With outdoor temperatures climbing into the 90s, the ice inside Germain Arena was not ideal for making tape-to-tape passes in Saturday’s rookie game between the Capitals and Florida Panthers.
But that wasn’t enough to dampen the enthusiasm of Hershey Bears coach Troy Mann following the Caps’ 2-1 shootout loss in Estero, Fla.
“It would have been nice to get a win because so many positive things happened in the game,” Mann told reporters after the first of three rookie scrimmages. (The Caps and Lightning will face off Sunday night at 7 p.m., followed by a Tuesday morning game against the Nashville Predators).
Eighteen-year-old defenseman Connor Hobbs, a fifth-round pick of the Caps in the 2015 draft, scored the lone goal for the Caps in the second period on a pass attempt that found its way through Florida goaltender Sam Brittain. Hobbs is expected to return to the Regina Pats this season for his first full year under former NHL coach John Paddock.
Four different Capitals hit the post in Saturday’s scrimmage – Riley Barber and Travis Boyd in the second period and Jakub Vrana and Chandler Stephenson in the third – and goaltender Vitek Vanecek was sharp the entire game, his only blemish coming on a Connor Brickley wrist shot with 13:51 gone in the third period.
“I thought Stephenson was very good,” Mann told reporters. “Vrana obviously has skill level. I thought there was a little too much one-on-one play where he felt he could beat everybody.”
Mann was also impressed by the play of Boyd and free-agent forward Tim McGauley, whom he called “very good” at transitioning the puck.
On the back end, Mann said he liked the first defensive pairing of Jonas Siegenthaler, 18, and Madison Bowey, 20. Siegenthaler, a second-round pick by the Caps in June, is expected to return to Switzerland next week, while Bowey is tabbed for his first season in Hershey. Mann also liked what he saw from defenseman Christian Djoos, 21, a seventh-round pick in 2012 also ticketed for Hershey.
“Overall we were real happy with how the defense played in general,” Mann said. “But up front we could really use a little bit more of a push from some guys like the (Caleb) Herberts and those kind of guys that can give us a little bit more as the tournament progresses.”
These are the line combinations and defense pairing Mann used on Saturday:
Jakub Vrana – Chandler Stephenson – Riley Barber
Caleb Herbert – Travis Boyd – Liam O’Brien
Nathan Walker – Miles Koules – Kevin Elgestal
Tim McGauley – Trevor Cox – Derek Deblois
Jonas Siegenthaler – Madison Bowey
Christian Djoos – Tyler Lewington
Keoni Texeira – Connor Hobbs
Free agent defensemen Alex Basso and Dan Gibb and free agent right wing Cole Wilson were healthy scratches on Saturday. Free agent goaltender Taran Kozun is expected to get the start on Sunday.
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