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Prospect Report: Connor Carrick earns NHL call-up

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Prospect Report: Connor Carrick earns NHL call-up

Hershey update: 14-6-1-5, 2nd in the Atlantic Division. Last week: 2-0-0-0

Connor Carrick continued his offensive tear this week with two goals in Hershey's win over Binghamton on Saturday. Last week, I wrote that it would not be surprising to see Carrick get recalled by the Caps based on his current play. Sure enough, on Thursday the Caps announced they had recalled the young defenseman to Washington, swapping him for Aaron Ness.

Whether he will actually get into a game, however, remains to be seen. Ness was with the team for five games and did not break into the lineup once. Brooks Orpik remains sidelined by a nagging injury meaning Carrick is the seventh defenseman and the "next man up" should anything happen to the top six. The amount of confidence he's playing with right now may just earn him an NHL game on this assignment just to see what he can do.

“He’s got a lot of confidence right now,” head coach Barry Trotz said. “I don’t know if I’m going to put him in or not. We’ll just see. If someone gets hurt maybe he goes in and shows us what he can do. If nothing else, we get a little bit of a snapshot. Even in practice you can tell he’s got lots of confidence and swagger because he’s playing well.”

You can see highlights of Carrick's two-goal game from Saturday here:

Note: On Carrick's second goal, the announcer incorrectly identifies Sean Collins as the goal scorer.

Carrick shows supreme confidence in his first goal as he takes the puck off the boards, skates to center, turns his body and unleashes a monster slap shot into the back of the net. Unfortunately, he also demonstrates some of the defensive issues that remain his biggest question mark. Carrick's weak back check late in the second period allows for the Binghamton goal.

Also in the video is Riley Barber contributing a goal and an assist. He was able to win the battle in front of the net and sweep in a rebound for the goal. Those type of effort plays are hard to teach so it is encouraging to see it from a player in his first professional season. His assist came off a 3-on-2 as the forward line passed the puck with perfect precision with Chandler Stephenson finishing the play off.

One other thing to watch in the video, check out Madison Bowey's big hit. Then remind yourself that he is 20 years old and this is his first year as a pro. Impressive stuff.

Hershey's second game of the week provided much less scoring, but it did provide shootout goals from Carrick and Boyd. You can see it here:

In injury news, Liam O'Brien returned to the lineup on Saturday after missing 12 games with a sprained knee. He tallied two assists in his return.

Hershey head coach Troy Mann also said Monday that Jakub Vrana was ahead of schedule in his recovery. Vrana was expected to be out until February after undergoing surgery on his wrist, but he has resumed skating and it appears he could be ready to return by January.

RELATED: NHL ruling on Wilson expected on Friday

Other prospect notes:

Capitals assistant general manager Ross Mahoney was a guest on the Dec. 11 Hockey Prospects Show on Sirius NHL to talk about the team's prospects. In an interview that lasted a little over 20 minutes, Mahoney talked about Ilya Samsonov, Jonas Siegenthaler, Jakub Vrana, Madison Bowey, Zach Sanford and Chandler Stephenson.

In the college ranks, Sanford squared off with Thomas DiPauli on Dec. 10 as Boston College played Notre Dame. While the Irish got the better of the Eagles in a 4-3 win, Sanford stole the show for Boston College with an assist on each of his team's three goals. DiPauli was held scoreless, snapping a three-game point streak.

Connor Hobbs and Colby Williams continue to produce for Regina of the WHL. Though Hobbs saw his nine-game point streak end on Sunday, he still tallied two goals on the week. He now has 10, tied for second among defensemen in the WHL.

Williams had one goal and also assisted on Hobbs' goal on Friday. His goal in Saturday's game was his 100th WHL point and it just so happened to come in his 200th career game.

In South Carolina, the Stingrays were without goalie prospect Vitek Vanecek who left to join the Czech Republic junior team in preparation for the IIHF World Junior championships. He will be gone for the next three weeks as he is expected to start for the Czech Republic in the tournament.

MORE CAPITALS: Two former Caps named to IIHF Hall of Fame class

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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: What happens in Vegas....

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USA TODAY Sports

Capitals Faceoff Podcast: What happens in Vegas....

