We’re camping! The 2019 Washington Capitals Development Camp will begin this Tuesday (6/25) at MedStar Capitals Iceplex in Ballston, Virginia, and run through Saturday (6/29). This year’s camp will include all new Capitals prospects drafted this past weekend in Vancouver, in addition to a majority of key prospects already in the Capitals’ system.
The entire camp is open and free to the public, with a scrimmage set for Saturday, June 29, at 10 a.m. If you’re planning to head down to MedStar, here are a few players to keep an eye on during this year’s camp.
This year’s camp might be one of the most competitive in recent years, as the proverbial pecking order for all Capitals defensive prospects is essentially up in the air. The departure of Chase Priskie and underwhelming play by prospects in Hershey the past two seasons has left plenty of questions surrounding defensive starting spots that will be open this fall in Hershey. The battle is essentially wide open.
Alexander Alexeyev – LD (19) – The Capitals’ first=round pick in last June’s NHL Entry Draft will be participating in his second Development Camp, and reporting to Hershey this fall. Alexeyev has all the skills in a 6′-4” frame, and is always an entertaining watch in person. The big question surrounding him this camp is his health, as Alexeyev dealt with four separate injuries during the course of the 2018-2019 season, the last of which, a serious knee injury, ended his 2018-2019 campaign. Capitals General Manager Brian MacLellan stated in a conference call on Thursday (June 22) that Alexeyev was healthy and ready to go. (2018-2019 player review and forecast)
Martin Fehervary – LD (19) – Possibly the Capitals’ most improved prospect last season, Fehervary had his breakout party in last season’s World Junior Championships and World Championship for Team Slovakia. Fehervary ended last season on the top pair for HV71 in the Swedish Hockey League, battling men 4-5 years older than him. Fehervary is a wild card in this year’s camp, and is a favorite for a starting position this fall in Hershey. (2018-2019 player review and forecast)
Tobias Geisser – LD (20) – Winner of the Hershey Bears “Most Improved Player” Award last season, Geisser is picking up the North American game rather quickly. Bears Head Coach Spencer Carbery stated in a pregame interview on November 10 that Geisser is “very wise beyond his years with processing coaching directions, reads on the ice, a quick learner.” Geisser was selected by Team Switzerland in this year’s World Juniors tournament, but did not play due to a reported injury. It will be interesting to see how he fares against other Caps prospects in this year’s development camp. (2018-2019 player review and forecast)
Alex Kannok-Leipert – RD (18) One of the few right-handed blueliners currently in the Capitals’ farm system, Alex opened some eyes this past season while playing for the Vancouver Giants in the WHL. At 6’,0”, Kannick-Leipert may bring the most grit/pound to development camp. Look for his extra-physical play, as he will certainly challenge development camp veterans this week in Ballston. (2018-2019 player review and forecast)
Benton Maass – RD (20) – Maass had a goal and five assists in 30 games played for the UNH Wildcats this past season. He registered 43 shots on the season for a 2.3% shooting percentage, and was a minus-10 on the season. Maass sustained a scary injury with just 1.1 seconds remaining in overtime in a November 23 game against Miami (here) that caused him to miss six games this season. With the loss of Chase Priskie, the Capitals’ organizational depth at defensemen has lessened a bit, which should be considered an opening for Maass. The kid has demonstrated leadership qualities from day one and will be looked to lead the Wildcats. He will need to make some noise in his Junior season. (2018-2019 player review and forecast)
Martin Has – RD (18) – The Washington Capitals selected defenseman Martin Has with their fifth-round pick (153rd overall) in the 2019 NHL Draft this past Saturday. The 18-year old spent the past two seasons with Tappara U20 of the Jr. A SM-liiga in Finland, and will be making his first appearance at Capitals development Camp.
It’s no secret that the depth of the Capitals’ prospect pool at the forward position could be considered rather shallow, with many a pontificator labeling the Capitals’ forward pool the shallowest in the league. The addition of Connor McMichael signals the organization’s attempt to address organizational needs.
Connor McMichael – C (18) – The Capitals’ first round pick in this year’s draft (25th overall), the 5’,11” centerman will be making his first appearance at MedStar. He recorded 36 goals, 72 points, and a plus-15 rating in 67 games last season. During the OHL Playoffs, McMichael tallied two goals, five points, and a minus-1 rating in 11 games.
Brett Leason – RW (20) – The Capitals selected forward Brett Leason with the 56th overall pick at the 2019 NHL Draft in Vancouver on Saturday. Leason, 20, has played the past two seasons with the Canadian Hockey League’s Prince Albert Raiders. Capitals General Manager Brian MacLellan confirmed following the draft that Leason will be starting this season in Hershey.
Aliaksei Protas – C (18) – The Capitals selected center Aliaksei Protas with their third-round selection at the 2019 NHL Draft in Vancouver on Saturday. Protas, 18, spent the 2018-19 season with the CHL’s Prince Albert Raiders, his first with the team, and will also be making his first appearance in Capitals camp.
