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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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Capitals 2017-18 Breakout Candidate: Brett Connolly

Capitals 2017-18 Breakout Candidate: Brett Connolly

As we skate toward the start of the 2017-18 NHL Regular Season, our CSN Capitals team of Jill Sorenson and Tarik El-Bashir detail and analyze the Capitals roster.

They will take a look at breakout candidates, prospects on the rise, players in need of improvement and a look at the rest of the Metropolitan Division, all leading up to the start of the NHL regular season.

Up first are the Capitals breakout candidates.

First, we previewed Tom Wilson.

Today we are looking at Brett Connolly.

YOU CAN WATCH TARIK AND JILL'S FULL BREAKDOWN OF BRETT CONNOLLY IN THE VIDEO PLAYER ABOVE.

2017-18 CAPITALS BREAKOUT CANDIDATE: Brett Connolly

Position: Right Wing
Age: 25
NHL Seasons: 6 (276 games)
2016-17 Stats: 15 goals, 8 assists, +20 plus/minus

Tarik El-Bashir's Breakout Preview: 
After playing the last three seasons on one-year deals, Connolly finally has a little security after inking a two-year, $3 million contract with the Caps earlier this month.

It’s a hefty raise over the $850,000 he earned last season, and it’s emblematic of the higher expectations that he’ll shoulder in 2017-18.

Connolly’s first season in Washington was a strange one. It began with him sitting out as a healthy scratch, and it ended with him sitting out as a healthy scratch. But in between, the former first round pick was remarkably efficient, scoring a career-high 15 goals in 66 games, while skating fewer than 11 minutes per.

Next season, Connolly’s role and playing time are expected to increase … and so, too, are his numbers.

Jill Sorenson's Keys to Breakout:
1.  Maturity: "He's finally settling in and understands what it means to be a pro hockey player. He feels like this is a good fit for him. He's ready to handle the increased pressure and increased responsibillity."

2.  Comfort Level: "He feels like Washington is where he wants to be. He has a nose for the net, and with that comfort level now with this team, that natural scoring abillity I expect will come through."

Prediction: Total Points
Tarik: 21 goal, 16 assists
Jill: 20 goals, 18 assists

RELATED: TEN BEST CAPITALS PLAYERS OF ALL-TIME

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Capitals 2017-18 Breakout Candidate: Tom Wilson

Capitals 2017-18 Breakout Candidate: Tom Wilson

As we skate toward the start of the 2017-18 NHL Regular Season, our CSN Capitals team of Jill Sorenson and Tarik El-Bashir detail and analyze the Capitals roster.

They will take a look at breakout candidates, prospects on the rise, players in need of improvement and a look at the rest of the Metropolitan Division, all leading up to the start of the NHL regular season.

Up first are the Capitals breakout candidates. The first of the three selections is Tom Wilson. 

YOU CAN WATCH TARIK AND JILL'S FULL BREAKDOWN OF TOM WILSON IN THE VIDEO PLAYER ABOVE.

RELATED: TEN BEST CAPITALS PLAYERS OF ALL-TIME

2017-18 Capitals Breakout Candidate: Tom Wilson

Position: Right Wing
Age: 23
NHL Seasons: 4 (313 games)
2016-17 Stats: 7 goals, 12 assists, 133 penalty minutes

Tarik El-Bashir's Breakout Preview:
After mustering only seven goals in 82 regular season games, Tom Wilson scored three times against his hometown Maple Leafs in the opening round of the playoffs.

Was the offensive outburst a blip, or the start of a trend? The Caps, obviously, hope it’s the latter—and there’s reason to believe it could happen. The 23-year-old former first rounder is entering a contract year but, more important, he’s expected to play a bigger role in 2017-18. Bigger role + better linemates + more ice time = more goal production.

Makes sense, right?

Jill Sorenson's Keys to Breakout:
1.  Health: "This will be only his third season fully healthy. I look at that, from a chronological standpoint as a reason to up his production."
2.  Responsibility: "He would be a good addition on the power play in front of the net. he has that net-front pressence and they like when he plays on a line with Alex Ovechkin."

Prediction: Over/Under 18 Goals
Tarik: 18. Push.
Jill: 21. Over.