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Prospect report: Playoff time in the WHL

Prospect report: Playoff time in the WHL

Hershey update: 38-19-8-3, 4th in the Atlantic Division. Last week: 1-1-0-0

The Hershey Bears split their two games over the weekend with St. John’s with a 4-3 loss on Saturday and a 2-1 win on Sunday.

Saturday’s loss came in heartbreaking fashion as the Bears gave up the game-winner with just 16 seconds remaining in regulation.

Chandler Stephenson recorded an assist in the game, but gave up an absolutely dreadful turnover for the game-tying goal. From behind his own net, he attempted a no-look back pass that went directly to a St. John’s player who passed it to the slot for the goal.

Jakub Vrana recorded two points in Sunday’s win, including the game-winning goal.

Jonas Siegenthaler made his season debut for the Bears in Sunday’s game. He was a plus-one on the day.

The real star of the weekend for Hershey was goalie Pheonix Copley who started in both games. The young netminder was particularly strong in Sunday’s win, stopping 35 of the 36 shots he faced in the win. Since returning to Hershey, Copley is now 7-2-0 with a 1.94 goals against average and a .942 save percentage.

Travis Boyd and Riley Barber each had a goal and an assist over the weekend for the Bears.

RELATED: Caps show off scoring depth in Colorado

Other prospect notes:

The WHL Playoffs are underway. Lucas Johansen’s Kelowna Rockets jumped out to a 3-1 series lead and are one win away from eliminating Garrett Pilon and the Kamloops Blazers. Johansen and Pilon both have one assist in four games.

The news wasn’t all bad for Pilon, however, as the Caps signed him to a three-year, entry-level deal on Thursday. He will report to Hershey at the end of the WHL season which may come as early as Friday.

Connor Hobbs and the Regina Pats are on the verge of sweeping Beck Malenstyn and the Calgary Hitmen. Regina has outscored Calgary 15-5 in three games. Hobbs has recorded two assists in each game while Malenstyn has yet to record a point.

Dmitriy Zaitsev is locked in a tight battle as his Moose Jaw Warriors are currently locked in a 2-2 series tie with the Swift Current Broncos. He has one assist.

Both Shane Gersich and Brian Pinho saw their seasons come to an end in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

North Dakota loss to Boston University 4-3 in double overtime on Friday. Gersich registered eight shots on goal, but could not get onto the scoresheet. Providence also lost in the first round to Harvard 3-0 on Friday.

There is no word yet on their future plans or if the Capitals have tried to sign either to an entry-level deal. Gersich’s teammate, Brock Boeser, was signed Saturday by the Vancouver Canucks and scored his first goal NHL that afternoon. For any who may have dreams of Gersich or Pinho following suite for the Caps, that’s unlikely to happen.

The Capitals seem pretty set with their lines right now and, if they were to recall anyone as a backup, it would likely be Jakub Vrana or they would stick with Paul Carey. Neither Gersich nor Pinho would likely be the top choice for a Washington team hoping to win the Stanley Cup.

That doesn’t mean the team won’t be interested in signing them and sending them to Hershey, however.

Gersich will be a rising junior at North Dakota, Pinho a rising senior for Providence if they both choose to return to college.

Ilya Samsonov’s KHL team, Metallurg Magnitogorsk, completed a four-game sweep of Ak Bars to advance to the Gagarin Cup Finals for the second consecutive season. They will face SKA starting April 8.

While Siegenthaler returned to Hershey, there will be no such return trip for forward Kevin Elgestal. Elgestal’s season in Sweden was limited to only 25 games after he suffered a broken thumb in January. NOVA Caps caught up with Elgestal to get an update on his progress and it sounds like he will need to continue rehabbing over the summer.

Check out the full update here.

Forward Damien Riat has been selected to Switzerland’s initial team roster for the World Championships. The team will have a two-day training camp starting on April 5. This year’s tournament will be held in Germany and France from May 5 to 21.

For more Capitals coverage, check out the latest edition of the Capitals Faceoff Podcast!

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This Caps Stanley Cup tattoo has everyone's beat

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Twitter/@PeachOmania

This Caps Stanley Cup tattoo has everyone's beat

Since the Washington Capitals won the Stanley Cup for the first time over one month ago, Caps fans, (and players), have rushed to their local tattoo parlor to get some ink commemorating the win.

We've seen the classic Capitals logo with the Stanley Cup, but nothing that comes close to the masterpiece that is Shane Peacher's tattoo.

Peacher tweeted to Joe B and Courtney Laughlin the finished tat: a work of art featuring Alex Ovechkin kissing the Stanley Cup for the first time as it's hoisted over his head.

Joe B replied making sure Shane had enough room on his other tricep for next year.

Shane replied that he's thinking of Evgeny Kuznetsov's iconic celebration that has since been dubbed the "birdman."

