When third-line center Jay Beagle was sidelined by a hand injury that required surgery, the Capitals had to make an emergency recall from the American Hockey League’s (AHL) Hershey Bears.
Their options at center included youngster Chandler Stephenson, who had played a handful of games earlier in the season with the big club, veteran Sean Collins, and Carter Camper to name a few. Instead, they recalled tough guy Zach Sill, who had signed a one-year, two-way contract in the offseason. The former Pittsburgh Penguin and Toronto Maple Leaf had just 83 games of NHL experience, amassing only one goal, three assists, and four points. He also racked up 96 penalty minutes (PIM). Prior to being recalled by the Caps, Sill had put up two goals, seven assists, and nine points in 30 games with the Bears, putting up 30 PIM.
Since he was recalled, Sill has been a somewhat surprisingly effective player for the Caps. In five games, he’s scored one goal to go along with a plus-1 rating, and an average of 9:56 of ice time. He’s been slotted as the team’s third-line center, but has primarily been used as fourth-line forward. Even still, Sill’s efficiency should not be a surprise. For possibly the first time in their 11-season affiliation, both the Capitals’ and Bears’ coaches coach the same style of play, which centers around being good in the defensive zone while still being productive on offense. Hershey coach Troy Mann and Caps coach Barry Trotz often communicate about potential call-ups and Mann gives his opinion to Trotz on which players might be gods fits.
Sill is a physical player and brings energy to the team. However, he was suspended two games by NHL Player Safety for a hit on Boston Bruins defenseman Adam McQuaid. Since returning, the 27-year old has continued giving Trotz a reliable player to deploy in various situations, including the penalty kill. With Beagle out for the foreseeable future, Sill has plenty of time to continue to help the Capitals and he has earned every bit of playing time he receives. For the Capitals, Sill’s signing has looked smarter and smarter by the day.