Capitals

Capitals

There are not a whole lot of expectations that come with being drafted 134th overall in the NHL Draft.

The NHL is not the NFL where late-round draft picks routinely surprise every year and manage to make an impact for their respective teams. Very few players ever manage to go straight from the draft to the NHL. Only nine players drafted in 2016 played in the 2016-17 season and of those nine, only four played in over 30 games.

So, you could forgive someone if they did not think much of Shane Gersich’s chances of making the NHL. Gersich, a forward entering his junior season at the University of North Dakota, was a fifth-round pick of the Washington Capitals in 2014 taken 134th overall. Since then, there has not been a lot to say about him.

RELATED: Nathan Walker is 'as close as anybody' to being NHL ready

But that changed in the 2016-17 season. Gersich enjoyed a breakout year with 21 goals and 37 points in just 40 games played. Now there is a different aura about him as he comes to Capitals Development Camp.

Gersich has gone from late-round pick with little potential to one of the top college players in the country.

“I know maybe my expectations are a little higher than going into last year,” Gersich said following Tuesday’s practice. “Obviously last year I wanted to be an impact player and thought I did that, but I wanted to take another jump this year and be someone that can change a game every night.”

 

Gersich’s play last season was enough to set him apart as one of the top players in this year's camp. That, as well as his experience at previous camps, carries with it a certain status among the rest of the prospects.

“It's my fourth year here now so I kind of know what's going on and am more comfortable,” Gersich said. “I want to come in here and show the guys around and be a leader out there. …You're more comfortable with everything, the staff and the facilities. You kind of know what's going on and know what the schedule's like. As you're here more and more, it for sure helps.”

So far that has shown. Gersich was one of the standout players of the day on Tuesday according to Hershey Bears head coach Troy Mann.

And that’s good because Gersich has his eyes set not only on another big year in North Dakota, but on an eventual call-up to the NHL. He does not have to look too far for inspiration.

Gersich’s North Dakota teammate Brock Boeser signed an entry-level contract with the Vancouver Canucks in March and was immediately added to the NHL roster. He would go on to score four goals and five points in just nine games.

Gersich is hoping to pull off something similar with the Caps, but he knows every path to the NHL is a unique one. Development camp is just one small step towards that path.

“I want to play in the NHL like Brock,” Gersich said. “Brock jumped straight to the NHL. Everyone's on their own path though and you just kind of got to stick to your own journey and hopefully things work out.”

MORE CAPITALS: Who still needs a goalie? Possible destinations for Grubauer