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.
MORE CAPITALS NEWS: