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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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Caps invite fans to submit original art for new Capit-Ale design

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Caps News

Caps invite fans to submit original art for new Capit-Ale design

A freshly brewed beer is making its way to Capital One Arena. 

In partner with Devils Backbone Brewing Company, the Caps announced on Monday that starting in September, Capit-Ale India Pale Ale will be available for purchase at Capital One Arena. 

Capit-Ale will be available in two can designs. The first design features the Caps mural installation at L'Enfant Plaza, designed by the Washington, D.C., based artists BroCoLoco.

In efforts to spark excitement for the 2019-20 season, fans are invited to submit original art for a chance to be featured on the second can design.

Designs can be submitted from July 22-Oct.18 and will be selected in January 2020 by Devils Backbone Brewing Company and the Caps.

The winner will receive tickets to a Capitals game, a framed version of their art autographed by Caps players and have their art hung up in the Capital One  Arena Devils Backbone bar. 

The new 16 oz. hoppy brew will also be available on draft at select retail locations in the DMV area. 

This is not the first time Devils Backbone Brewing Company has partnered with a D.C. team. In 2018, they partnered with the Redskins to launch the #ATTR Ale at FedEx Field. 

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20 Burning Capitals Questions: How will the contract situation affect Backstrom and Holtby?

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20 Burning Capitals Questions: How will the contract situation affect Backstrom and Holtby?

The long, endless summer is only halfway done. The Capitals last played a game on April 24 and will not play another one until Oct. 2.

But with free agency and the NHL Draft behind them now, the 2019-2020 roster is almost set and it won’t be long until players begin trickling back onto the ice in Arlington for informal workouts.

With that in mind, and given the roasting temperatures outside, for four weeks NBC Sports Washington will look at 20 burning questions facing the Capitals as they look to rebound from an early exit from the Stanley Cup playoffs, keep alive their Metropolitan Division title streak and get back to their championship form of 2018.

The list will look at potential individual milestones, roster questions, prospects who might help and star players with uncertain futures. Today, we look at Nicklas Backstrom and Braden Holtby who are entering the final year of their contracts.

Will the contract situations hang over their heads all season and affect their play?

Professional athletes face pressure all the time. They have pressure to perform, pressure to make the playoffs, pressure to make a deep run and to win championships. Sometimes the greatest pressure a player can feel, however, comes when they are playing for a contract.

When you watch some of the greatest athletes in the world perform superhuman feats on the ice, it can be easy to forget that these players are also human. These are people with families. While contract numbers can be fun to play with on CapFriendly, we are also talking about people whose given career field has a limited window. They are quite literally playing for the future security of their families.

This brings us to Nicklas Backstrom and Braden Holtby, two players entering the final year of their contracts who also happen to be two of the best players on the team. Backstrom will be 32 by the end of next season and Holtby will be 30. Given their age, the next contract will likely be the last big one of their careers.

With no new update on their respective contracts and the calendar nearing August, it seems very likely, if not probably, that both players will begin the season without a new contract in hand.

One bad season or one bad injury could cause both players potentially millions of dollars. That is also tricky for the team because if the pressure of playing for their next contract messes with their heads, those are two of the team’s best players suffering rough seasons.

If Backstrom and Holtby struggle under the pressure of knowing every night they are playing for their next deals, they certainly would not be the first or last to do so. But let’s not forget who we are talking about here.

If you had to choose the two most unflappable players on the roster, Backstrom and Holtby would both be pretty high on that list. The mentally calm way in which they approach the game suggests both are well-suited to the pressures of a contract year.

While we have grouped both players into a single question as to how they will perform, both of their situations actually look very different.

Backstrom elected to go with security over money in his last contract for 10 years and $67 million. That deal has proven to be an extremely team-friendly contract. According to CapFriendly, Backstrom’s $6.7 million cap hit is only the 65th highest in the league. That’s a bargain for a future Hall-of-Famer in the prime of his career.

While he is certainly entitled to a raise, he also does not strike me as the type of player to hold the team hostage with an outrageous salary ask.

“This is all I know,” Backstrom said at the team’s breakdown day. “It’s crazy, but at the same time it’s a great feeling. I couldn’t ask for anything better from the fans and from the city of Washington.”

It is hard to imagine Backstrom and the team not being able to come to an agreement to keep him in Washington. He is still playing at a high level and, because he has never been an overly fast or overly physical player, he is likely to live up to new contract even in his mid-thirties. For him, there should be less pressure knowing he is likely to be back.

The same cannot be said for Holtby whose future in Washington is far more uncertain.

Much has been written on this topic of late and if you want a real deep-dive into why Holtby is doubtful to return to Washington, you can read my article here. To summarize, the high cost it will take to re-sign Holtby in both money and term as well as the looming Seattle expansion draft and the fact that the team’s top prospect is a goalie make it unlikely the Caps will be able to keep him. That puts even more pressure on Holtby as he faces the possibility of having to move on.

If there is one goalie who you should not worry about mentally, however, it is Holtby.

Holtby set a franchise record in April with his seventh postseason shutout. When asked what that did for his confidence he said, “Nothing. It's a win. We regroup, we know they're going to come harder next game and we'll focus on that."

When Washington was eliminated by the Carolina Hurricanes in a Game 7 double-overtime loss, Holtby said afterward, “Obviously it's disappointing. It's not where we expected to be. It's a hard-fought series and they just ended up making more plays than we did.”

Regardless of whether he is ecstatic or distraught, happy or sad, you can always expect a calm, monotone response from Holtby in the locker room. This does not strike me as a player who will spend the season sweating over a contract.

To say neither player will even think of their contract situations this season would be unrealistic. They are only human. But it seems unlikely that their future contracts will have any major impact on their play because of the personality of both players plus their respective situations. Backstrom in all likelihood will remain with the Caps while Holtby, even though it appears his future will be elsewhere, probably feels a lot better about his situation after seeing Sergei Bobrovsky sign a massive $70 million deal in the offseason.

Both players are level-headed and in good spots even if they do not have contracts beyond 2020.

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