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Capitals Prospect Report: McMichael, Has prepare for Dec. 26 start of World Junior Championships

Capitals Prospect Report: McMichael, Has prepare for Dec. 26 start of World Junior Championships

The World Junior Championship begins on Dec. 26 and two Capitals prospects will be there competing. Here's who you need to be watching and a schedule of their games:

Connor McMichael, Canada

1 p.m. on Dec. 26 vs. USA
1 p.m. on Dec. 28 vs. Russia
9 a.m. on Dec. 30 vs. Germany
1 p.m. on Dec. 31 vs. Czech Republic

Martin Hugo Has, Czech Republic

9 a.m. on Dec. 26 vs. Russia
9 a.m. on Dec. 28 vs. Germany
1 p.m. on Dec. 30 vs. USA
1 p.m. on Dec. 31 vs. Canada

Other prospect notes

  • The tournament is over for Aliaksei Protas who represented Belarus in the World Junior Division I, Group A championship, a division below the main tournament.  Belarus played in the final game of the tournament, a 7-2 win over Denmark in which Protas scored two goals and two assists. Those four points put him in a tie as the highest scorer of the tournament with seven points in five games.
  • When McMichael returns to London in the OHL, he will try to continue what has thus far been a breakout season for him with 25 goals and 34 assists in 27 games. Why has he found so much success this season? Ryan Kennedy of The Hockey News says it is a product of the confidence he took from Caps' training camp where he studied the team's centers and how they play. He also spoke a lot with John Carlson who is a former London Knight.
  • Prospect expert Corey Pronman of The Athletic is going over his grades from the 2016 NHL draft. In that draft, Washington selected Lucas Johansen, Garrett Pilon, Damien Riat, Beck Malenstyn, Axel Jonsson-Fjallby, Chase Priskie and Dmitriy Zaitsev. Let's just say Pronman was not overly impressed with that haul. Sure, there are players who could end up seeing NHL time from that group, but Pronman's analysis is that none of these players are definitely NHL players. In that, he is correct. Interestingly, Malenstyn and Jonsson-Fjallby, both taken in the fifth round, are likely the two closest to being NHL ready.
  • The Hershey Bears are enjoying a six-game winning streak that has them up to third place in the Atlantic Division. Over the course of those six games, Mike Sgarbossa and Christian Djoos have led the team with seven points and goalie Vitek Vanecek is 4-0-0. Special teams are contributing as well as the Bears have scored a power play goal in four straight and the PK is clicking at 91.2-percent in those six wins.
  • Catch a glimpse into the life of defenseman Martin Fehervary who is enjoying a successful rookie season in Hershey.
  • Hershey head coach Spencer Carbery has been very consistent with his goalie rotation from last season up to now. Unless there was a call-up, it was always an even split between his two starters. Last year it was Vanecek and Ilya Samsonov, this year Vanecek and Pheonix Copley. That seems to have shifted a bit of late because of the strong play of Vanecek who started both of Hershey's games on Saturday and Sunday and now has four straight. In his past four starts, Vanecek has won all four including one shutout and recorded a 1.00 GAA and a .965 save percentage. 
  • Defenseman Bobby Nardella scored his first professional goal in Sunday's game off a one-timer. After dealing with an injury and with ice time limited because of how many defensemen are currently on the Bears' roster, he has only played in seven games. He has remained productive however, with six points in those seven games. Nardella's play has helped improve Hershey's power play from last in the AHL at 8.9-percent up to 28th at 12.2-percent. Check out the goal below.

 

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Capitals Prospect Report: Gersich takes the next step in his development

gersich_shane.jpg
USA Today Sports Images

Capitals Prospect Report: Gersich takes the next step in his development

In Brendan Leipsic's last year in the WHL, he scored 39 goals and 52 assists in just 60 games. In his last season in the AHL, he scored 51 points in 49 games.

Yet, in the NHL he struggled to find a role that seemed to fit until the Capitals signed him to be a fourth-line player.

