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What others are saying about Caps' top pick

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What others are saying about Caps' top pick

While the Capitals’ amateur scouts continue sifting through their draft charts for today’s second day of the NHL draft, here are a few more nuggets on goaltender Ilya Samsonov, the goaltender they took Friday night with the 22nd pick:

Last season: Samsonov finished the 2014-15 regular season with an 11-4-1 record, 2.66 goals-against average, .918 save percentage and two shutouts with Magnitogorsk in the Russian junior league. He also appeared in one game for Mike Keenan’s Metallurg Magnitogorsk in the Kontinental Hockey League.

Internationally: Samsonov recorded a 46-save shutout in the bronze-medal game at the 2014 World Junior A Challenge to lead Russia to a 2-0 win over Canada East. Overall, he finished the tournament with a 2-1-0 record, 1.67 goals-against average and .952 save percentage. He recorded two wins and a .942 save percentage to earn top goaltender honors at the 2015 Under-18 Five Nations tournament. He also represented Russia at the 2014 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge.

Likens himself to: Samsonov’s favorite player is Blue Jackets goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, who went undrafted. He said he also models his game after Montreal’s Cary Price and Tampa’s Ben Bishop.

Historic hometown: Samsonov hails from Magnitogorsk, Russia, the same hometown as Pittsburgh Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin and New York Islanders forward Nikolay Kulemin.

What they’re saying:   

“Combines essential elements of size and athletic ability to be imposing in the net and make scoring difficult. He is very aware and reads the play well and is quick to close down the net. An ultra competitor who never gives up on a play. With normal technical refinement, he can become a star.” – TSN

“He has good size and covers the net well. He plays at the top of the crease and effectively squares to the shooter. He shows good instincts, is well-balanced and can make acrobatic saves.” NHL.com

“Don’t be surprised if someone breaks from recent tradition and uses a number one pick on this goaltender. Best goalie of the bunch at this point so far. Is fundamentally sound but can also abandon structure to ‘just make a save.’ Already has NHL size for a goaltender.” - Sportsnet’s Jeff Marek

“Samsonov wowed scouts with his play in Russia’s junior hockey league this past season, where he sported a 2.66 goals-against average and a .918 save percentage to go along with an 11-4-1 record. He also turned in some spectacular play at the Under-18 Five Nations tournament, World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, and World Junior A Challenge.” - Sportsnet’s Scott Lewis

“Samsonov is one of many good goaltender prospects who have come out of Russia lately. He is considered by some to be the best one since Andrei Vasilevsky. His big size and the ability to make big saves impresses scouts the most. Although there are concerns about his consistency and the fact that he barely competed against top competitors, Samsonov has the talent to become a starting goalie at the NHL level.”— Hockey Prospectus’ Dennis Schellenberg

MORE CAPITALS: A CLOSER LOOK AT SAMSONOV

 

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Capitals are sticking with Chandler Stephenson on the top line… for now

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USA TODAY Sports

Capitals are sticking with Chandler Stephenson on the top line… for now

With Tom Wilson still serving a 20-game suspension, Washington Capitals head coach Todd Reirden has the difficult task of finding a wing to complement his top line of Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov. For the first four games of the season, that player was Brett Connolly.

On Saturday, however, he changed things up and went with Chandler Stephenson instead.

Just 18 seconds into the game, Stephenson made his head coach look very smart as he finished off a 2-on-1 with Kuznetsov to score his first goal of the season.

“Obviously, the start was great,” Reirden said after the game.

Stephenson is an incredibly fast skater and the extra speed seemed to add another dimension to that line that opponents had to contend with, and it led to both of the Caps’ goals on the night.

In addition to Stephenson’s goal, Ovechkin drew a tripping penalty in the second period, and Washington scored on the resulting power play.

“Those guys are a lot of fun to play with,” Stephenson said. “They just know where to be and can find each other. I've just got to get the puck to them and just go to the net with your stick on the ice, and they'll find you.”

The top line’s success was a matter of finding instant chemistry as Stephenson had very little time to adjust. The Caps were off on Friday following back-to-back games, and Reirden did not make the switch of putting Stephenson on the top until Saturday’s morning skate.

Putting a new top line together with little time to practice does not seem like an ideal scenario, but according to Kuznetsov, the level of familiarity between all the players made the adjustment quick and easy.

“It doesn't matter with who you play,” he said. “In this locker room, we can communicate with anybody. We don't have a first line, we don't have a fourth line. We try and roll all lines.”

Reirden seemed pleased with the new trio after the game saying, “They did a number of good things during the game as well, so they I thought accomplished a lot. I thought [Stephenson] brought the speed on the forecheck and was able to at least go after their defense a little bit and force some turnovers that Kuznetsov and [Ovechkin] were able to at least get some opportunities from. So I think that's important to have him in that situation.”

Reirden was happy enough with the top line’s performance to keep them together. The team is off Monday, but Stephenson remained on the top line during Sunday’s practice.

But so long as Wilson remains out, finding the right match for the top line will remain a work in progress.

Said Reirden, “We’ll continue to try to put together our four lines that give us the best chance.”

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NHL Power Rankings: Not every night is a big-time game for the Capitals

NHL Power Rankings: Not every night is a big-time game for the Capitals

There was a lot of excitement to start the season for the Caps. First, there was the home-opener and the banner raising against the Boston Bruins. Then there was a trip to Pittsburgh to take on the rival Penguins. After that, it was a Stanley Cup Final rematch against the Vegas Golden Knights.

And all of that was followed up with a trip to Newark.

CHECK OUT THIS WEEK’S NHL POWER RANKINGS HERE

With all due respect to New Jersey, given the slate the Caps faced to start the season, it was no real surprise to see the team struggle to get up for Thursday’s game against the Devils, a game in which the Caps were blown out 6-0. Of all the games Washington faced to start the season, the trip to New Jersey was definitely the least exciting.

But not every game is going to be a big rivalry matchup or a playoff rematch. With every team gunning for the Caps, they better make sure they can get themselves ready for the grind of an 82-game season that won’t always feature a big-time matchup.

A trip to Newark may not be flashy or exciting, but it still counts as two points.

The Caps dropped the game in New Jersey and lost a tight contest against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Where do they stand now after two straight losses?

FIND OUT HERE IN THIS WEEK'S NHL POWER RANKINGS

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