Shane got his Caps tattoo at the Helix Tattoo Lodge in Rising Sun, Maryland, by tattoo artist, Justin Holcombe.

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Key Caps questions: Will John Carlson repeat his career year after signing long-term?

Key Caps questions: Will John Carlson repeat his career year after signing long-term?

The dog days of summer are officially here, but it's never too hot to talk some hockey.

Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir and Capitals correspondent JJ Regan are here to help you through the offseason doldrums. They will discuss key questions facing the Caps for the upcoming season as Washington prepares to defend its title for the first time in franchise history.

Today's question: Will John Carlson repeat his career year after signing a long-term contract?

Tarik: When a player has a career year and it coincides with the final year of his contract, the reaction from some fans and media is often a sarcastic, ‘Well, of course he did.’

And I’m sure there are some folks who wonder about Carlson’s breakout season and whether there was a connection between the uptick in his production and the potential of an enormous payday.

Indeed, the 28-year-old established highs in goals (15), assists (53), points (68) and ice time (24:47). He was outstanding in the postseason, too, amassing five goals and 15 assists while playing solidly in his own end to help lead the Caps to their first championship.

The financial reward came a couple of weeks later when he signed an eight-year, $64 million contract to remain in Washington.

Which brings us to today’s question.

It’s obviously impossible to say for sure what’s going to happen, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he had another big season. Why? A few reasons:

  • As good as he was, last year wasn’t a total outlier, either. Carlson racked up 55 points (12 goals, 43 assists) in 2014-15, which was tied for fifth best among blue liners that year.
  • He was at his best last season skating with trade deadline addition Michal Kempny. Kempny, of course, also re-upped, agreeing to a four-year extension. So, in theory, Carlson should be able to pick up where he left off.
  • Carlson has credited Todd Reirden with helping him take his game to new heights. Well, Reirden is now the guy in charge of the whole operation. How could that not help?
  • A major reason Carlson puts up so many points is his role on the power play. And that unit, which really hit its stride in the postseason (29.3-percent), returns all five skaters.
  • Carlson has also been pretty durable, which is critical to being productive. In fact, last season he skated in all of the Caps’ games for the sixth time in eight full-time seasons.

So, yeah, it’s all setting up nicely for Carlson to have a strong 2018-19.

To me, the only unknown is whether he’ll have the same hunger and determination now that he’s got long-term security and that previously elusive championship ring.

Again, that’s impossible to predict. But I can tell you this: Over the course of two decades in this business, I’ve covered lots of players who inked life-changing contracts. With a few of them, I had immediate concerns.

I have no such reservations about Carlson's ability to play up to his new deal, particularly in the first several seasons of it.

JJ: There's nothing wrong with a player being motivated by a new deal, but I am always wary when players have career years on the last year of their contract.

The issue is whether or not a player can continue to play at the level they showed when a new contract is no longer a motivating factor. After signing a new deal for eight years and $64 million, Carlson won't have to think about money or contracts for a long time.

When it comes to motivation, a lot of the questions surrounding the Capitals this year will depend on how they react to winning the Cup. Of course everyone wants to repeat, but psychologically will they come into camp more motivated than ever to defend their title or will they be satisfied with finally winning it all?

For Carlson, there are several reasons to be hopeful. Tarik went over a number of those reasons above, but the two biggest for me are Michal Kempny and Todd Reirden.

This season, Carlson will have Kempny as his partner to start, rather than a cycle of practically every left-handed defenseman on the ice depending on the situation. Second, what Mitch Korn is to goalies, Reirden is to defensemen. With him as the head coach, I believe the ceiling for Carlson will only continue to climb.

Let's also go beyond the numbers. Matt Niskanen suffered an injury early last season that forced Carlson into a primary role on both ends of the ice. He was playing nearly 30 minutes a night and, with two rookies on the blue line who Barry Trotz did everything he could to shelter, those were very hard minutes. Yet, Carlson excelled. The offensive upside was always there, but the way he played defensively was a revelation.

While Dmitry Orlov and Niskanen will remain a solid pair for the Caps, I believe Carlson will be the guy heading into the season which will mean more minutes and more responsibility.

Plus, despite what he meant to the team's defense and despite leading all defensemen in points with 68, Carlson was not selected to participate in the All-Star Game, he was not one of the three finalists for the Norris Trophy and he was not among the four defensemen named to the end of season All-Star team. His incredible season earned him no recognition at all other than his new contract. A $64 million contract is a heck of a consolation prize, but his season deserved more recognition than that.

You don't often see a player of his caliber enter a season with a chip on his shoulder, but Carlson should have a fairly sizable one.

Other key questions

How will the Caps look different under Todd Reirden?
Will the Caps suffer a Stanley Cup hangover?
Can Alex Ovechkin still challenge for another Rocket Richard Trophy?
Has Evgeny Kuznetsov made the jump from really good player to superstar?