Garrett Pilon – C (21) – Like most AHL rookies, Pilon’s start to last season was rather quiet, as he didn’t net his first AHL goal until December. But things picked up for Pilon, as he began to find his way in the professional game. Pilon would ultimately be named Hershey’s rookie of the year for the 2018-2019 campaign. On the season, Pilon registered 10 goals and 23 assists in 71 games played, with six of his 10 goals and five assists coming in the last 14 games of the season. Pilon finished the postseason with five assists in nine games played. (2018-2019 player review and forecast)
Shane Gersich – LW (22) – Like most Bears rookies, Shane’s season started very quietly, as he began to adapt to the AHL game. Unfortunately, he never really did catch fire. There were moments where his speed was evident, as he demonstrated how it could be a game-changer. In the end, the scoring really never showed up, as his finishes and shots seemed to fall short or to the side. Eight goals and 16 assists in 66 games isn’t bad by any means, but it would be nice to see much more. It took Gersich 125 shots to score eight goals. That is a shooting percentage of just 6.4. By comparison, Nathan Walker took 126 shots, but scored 17 goals for a 13.5 shooting percentage. (2018-2019 player review and forecast)
Beck Malenstyn – LW (21) – Malenstyn showed excellent developmental progress during his first year in the AHL, and it could be argued, he made the biggest advance of all Capitals prospects during the 2018-2019 season. He quickly found his place last fall, providing a physical grit for the Bears, and often set the tone early in games with a heavy hit or two. Malenstyn also showed potential for being a team leader. Perhaps Malenstyn’s biggest asset to the Bears this season was his contributions to the penalty kill. His shot blocking was outstanding. Hershey head coach Spencer Carbery commented on Malenstyn’s shot blocking in a pre-game interview with Bears radio broadcaster Zack Fisch on January 23. Carbery said, “Beck Malenstyn is one of the best shot blockers that I’ve seen.” (2018-2019 player review and forecast)
Brian Pinho – C (24) – Pinho was relatively quiet for a majority of the season, but there seemed to be a late wake up call in March, April and May. There was a noticeable improvement in his play with and away from the puck, and overall presence on the ice. Pinho, in his first year away from college may have just needed a little more time to get comfortable with life away from home and the game at the AHL level. It’s difficult to say, but it will be interesting to see how the first half of the 2019-2020 season goes for no. 28. (2018-2019 player profile and forecast)
Alex Jonsson-Fjallby – LW (21) – “AJF” had a decent training camp with the Washington Capitals before being re-assigned to Hershey on September 26. He played in 16 games with the Bears, registering two goals and an assist, before exercising an option in his contract and returning to Sweden. AJF’s regular season with Djurgården was disappointing, as he scored just one goal and nine assists in 36 games played. At one point late in the regular season, AJF was even a healthy scratch. However, the postseason was another story for AJF. Part of his battle cry last summer was wanting to win a title for Djurgården. He fell one game short of that goal, losing to Frolunda in Game 7 of the SHL final on May 2, 2019. In this year’s playoffs, AJF scored seven goals and five assists in 19 postseason games. (2018-2019 player review and forecast)
Damien Riat – W/C (22) – You may recall that Riat did not attend last year’s camps, and his future status with the Capitals was somewhat uncertain. Riat, 22, a fourth-round selection by the Capitals in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, was believed to be tracking for a spot on the Capitals’ AHL affillitate Hershey Bears for the 2018-2019 season. Then it was announced on February 2nd, 2018, that Riat would be leaving his current team, Geneva-Servette in the Swiss League, and that he had signed a new two-year deal with EHC Biel-Bienne, also in the Swiss League. (2018-2019 player review and forecast)
Riley Sutter – RW (19) – Sutter, named assistant captain for the 2018-19 season, played in 38 regular season games for the Everett Silvertips in the WHL. He had 14 goals and had 27 assists for 41 points overall, was plus-12, and also had 38 penalty minutes. He signed an entry-level contract with the Capitals on September 29. Unfortunately, he sustained a lower-body injury in a game on December 29 and missed the remainder of the regular season. He returned in time to play in three playoff games for Everett and earned one assist. While his natural position is right wing, he played as center on the Silvertips’ top-line. (2018-2019 player review and forecast)
Erik Florchuk – C/LW (19) – Florchuk played in 68 regular season games for the Saskatoon Blades and 10 playoff games. He had 21 goals and 29 assists for 50 points overall, was plus-10, and also had 40 penalty minutes. Florchuk was taken with the very last pick in the 2018 NHL Draft (seventh-round, 217th overall) by the Capitals, but is showing early signs of possibly being the Capitals’ best value-pick from that draft. (2018-2019 player review and forecast)
Joe Snively – LW (23) – A late, post-collegiate (Yale) season signing by the Capitals this past spring, Snively jumped right into AHL action for the Bears and looked to handle things quite well. A limited sample size (two goals and five assists in just nine games with Hershey), it will be interesting to see how the Northern Virginia native handles a full week with the Capitals prospect pool. (2018-2019 player review and forecast)
FREE AGENT INVITES
The Capitals have invited a number of free agents as well. Two defensemen, three goalies and a right-winger:
Callahan Burke – RW
Dennis Cesana – D
Adrian Clark – G
Janis Jaks – D
Logan Thompson – G
Beck Warm – G
The 2019 Development Camp Roster:
There you have it. Just a few names to keep an eye out for at this year’s development camp. Enjoy your week of camping, folks!
By Jon Sorensen