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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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A handy-dandy guide to the Caps' free agents

A handy-dandy guide to the Caps' free agents

If you are a fan of the Capitals, you have been hearing for a long time about how difficult this offseason is going to be because of how many expiring contracts the team has. There are a bunch and it can be hard to keep track of.

Luckily, we are here for you. Here is a handy-dandy guide to all of the Caps' pending free agents.

Why is everyone assuming Evgeny Kuznetsov will be re-signed but keeping T.J. Oshie will be difficult? Who is unrestricted and restricted? What are the chances players like Daniel Winnik and Brett Connolly return?

We have all the answers. Check out the guide to Caps free agency here and impress your friends with all your hockey knowledge.

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20 offseason Caps questions: Should the Caps re-sign T.J. Oshie?

20 offseason Caps questions: Should the Caps re-sign T.J. Oshie?

Another playoff disappointment—as well as a host of expiring player contracts—has left the Capitals with a ton of questions to answer this offseason.

Over the next month, Jill Sorenson, JJ Regan and Tarik El-Bashir will take a close look at the 20 biggest issues facing the team as the business of hockey kicks into high gear.     

There’s no denying what T.J. Oshie has meant to the Capitals over the past two seasons; his goal production spells it out quite clearly.

Since 2015, in fact, Oshie’s 59 tallies are second to only Alex Ovechkin’s 83. So, yeah, he’s a critical part of Washington’s potent offense. Oshie’s coaches and teammates also laud the impact his energy has on the ice, bench and dressing room. But that doesn’t mean Oshie is a slam dunk to be back in red next season.

He’s going to be expensive to re-sign and the Caps don’t have a lot of room under the salary cap ceiling.   

Today’s question: Should the Caps re-sign Oshie?

Sorenson: This is an easy one. Yes, yes, yes, yes. I love spending other people’s money!  Absolutely the Capitals need to find a way to make this happen. T.J. Oshie has a young family who loves it here in the DMV, and I would imagine that a longer term deal would trump any kind of short term money another team may offer. In the past, the Caps have been loathe to offer contracts longer than three years, but they did it for two cornerstones on the blue line three years ago in Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik, who were also unrestricted free agents at the time. Oshie reached career highs in goals in both of his years here in Washington (26, in his first year, 33 in his second), but I believe the intangibles he brings are just as valuable. Oshie is a guy who is almost always smiling, he loves hockey, loves his teammates, and seems to find joy coming to the rink every day.This is an important perspective to have in this day and age when professional sports quickly become a pressure-filled business. Oshie also helps draw some of the attention away from the other stars on the team, which means that pressure is spread around more equally, which is better for everyone.

CLICK HERE FOR HANDY GUIDE TO EVERY CAPS FREE AGENT

El-Bashir: Let’s weigh the pros and cons. (When considering this season’s stats, remember Oshie missed 14 games). First, the pros: As I mentioned in the intro, Oshie is the second best goal scorer on the Caps. He’s an integral piece on the league’s third-ranked power play (7 ppg) and can be dangerous on the penalty kill, as well. He brings it every shift of every game. In fact, I’d argue that no Cap plays harder on a nightly basis. Oshie does the small things, too. He ranked first among Caps forwards in blocked shots (50), second in takeaways (49), third in hits (95) and third in penalties drawn per 60 minutes (1.14). In the playoffs, Oshie’s 12 points (4 goals, 8 assists) were second only to Nicklas Backstrom’s 13. Now for the cons: Oshie, at age 30, ain’t getting any younger. He was one of five 30-somethings to hit the 30-goal plateau last season (out of the 26 players who netted 30 or more goals). Additionally, the miles on Oshie’s generously listed 6-foot, 189-pound frame are hard miles and his injury history shows that he tends to get banged up and miss games. Considering all the above factors, here’s my take: if the plan is to contend next year, the Caps need to figure this one out, even if it means he’s the only UFA they retain and it forces a tough decision with regard to another player (or even two). The free agent market does not appear to be a great option and no one currently on the roster is ready to replicate Oshie’s production.    

Regan: If there was no such thing as a salary cap, absolutely they should re-sign T.J. Oshie. The Caps searched for years for a top line winger to play alongside Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin and Oshie was the best answer this team has had since Mike Knuble. But there is a salary cap and Washington is going to be up against it. Oshie has made it clear he wants to stay, but there is no way Washington can afford to pay him anywhere close to what he can command on the open market and every player has that point where there is just too much money left on the table to ignore. If you can somehow make the numbers work, I am all for it, but I also do not think the Caps should handcuff their entire offseason plans so they can re-sign a 30-year-old winger who surpassed 30 goals for the first time in his career in a contract year. You always have to overpay for free agents and honestly, if you give Oshie something like a five-year deal for $6 or 7 million per year, I have a hard time believing he will still be living up to that contract in years four and five. If there's any way to bring him back for a reasonable number, do it, but I am not about to get into a bidding war for him.

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