL, Kody Clark has three goals and four points in nine games for Ottawa.

·        Ryan Kennedy named defenseman Benton Maass No. 15 in The Hockey News’ top 75 players to watch in NCAA. Writes Kennedy, “The sophomore offensive defenseman got off to a hot start as a frosh; can the Washington Capitals pick hit another level this year?” Maass scored four goals and 17 points in his freshman season at the University of New Hampshire.

·        Forward Steven Spinner has been named an alternate captain for his senior season at Nebraska-Omaha.

·        The Capitals chose not to sign prospect defenseman Dmitri Zaitsev (whose first name I have seen spelled in four different ways since he was drafted) to an entry-level contract in the offseason, thus forfeiting his rights. Zaitsev was drafted in the seventh round of the 2016 NHL Draft by the Capitals and spent the last two seasons playing for Moose Jaw of the WHL. Since not getting signed by the Capitals, he returned to his native Russia and has split time between the KHL and MHL. 

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