When Chandler Stephenson was a kid growing up in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, he’d spend his Saturday evenings in front of the television with his mom, Bev, his dad, Curt, and his older brother, Colton.
Same channel, every Saturday night, they’d watch Hockey Night in Canada.
“I still hear the theme song in my head,” Stephenson said.
Tonight in Bellville, Ontario, Stephenson will make his preseason NHL debut when the Capitals face off against the Winnipeg Jets. Featured as the NHL’s Kraft Hockeyville game the contest will be played at Yardmen Arena, the 3,257-seat home of the OHL’s Belleville Bulls. it will be televised throughout Canada on Hockey Night In Canada.
“I’m just trying to take it all in,” said Stephenson, who is expected to center a line with Troy Brouwer and Australian-born prospect Nathan Walker. “I see this as another step forward in my career. It’s not something every kid can say; it’s a huge honor.”
Taken by the Caps in the third round of the 2012 NHL draft [77th overall] Stephenson, 19, has another year of eligibility with the Regina Pats of the Western Hockey League. But if he can follow a strong rookie camp with a solid preseason, the Caps could sign him to his first pro contract.
“I watched him in the rookie game and he’s got some skill to make some plays,” Brouwer said. “Maybe he can showcase himself a little bit and get some attention from the coaches and George [GM George McPhee].”
“I don’t know if it’s a reward or not,” Stephenson said. “I just want to take advantage of being on the ice with those guys. It’s amazing.”
Stephenson has put up excellent numbers in three seasons with the Pats [106 points in 161 games] but he’s been injured in each of those three seasons – a lacerated foot in 2010-11, a torn MCL in 2011-12, and a severed tendon in his foot last season.
“I haven’t had a full season yet and I want to go back there and have a real good year,” he said. “Right now, I want to know what it takes to be a pro.”
The Caps have released two players from their training cap roster, forwards T.J. Foster and Zach Harnden. Following tonight’s game in Bellville, the Caps will again break into three practice groups on Sunday. Most of Group B will visit the Flyers in Philadelphia on Monday night, with Alex Ovechkin’s Group A returning to action Tuesday night against Boston in the second Baltimore Classic.