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Prospect report: Caps boast 4 of the NHL's top 100 prospects

Prospect report: Caps boast 4 of the NHL's top 100 prospects

Hershey update: 31-17-8-3, 5th in the Atlantic Division. Last week: 3-0-0-0

Goalie Pheonix Copley made a successful return to the Hershey Bears winning both of his starts with 63 saves on 65 shots.

Copley was traded by the Caps from Hershey to the St. Louis Blues in the package that netted the team T.J. Oshie, but was reacquired in Washington’s deadline deal for Kevin Shattenkirk.

Check out what Copley had to say to the media after his first practice:

Copley’s first start came on Friday against Syracuse. You can watch the highlights here:

Despite a strong performance, Copley’s first start almost ended in disaster. In the third period, he collapsed onto the ice in what looked like a serious injury.

Washington needed a third goalie they could have faith in just in case Braden Holtby or Philipp Grubauer suffered an injury. If Copley were to suffer an injury it would mean the Caps would have no safety net heading into the playoffs. Luckily, it was revealed Copley was only dealing with dehydration and he started the next night.

Copley is definitely a player to keep an eye on. Should Grubauer get selected in the expansion draft by Vegas, the Caps will be in need of a backup goalie. Copley may well be that goalie next season.

You can also see in the highlights above an incredible move by defenseman Christian Djoos who is really coming into his own in the latter half of the season. When a players’ skill level begins to surpass the AHL, it becomes fairly evident. You can see by his goal that he has the stickhandling and skating ability of an NHL player. But does he have the size? Hershey’s website lists him as 6-foot, 161 pounds. He really needs to add some muscle, but I would love to see how he plays against NHL talent to see if he’s ready for the next level.

Stanislav Galiev also provided a highlight reel goal in what was a four-point weekend. In 39 games this season, he has 32 points. Christian Thomas also had another strong weekend with five points in Hershey’s three games. He has points in five straight games and leads the Bears with 22 goals, three more than Galiev’s 19.

Washington signed college free agents Hampus Gustafsson and Kris Bindulis to entry-level contracts on Tuesday. Gustafsson, a forward, scored 26 points in 36 games for Merrimack College this season while Bindulis, a defenseman, scored 12 points in 28 games in his freshman year at Lake Superior State.

SB Nation’s College Hockey blog provided scouting reports on both players:

At 6-4 205 lbs., Gustafsson is a prototypical power forward that is a big, strong presence around the net. His skating is an area that will need improvement to make it at the NHL level. While he lacks elite hands, he is good at collecting hard-working garbage goals in front of the net.

Bindulis is a good skater for his size and brings considerable physical presence for an offensive-minded defenseman. He struggled on the defensive end in his first college season, and still has a lot of work to do in that area, but has the raw potential to be an effective pro with time and development.

Both players will report to Hershey.

RELATED: Who's hot and who's not?: Ovechkin searches for scoring touch

Other prospect notes:

The latest edition of The Hockey News magazine evaluates the top 100 prospects and takes a look at prospect pool of each NHL team. Four of the Caps’ prospects made the top 100. Ilya Samsonov was the highest ranked among the Caps, coming in at No. 18. He is also the highest ranked goalie prospect in the NHL. Forward Jakub Vrana is No. 42. He made his NHL debut this season and looks to be a depth forward for the upcoming playoff run. He will almost certainly be on the NHL roster next season.

The biggest surprise in terms of the Caps is Jonas Siegenthaler who, at No. 77, ranks ahead of No. 89 Madison Bowey. It’s surprising to see Siegenthaler jump Bowey considering how highly regarded a prospect Bowey has been. This is likely a result of a very impressive performance by Siegenthaler in the World Junior Championship.

Siegenthaler did not play all that well during training camp, but family issues back home were clearly weighing on his mind. He is a player with tremendous potential, but we didn’t really get a chance to see it this summer.

The magazine also includes a look at each of the Caps’ top ten prospects written by yours truly so everyone should go out and buy it. You can find it here.

With the acquisition of Copley, the Caps no longer needed goalie Joe Cannata. He was traded to Colorado by the Caps in exchange for defenseman Cody Corbett. Here is what the blog Mile High Hockey had to say about the young defenseman:

He’s a great guy and I hope he gets a chance with Hershey or the SC Stingrays from this tryout. Never really developed much in the Avs system but he does have some good skills in the offensive zone. I honestly believe he could be far more effective as a forward.

