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Prospect report: WIth Zach Sanford gone, Caps must rely on Hershey for depth

Prospect report: WIth Zach Sanford gone, Caps must rely on Hershey for depth

Hershey update: 28-17-8-3, 5th in the Atlantic Division. Last week: 2-1-0-0

You can officially scratch Zach Sanford off the Capitals prospect list.

Sanford was shipped to St. Louis as part of the trade package that landed the Capitals Kevin Shattenkirk. While that may be good news for the Caps, it is also bad news for the Hershey Bears who now stand to lose two key forwards.

Wait, two?

Before the Shattenkirk trade, the Capitals looked set on carrying Sanford and Jakub Vrana as forward depth for the playoffs. With Sanford now gone, that will mean more time over the last stretch of the season for Vrana in the NHL. Even when Andre Burakovsky returns from injury, the Caps may still choose to keep Vrana around to keep him practicing with the team. I would expect to see him with the Caps for most if not all of the remainder of the regular season and for the team to keep cycling through other Hershey forwards in search of who may be the best fit in case of multiple postseason injuries. Forwards like Riley Barber.

Barber had a busy week. With the injury to T.J. Oshie, the forward prospect was recalled from Hershey and played in the first three NHL games of his career. He registered two shots on goal against the Edmonton Oilers. Following Saturday’s game in Nashville, Barber was sent down to the AHL where he earned an assist in Sunday’s loss to Bridgeport. He was then recalled again for the Caps' game in New York on Tuesday and returned to the AHL prior to the NHL’s trade deadline on Wednesday.

Barber spoke with the blog Russian Machine Never Breaks about what is was like to achieve his dream and finally make it to the NHL. You can read it here.

Although Barber’s ultimate goal is to earn a spot on the NHL roster rather than just play in three games as a callup, the fact that he has made it this far as a sixth-round draft pick is a remarkable success.

One player who seemed likely to earn a call-up this season was Nathan Walker. A late-season hand injury, however, has put that on hold.

Walker is currently considered week-to-week. As the season goes on, the goal for these Hershey call-ups becomes less about giving players experience and more about getting ready for the playoffs so the clock may be ticking for Walker to make his debut this season.

Fox Sports wrote a feature on the young Aussie with some glowing words from head coach Barry Trotz who believes Walker will get called up either this year or next.

Another part of the Shattenkirk trade that affects the Bears directly is Pheonix Copley. Washington also acquired the goalie and former Bear as part of the deal. Washington needed to grab a third goalie not just for their sake, but for Hershey’s.

Joe Canata was signed to be Washington’s No. 3 this season and to play in tandem in the AHL with Vitek Vanecek. That plan has not worked and the goaltending has been an issue for the Bears. Vanecek is as much to blame for that as Canata. After a hot start, Vanecek has struggled and has a 2.69 GAA and .905 save percentage for the season.

The addition of Copley is not a sign that the team has given up on Vanecek by any means. After all, the team elected to keep him and trade away Canta. But at only 21 years old, Vanecek remains very much a work in progress.

Stanislav Galiev stayed hot with two goals Friday against Hartford. He now has 17 goals and 28 points in 36 games for the Bears this season. Many have wondered why he has not been recalled at some point this season, but with several up and coming prospects within the organization, it certainly appears as if the team is ready to move on. That point was further emphasized prior to the trade deadline as Isabelle Khurshudyan reported the Capitals were shopping him.

General manager Brian MacLellan stated after the trade for Shattenkirk that the St. Louis Blues “insisted” on Sanford being part of the deal. I have to wonder if one of Washington’s first proposals included Galiev instead.

As well as Galiev has played of late, no one had a better week than defenseman Christian Djoos who recorded five points in Hershey’s three games. He is now riding a five-game point streak for the third time this season and is now tied for fourth among AHL defensemen with 38 points.

Travis Boyd reached a milestone with the Bears over the weekend. Boyd’s goal Friday was his 100th career AHL point. He is currently second on the team in points with 45.

In other Bears news, the Capitals signed defenseman Colby Williams to a two-year entry-level contract on Thursday. The team also signed free agent forward Mason Mitchell to a two-year, entry-level contract. He will join the Bears on a tryout agreement.

Washington’s 2016 first round pick, Lucas Johansen, was signed to a three-year entry-level contract as well. He is currently playing with the Kelowna Rockets in the WHL, but is expected to play for Hershey next season.

You can see more details on the signings here.

RELATED: Trotz wants Caps to make sure they're in playoff mode

Other prospect notes:

Ilya Samsonov’s KHL team, Metallurg Magnitogorsk, won its first round series against Kunlun Red Star 4-1 with a dominant 8-2 win on Thursday. After starting Game 1, Samsonov appeared in only one other game when he came on in relief in Game 4, stopping all 11 shots in faced in his team’s only loss of the series.

Two Caps prospects squared off over the weekend as Shane Gersich and North Dakota took on Steven Spinner’s Nebraska-Omaha team. The teams split the two games with one win apiece, but Spinner won the head-to-head matchup with two goals in Friday’s game, both scored within two minutes apart.

