Hershey update: 22-13-3-6, 3rd in the Atlantic Division. Last week: 1-0-1-1
Jakub Vrana made his long-awaited return last week. A wrist injury sidelined him since Oct. 25, but he looked as if he had not lost a step at all.
Though he did not register a point, he generated several opportunities. He was stoned on a breakaway chance by Lehigh Valley goalie Anthony Stolarz on Monday and had a goal waved off on Wednesday for kicking the puck into the net.
Unfortunately, the week ended on a low-note as Vrana's only contribution to the score sheet for the week was a double-minor high sticking penalty in Wednesday's game against Albany when Vrana hit Pierre-Luc Letourneau-LeBlond. An article in the Times Union says of the incident that "Vrana appeared to slash Letourneau-LeBlond on the hand and then cross-check him to the face before skating to the bench."
It's a penalty that will cost Vrana as the AHL announced Friday that he had been suspended for two games.
Madison Bowey continues to impress at the AHL level. Check out the highlights from Monday's game against Lehigh Valley:
Bowey shows great vision on his assist as he is able to find the open Mike Moore even as he is being pressured. More importantly, he is able to make the backhanded cross-ice pass to get Moore the puck through traffic. That's not an easy thing to do. It's a play he can't afford to miss because if that pass is picked off it's an easy breakaway in the other direction for the Phantoms. Bowey, however, is able to draw two players to him and still make the pass to the open Moore who rifles the shot for the goal.
Bowey later shows off his offensive instincts with a goal of his own later in the game. After sending the puck to the corner and behind the net, Bowey follows up the pass and skates to the slot to receive the pass and fire home the easy goal. If you watch the play, Bowey carries the puck past teammate Scott Gomez before he dumps the puck low. He knows Gomez is behind him and the blue line is covered so he is not leaving his team vulnerable by stepping into the play. He could have switched back with Gomez after dumping the puck, but then no one would be in the slot for the quick pass. Bowey may be a young player, but he showed veteran instincts on that goal.
Other prospect notes:
Stars & Sticks is releasing updates on the top Caps prospects. Check out the updates on Shane Gersich who could be a potential steal in the fifth round where he was drafted, Zach Sanford who has top-six potential and Vitek Vanecek who has a tough hill to climb.
For what it's worth, the analysis is very much in-line with my feelings on these three players. Though a bit optimistic in places, the updates are otherwise right on the money.
Gersich has played well in his first collegiate season, but he has a very long way to go before he is NHL ready. Given his size and talent level, he will likely need four years of college to develop. I think he has a bright AHL future, but I'm skeptical as to whether he can be a consisten NHL player. Sanford is someone to keep an eye on. He is enjoying a tremendous year at Boston College and has already surpassed his point total from last season. I think there is definite potential for him to develop into a second or third line center in the NHL.
Vanecek has talent, but he still needs to work on his instincts and positioning. For example, check out the highlights from Saturday's game:
Watch the first goal Vanecek allows and look at where he is in the crease. It takes the opposing forward awhile to corral the puck before he turns around and shoots. Instead of stepping to the front of the crease to challenge him, however, Vanecek has shrunk back in the crease. The shot goes five-hole so positioning was not why he ultimately gave up the goal, he needed to react quicker to protect down low, but he needs to be more aggressive in those situations.
Vanecek was not responsible for the second goal he gave up, it was a great cross-ice pass to the open player, but look how slow Vanecek is to react. He should go post to post, but he does not even complete the slide to cover the far post off the pass. If he immediately stretches the pad to cover the post, he has a chance to make the save.
That's the kind of play Vanecek has shown he can make. He has the talent and reflexes to make that save, but not the instincts. That's something he can work on and develop, but he needs to do it sooner rather than later or he will fall behind the highly touted Ilya Samsonov who is currently competing in the KHL.
MORE CAPITALS: Wikipedia declares the Caps Stanley Cup champs this season