It's almost here.

After a lengthy break between the conference finals and the Stanley Cup Finals, the Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights are set to meet on Monday for Game 1.

Who will hoist Lord Stanley's Cup?

JJ Regan and Tarik El-Bashir give their keys to the series and their predictions for the Stanley Cup Final. Plus, JJ speaks with several member from the local media to get their insights and predictions.

Check out their latest episode in the player below or listen on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast page.

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Stanley Cup Final 2018: Players to watch

Stanley Cup Final 2018: Players to watch

It doesn't take an expert to tell you players like Alex Ovechkin or Marc-Andre Fleury will play a big role in the Stanley Cup Final.

Both the Washington Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights will need their best players to be at their best to take home the Cup. But who will be the unexpected heroes? Who are the players no one is talking about who will have a big hand in their team's success or defeat in this series?

Here are five players you should be watching in the Stanley Cup:

1. Devante Smith-Pelly: Smith-Pelly had seven goals in 79 games in the regular season. Now he has four goals in just 19 playoff games.

Smith-Pelly has been one of those unlikely playoff heroes for the Caps this postseason with very timely performances such as scoring the series-clinching goal in Game 6 against the Columbus Blue and scoring the goal that put the game away in Game 6 against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The physical play has really stood out as well for him, which fits well on the fourth line role he has settled back into now that the team is healthy again. Barry Trotz tried moving him to the top line in the absence of Tom Wilson and the results weren't great. He is best suited for the role he currently has and that will allow him to thrive.

2. James Neal: Neal came up just short of the Stanley Cup last season as a member of the Nashville Predators. He totaled nine points in 22 games during that run, a number he has already matched in just 15 games this postseason.

There are very few players on either team that boast the kind of postseason experience Neal has. He will be leaned upon this series for his leadership.

Vegas is a young team and their unprecedented success in the playoffs may make this feel like the first run of many for the Golden Knights, but not for Neal who is on the last year of his contract and came tantalizingly close to the Cup last season. He will play like there is no tomorrow because, for him, there may not be in Vegas.

3. Andre Burakovsky: Burakovsky was one of the heroes of Game 7 with two goals to put away the Tampa Bay Lightning. That marked just the latest peak in a career full of peaks and valleys for the young winger. Just two games before, Burakovsky was a healthy scratch and spoke to the media about his plans to speak with a sports psychologist in the offseason.

The talent is there and it certainly appears that the injury that kept him out earlier in the playoffs is largely behind him. Burakovsky’s issues have always been mainly between the ears. In a series against a fast team with strong depth, he can be an absolutely critical piece for the Caps. Hopefully, his Game 7 performance gave him the confidence he needs to continue to be effective.

4. Ryan Reaves: Vegas acquired both Reaves and Tomas Tatar around the trade deadline. If I were to tell you that through three rounds of the playoffs, both players were healthy, had played the same number of games (6) and had the same number of points (1), you’d think I was crazy. Yet, here we are.

Reaves was largely an afterthought in a complicated trade between Vegas, the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Ottawa Senators, but he has carved a nice role for himself on the Golden Knights’ fourth line and even scored the goal that sent Vegas to the Stanley Cup Final against the Winnipeg Jets.

Reaves is also an agitator on the ice, but what do the Caps do against a player like that when their normal fighter plays on the top line? We may see Reaves and Wilson come to blows this series, but it won't be very often because that is a bad tradeoff for the Caps.

5. Brooks Orpik: The elder statesman of the blue line, Orpik is the only player on the Caps with a Stanley Cup to his name and is the only one who has any idea what this experience is going to be like for the team.

Orpik is very diligent about keeping in shape which has allowed him to play in 81 games this season and all 19 playoff games despite being 37 years old, but you do have to wonder how much is left in the tank. Despite being the favorite whipping boy for the proponents of analytics, his physical play has been effective this postseason. The focus he placed on the skating in the offseason has paid dividends so far in matchups against the speedy Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning, but the Golden Knights will be the fastest team they have played yet. There is no denying Orpik is much more suited towards a physical style of game. Wil he continue to be effective or will Vegas exploit the Caps' third defensive pairing?

MORE CAPITALS PLAYOFF NEWS: