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Capitals prospect report: The chocolate and white is feeling a bit black and blue

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USA Today

Capitals prospect report: The chocolate and white is feeling a bit black and blue

The Hershey Bears won their first game of the season on Tuesday, beating rival Wilkes-Barre/Scranton 3-2. That’s the good news. The bad news is that Hershey is now 1-5 on the season and sits in last place in the Atlantic Division.

The Bears missed the playoffs last season meaning a 1-5 start to this season is not sitting well for fans of the storied AHL franchise.

The roster in Hershey looks much improved compared to last season. So why are they struggling and how do they turn things around?

The biggest issue to me is cohesion. Head coach Spencer Carbery is in his first season with the team. In addition, this roster has had a lot of turnover. Caps prospects Shane Gersich, Juuso Ikonen, Axel Jonsson-Fjallby, Max Kammerer, Beck Malenstyn, Garrett Pilon, Brian Pinho, Tobias Geisser and Ilya Samsonov are all making their AHL debuts this season. Other additions such as Michael Sgarbossa, Jayson Megna and Sergei Shumakov makes this roster largely a collection of players who have not played together before. There were going to be growing pains, but the Bears are going to get better as the season goes along.

    Another issue has been injuries.

    Samsonov became just the latest in a long list of players on the shelf due to injury. It was announced on Wednesday that he suffered a lower-body injury and is considered day-to-day. He did not dress for the team’s game that night and Hershey was forced to sign a local goalie, Padraig Carey, to an amateur tryout agreement to serve as the backup to Vitek Vanecek.

    Hershey recalled goalie Parker Milner from the ECHL on Thursday.

    In addition to Samsonov’s injury, Kris Bindulis, Colby Williams, Riley Barber, Ikonen and Shumakov are all dealing with upper-body injuries while Mason Mitchell has a lower-body ailment.

    Other prospect notes:

    • With so many new players, several have reached early career milestones. Pilon (2 assists), Kammerer (3 assists), Malenstyn (1 assist) and Jonsson-Fjallby (1 goal) all recorded their first AHL points over the week. Here’s a look at Jonsson-Fjallby’s goal:
       

    • Jonsson-Fjallby remains in Hershey despite rumors last week of a return to Sweden. Those rumors seem to have originated from Sweden and now it looks like any speculation of Jonsson-Fjallby leaving for his home country have been put to bed. Swedish outlet Expressen spoke with Joakim Eriksson, sports director of Jonsson-Fjallby’s Swedish team Djurgarden. In that report published Monday, Eriksson said (as translated by Google translate), “Axel has a contract with Washington and no other team. It's Axel's decision altogether, but we have said that we have a place available and that's how the situation has been. Everything else has just been media speculation.”
       
    • The blog Russian Machine Never Breaks made a trek out to Hershey and spoke with Ilya Samsonov about his transition to North America and his start in the AHL. “For so long, as you understand, I spent my whole life speaking a different language,” Samsonov said. “So, for now, it’s hard for me to hear what my teammates are saying on the ice. Some things I don’t understand, but I’m trying, and I think I’ve made a step forward in that regard.” Check out the full interview and article here.
       
    • I spoke with Capitals coach Scott Murray recently on Samsonov and the language barrier. “He actually did a really good job this summer,” Murray said. “He stayed in the US and did a really good job bridging that gap and then obviously we’ve made it a point and he’s made it a point that he wants to continually get better at the English language so that we can communicate because when you can communicate it’s way easier to teach, it’s way easier for him to learn and be engaged.”
       
    • Vanecek got his first win of the season on Wednesday and the Penguins made him earn it. He turned aside 40 shots in the effort, a new career-high for him.
       
    • Defenseman Tyler Lewington scored on Sunday against Rockford. It was his first goal since Nov. 11, 2017. You can see the replay of it here:  

    • Riley Sutter was named first star of the game on Saturday in Everett’s win over Kamloops in the WHL. He scored two goals and an assist to help lead Everett to the 7-2 victory.
       

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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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    Capitals trim two more from roster, sending pair of goalies to Hershey

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    Capitals trim two more from roster, sending pair of goalies to Hershey

    Washington made a number of cuts early Saturday morning to trim their roster down to 43 players. On Saturday night, they cut it down to 41 as the team announced goalies Parker Milner and Adam Morrison were assigned to AHL Hershey.

    Milner and Morrison’s departure leaves Washington with four goalies on the current roster in Braden Holtby, Pheonix Copley, Vitek Vanecek and Ilya Samsonov.

    The trade of Philipp Grubauer left the backup role in Washington a matter of some question heading into the season, but the team’s top four was never really in doubt. Saturday’s move to send Milner and Morrison to the AHL only confirms what we already knew.

    With Hershey’s training camp set to start on Monday, the Bears will obviously need two goalies which explains why the move was made now. 

    This will likely only be a temporary move, however, as Vanecek and Samsonov are likely to be Hershey’s goalies heading into the regular season. For now, keeping them on the Capitals roster allows them to continue practicing against better competition and will allow them the opportunity for more work in the preseason.

    The Capitals still have another three preseason games left to play, the next of which will take place on Tuesday in St. Louis. 

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