It's playoff time in college hockey with conference tournaments underway throughout the country. Brian Pinho helped Providence win its opening round matchup against UMass in two games with one goal and three assists. He now has 16 points in his last 12 games.

"He deserves all the credit because he’s worked to become a better player over the summers,” Providence head coach Nate Leaman said of Pinho in a feature written by Jeff Cox. “He’s had the hard matches every game. That’s what is impressive about his growth. He keeps finding ways to get better and finding ways to make plays.”

You can read the full feature here.

Pinho's play isn't the only thing he has developed while at Providence. His leadership is also a major part of his success with the Friars. You can read more in Mark Divver's piece on Pinho’s leadership in the Providence Journal.

Providence will play Notre Dame in the Hockey East quarterfinals this week.

Two Caps prospects will be playing in the NCHC quarterfinals Steven Spinner's Nebraska-Omaha facing Western Michigan and Shane Gersich's North Dakota set to take on St. Cloud State. Gersich led North Dakota with 19 goals and 34 points this season, earning him an honorable mention to the NCHC All-Conference team. In the ECAC Hockey Tournament Quarterfinals, Chase Priskie will lead Quinnipiac against St. Lawrence.

Finally, congratulations to Moose Jaw defenseman Dmitriy Zaitsev who scored his first WHL goal on Sunday.

MORE CAPITALS: Caps' playoff opponent watch: Battling Brooklyn

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Alex Ovechkin makes kids' day with street hockey surprise

Alex Ovechkin makes kids' day with street hockey surprise

Kids part of the American Special Hockey Association had no idea they were going to meet one of the NHL's biggest stars during a game of street hockey on Friday afternoon.

But that's what happened when Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin surprised a handful of youngsters playing in a tournament in front of Capital One Arena.

Ovechkin wasn't just there for pictures and autographs, he also joined in on the action for the next hour and did not hold back in one of his last major games before before the regular season.

MORE: ANOTHER TOP-SIX AUDITION FOR VRANA

ASHA and Ovechkin have been hosting events together for four consecutive seasons. The organization was created in 2000 and enables players of all ages who have developmental disabilities to enjoy the sport of hockey.

You can watch the full video of Ovechkin's surprise above.

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Jakub Vrana gets another top-six audition in the Caps' home preseason opener

Jakub Vrana gets another top-six audition in the Caps' home preseason opener

Here’s how Coach Barry Trotz will have his players line up Friday night vs. the Blues...and a few notes about forward combos and D pairings you'll see at Capital One Arena:

Forwards
Vrana – Backstrom – Oshie
Burakovsky – Boyd – Smith-Pelly
Stephenson – Eller – Wilson
Bau – Graovac – Peluso

Defense
Johansen – Carlson
Djoos – Chorney
Ness – Lewington

Goalies
Holtby
Copley

RELATED: HOW TO WATCH CAPS-BLUES

  • After scoring a power play goal while skating on a line with Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov on Wednesday, Jakub Vrana is getting an audition on the other top-six line.
  • Stephenson is the only player to appear in all three preseason games. Tonight, he’s skating on the wing after playing center in the first two contests. He’s a prospect the Caps are hoping makes the opening night roster but the reason he’s played so much is because fourth-line center Jay Beagle is “trying to manage his body a little bit,” according to Trotz.
  • Beagle has not played yet this preseason, but Trotz said he’s been practicing and scrimmaging full-go. “He’s not hurt,” Trotz said. “He’s got some tightness. We’re going to work through the tightness and he’ll be fine. There’s no reason to rush guys.”
  • Winger Mathias Bau wasn’t originally slated to see any game action, but the Denmark native impressed Trotz so much in a scrimmage earlier this week that the coach found a spot in the lineup for him. Bau, the tallest player in camp at 6-7, is skating on a line with Graovac (6-5) and Peluso (6-3).  “He’s gotten better and better,” Trotz said of Bau, who signed an AHL deal with Hershey this summer. “So he deserves to get in a game. He’s been standing out. Originally I had another guy in there but Bau has sorta overtaken him.”
  • Peluso is another player who is emerging as a candidate to earn a spot on the fourth line. This will mark his second straight preseason appearance. 
  • Matt Niskanen and Dmitry Orlov will make their preseason debut Saturday vs. the Hurricanes, according to Trotz, who has already said they’ll open the regular season as the top pair.

 

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