He is a good example of why it can be difficult to find depth players in the NHL. Prospects make it to the league by being one of the best players at every level from youth hockey to juniors, to the minors. Then when they reach the NHL, they are suddenly not the best player anymore and their game has to adapt. A player like Leipsic who was a top offensive threat in juniors has to become a different player to earn his keep in the NHL.

So when you read about how prospect Shane Gersich has only eight points in 23 games and is focusing more on his play in his own end, you may take this as a troubling step back, but that would be a mistake.

This reflects a necessary step in his development.

Gersich showed some skill at the University of North Dakota. In his final two seasons there, he produced 37 points and 29 points respectively, both in 40 games.

But he never looked like he was going to be a top producer at the NHL level and was never projected to be. Gersich was drafted in the fifth round of the 2014 draft and always looked to be better suited for a bottom-six role in the NHL. Playing in the bottom six means being strong in your own end of the ice, something Gersich is working on this season as detailed in this profile by NOVA Caps.

Travis Boyd is also a player projected for a bottom-six role. In Hershey, however, his role was always an offensive one. He typically played on the top two lines and did not contribute on the penalty kill. He does have a lot of offensive skill for the AHL game, but ultimately he has struggled to find his place in the Caps' lineup because he does not provide the kind of things usually asked of a third and fourth-line player.

Producing points is always important. no matter what line you are on so of course Boyd is still a player with value. Hopefully Gersich will be able to produce at the NHL level as well.

By playing more of a two-way game in the AHL, however, and focusing on things like defensive play and the penalty kill, Gersich will have a much clearer path to the NHL than he would as just a top-six AHL forward.

Other prospect notes

  • We are a long way off from knowing just how good the Caps' 2019 draft was, but the early returns look pretty darn good. Check out a draft class update from The Hockey Writers.
  • With Team Canada gearing up for the World Junior Championship, there is a lot of attention being paid to Connor McMichael. His tremendous season has caught the attention of many analysts including those at The Hockey News where he is declared the prospect who has shown the most unexpected growth in this awkwardly intimate video. Prospect analyst Craig Button also talks about the role McMichael will have on Team Canada and how he has the skillset to fill just about any forward role on the ice.
  • As teams prepare for the World Junior Championship at the end of the month, Aliaksei Protas' tournament has already begun. Belarus is a level below the top tournament and is currently hosting the Division I Group A tournament. Protas has one goal and one assist as Belarus sits fourth in the standings out of six teams.
  • Beck Malenstyn was given a three-game suspension by the AHL for elbowing. The suspension began on Sunday and will keep him out on Saturday and Sunday of this week's action. Here's a video of the play, though it is hard to see exactly what happened.
  • Joe Snively had two points through 16 games. In the past nine, he recorded eight. He scored twice over the weekend and now sits second on the team in goals with seven. Someone asked this week in the Capitals Mailbag if Snively could possibly get a call up this season. As good as he has played, Snively has the maximum cap hit for an entry-level contract at $925,000. Because of that, I doubt we see him in Washington this season.
  • Vitek Vanecek was named Hershey's PSECU Player of the Week after two impressive starts. He got the nod on Friday and turned aside 25 shots in a 2-1 win over Lehigh Valley. Bears head coach Spencer Carbery is very regular in his goalie rotation, but after a strong start on Friday and considering Hershey was playing three games in three nights and Vanecek was going to get two starts anyway, Carbery elected to go with the hot hand on Saturday and started Vanecek again. Vanecek rewarded the coach's faith with a 32-shot shutout performance to once again shut down the Phantoms. The shutout was Vanecek's first of the season. He has now allowed two goals or fewer in five of his past six starts.
  • Bobby Nardella returned to the lineup after missing 12 games with an upper-body injury. He had an assist in Sunday's game giving him four on the season in just five appearances.
  • Check out this profile an Axel Jonsson-Fjallby from Chocolate Hockey.