It was a rare down week for Gersich as he was held off the scoresheet completely in both of North Dakota’s games. That, however, should not take away from the monster season he is having.

“Shane Gersich came into our program two years ago as a first-year freshman and had a pretty good impact in the national championship game scoring a goal on the fourth line,” said head coach Brad Berry. “He came in this year and wanted more. He got stronger, he’s very fast, his skating ability is one of his best assets as far as skating, and he’s on that top line with Tyson Jost and Brock Boeser, and he’s been the guy that consistently does things over and over again. He’s been consistent in his work habits, and he’s been consistently showing up on the score sheet. It’s no coincidence the success he’s had.”

Gersich leads North Dakota in points with 34 (19 goals, 15 assists).

Brian Pinho and Chase Priskie also lead their respective teams in points. Pinho is currently on a point-per-game pace with 34 points in 34 games for Providence. At Quinnipiac, Priskie finished the regular season tied for the team lead in points with 25, despite the fact that he is a defenseman.

MORE CAPITALS: Shattenkirk's Twitter handle is one big poop joke

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Newest Caps defenseman Radko Gudas happy for a fresh start in D.C.

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Newest Caps defenseman Radko Gudas happy for a fresh start in D.C.

Radko Gudas was surprised, but also relieved. A different year in Philadelphia, where everything seemed to go wrong for the Flyers, is behind him now. He plays for the Capitals now. 

 

“I was a little bit shocked to be honest,” Gudas said in a conference call on Tuesday. “But when I heard where I'm going, I was pretty happy that I got traded to a team that's well known for their winning and their will to win every game they play.”

 

It capped a whirlwind few days for the 29-year-old, a polarizing figure in the sport along the lines of Washington forward Tom Wilson. Gudas has been suspended four times by the NHL Department of Player Safety. To say he plays the game on the edge is an understatement.

 

“Staying on right line of suspensions: It's always tough lately in the hockey these last few years,” Gudas said. “I worked on it in the summer and I thought I adjusted the game enough to still be able to play physical, just not be a liability out there for my team. It's always something hard to adjust, but we still have to do it. It's our job.”

 

In the midst of a rough year for Philadelphia that saw a coach firing and a late playoff surge fall short, Gudas took advantage of increased ice time – and cut his penalty minutes to 63 from a high of 116 when he joined the Flyers four years earlier. He will never be a big offensive threat, but he’s figured out how to suppress shots and play a reliable defensive game.

 

At a friend’s wedding in the Czech Republic on Friday when he got the news, Gudas received messages from his new teammates and wasn’t even sure who, exactly, of the Capitals coaches he spoke with. There was a lot going on. But he’s excited to play “for a well oiled machine” like Washington, which has its 2018 Stanley Cup and has won the Metropolitan Division four years in a row. 

 

Gudas knows fellow Washington defenseman Michal Kempny, 29, well. The two men were born just three months apart in 1990 and were teammates on the World Juniors under-18 Czech Republic team in 2008. They reconnected in 2017 for the Czech Republics’ entry in the IIHF World Championships. Jakub Vrana, 23, is a third Czech on one of the NHL’s most diverse rosters and played with Gudas at the 2019 World Championships. Kempny was still recovering from a torn hamstring sustained during the regular season. 

 

That familiarity is nice, but Gudas has been traded before when Tampa Bay sent him to Philadelphia in 2015. You just adjust to the role given with your new team. He’s ready for a fresh start with the Capitals. 

 

“They’re the winners from last year, they were the contenders this year,” Gudas said. “They always have a good team. They in the playoffs every year all these years. Play my simple game, the guys to know what to expect for me and know I’ll be there for them.”

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Capitals Talk hosts "Capitals On the Clock" special: How to watch, live stream, listen

Capitals Talk hosts "Capitals On the Clock" special: How to watch, live stream, listen

With the NHL Draft just a few days away in Vancouver and after countless mock drafts, NBC Sports Washington will have you covered as the Capitals decide who to take with the 25th overall pick.

As part of NBC Sports Washington's coverage of the NHL Draft, the Capitals Talk Podcast will host 'Capitals On the Clock: Draft Night' on linear television and as a live stream on the NBC Sports MyTeams app.

Capitals Talk will sit down with Rob Carlin, Grant Paulsen, Al Koken, Michael Jenkins, J.J. Regan and Brian McNally to discuss the Capitals the 2019 Draft. They'll be joined by Zack Fisch, Manager of Media Relations & Broadcasting with the Hershey Bears, who will shed light on who's ready to make the jump from the AHL to the NHL.

The live stream will also include an NHL and Capitals Draft trivia segment which fans will be able to play along with.

And if you haven't already downloaded the MyTeams App, you can do so right now, RIGHT HERE.

Capitals Talk Podcast "Capitals on the Clock" Special

When: 8 p.m. Friday June 21

Where: NBC Sports Washington and NBC Sports MyTeams App

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