 

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Capitals Prospect Report: 3 Caps prospects earn invites to national junior team camps

Capitals Prospect Report: 3 Caps prospects earn invites to national junior team camps

Capitals prospects Connor McMichael, Aliaksei Protas and Martin Hugo Has each earned invites to the Canadian, Belarussian and Czech Republic national junior team camps respectively in preparation for the World Junior Championship that will begin on Dec. 26.

McMichael currently leads the OHL in points with 56 while Protas is tied for the league lead in the WHL with 42.

The Caps desperately needed to restock its forward prospects with high-end talent and if their junior seasons are any indication, it appears that the team has done so.

"Our guys really liked Protas and thought there was a lot of upside there so we traded up to get the opportunity to draft him," general manager Brian MacLellan said. "We knew his skating was an issue, so I don't know that when we drafted him we thought the progression would be that good. But when we had him in camp, almost on a daily basis you could see his skating get better and him get more confident. So I think leaving camp we had a really good feeling about him that he was going to have a good year- not to extent that he'd be leading the Western Hockey League in scoring, but we were excited about the prospect.

"We're excited to have these guys. There's a long way to go from where they're at to get to the NHL, development-wise. But when you have two players doing what they're doing, it's exciting to have those forward prospects in your organization."

Has, the Caps' lone defensive prospect from the 2019 draft, is currently playing in Finland. Ryan Kennedy of The Hockey News asked him about his weaknesses and strengths as a player: “Probably the physical game and being more mean on the ice. The plusses are shooting and overall competitiveness.”

Other prospect notes

  • McMichael had a conversation with Junior Hockey Magazine. Check it out here.
  • MacLellan had some high praise for Martin Fehervary as well and wants to get him more NHL games this season."I think Fehervary is really close. I'd like to see him in games here at some point if we get an opportunity. He had a great camp. He's played well down in Hershey. He looks like he's pretty close to being able to play." Coming into this season I would have thought Alex Alexeyev was the closest to making the jump to the NHL. I think that has changed and Fehervary is the next man up.
  • Prospect expert Corey Pronman released a story on the prospects he was wrong about. Fehervary made the list of players he was too low on.
  • Pronman also declared Protas one of the biggest risers from the 2019 draft.
  • In the wake of players coming out and describing how they were treated by Bill Peters and Mike Babcock, former player Daniel Carcillo made allegations of abuse and hazing against the Sutter family including Brent Sutter who owns and coaches the Red Deer Rebels. Alexeyev, who played three seasons in Red Deer, came to the defense of his former coach on Twitter.
  • Speaking of Alexeyev, Ben Sumner of the Washington Post wrote about how his first season in Hershey is going (spoiler: Really well). You can read the article here.
  • Beck Malenstyn was reassigned to Hershey on Dec. 1. He played in three games with the Caps. Check out a prospect profile on him from Chocolate Hockey here.
  • Tobias Geisser was loaned to EV Zug in Switzerland on Thursday. According to a team official, the move was made because it was determined this would be best for his development. There are just too many bodies on the blue line in Hershey. Even without Geisser, there are still nine defensemen currently on the roster so playing time was hard to come by. Geisser had only gotten into seven games this season. The official I reached out to thought this move may have happened sooner if not for some earlier injuries to Lucas Johansen, Bobby Nardella and Colby Williams.
  • The Hershey Bears held their annual Teddy Bear Toss and broke their own world record with 45,650 stuffed animals thrown onto the ice. Christian Djoos scored the goal that launched the teddys.
  • Brett Leason scored his first professional goal, notching the overtime winner in the Teddy Bear Toss game. He was set up by a great pass from Djoos that got him in behind the defense. His initial shot was stopped, but he hit in the rebound for the goal and his third point of the night. The game was also his first professional multi-point game.
  • Kody Clark made his professional debut with Hershey on Nov. 24. He earned his first professional point, an assist, on Nov. 30.
  • Philippe Maillet's two-point night on Nov. 27 earned him 100 career AHL points.

 

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