There was plenty of buzz surrounding Shane Gersich in the spring of 2018. He had just signed a deal with the Washington Capitals immediately following the conclusion of his junior year at the University of North Dakota, and subsequently joined the team on the road in Montreal the following day. Gersich, a fifth-round pick (134th overall) by the Capitals in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, surrendered his senior year of collegiate eligibility for an immediate shot at NHL playing time, which would quickly follow five days later. His whirlwind spring would later turn into a dream summer which reached a climax with the hoisting of the Stanley Cup in Sin City in early June. A smart decision, no doubt.
Many assumed Gersich would remain in D.C. the following season, but the fact of the matter was, Gersich was still a kid fresh out of college (a year early), and there was still plenty of work that needed to be done. Gersich was assigned to Hershey, where he spent the 2018-2019 season, getting acclimated to the AHL game. His first full professional campaign was a mixed bag. Gersich demonstrated his elite-level speed and agility on the ice, but also demonstrated areas that needed improvement, mainly his shot and his general ability to manage the puck. After a rather lackluster rookie campaign with the Bears, Gersich’s focus in his sophomore season will be clear. He will look to “zero-in” his shot, and “lock down” his puck possession.
Gersich finished his rookie season in the AHL with a rather pedestrian eight goals (ninth on the Bears) and 16 assists (eighth on the Bears) in 66 games played. He totaled 125 shots on the season (seventh on the Bears) for a shooting percentage of 6.4%. Shane’s 0.36 points per game average was 17th on the Bears, not great for the highly-touted top-nine forward.
It was clear from both the eye-test and the stats sheet that Gersich’s shot was off, firing pucks wide of the net on numerous occasions. In some cases, shots were rushed, but in a many of the cases, they were simply off-target from close to middle range distances. It led some to wonder, is this why he was a fifth-rounder? Not so fast.
Gersich has shown the ability to shoot at much higher percentages. Last season’s total with the Bears was the lowest shooting percentage of his career. Nevertheless, Gersich has proven he can be more accurate with his shots.
However, it should also be noted that his career-high schooling percentage (15.3% for the 2015-2016 season) came on a line with Brock Boeser (Vancouver Canucks) and Tyson Jost (Colorado Avalanche). Possibly the best line in college that season.
Look for Gersich to use his speed as more of a threat, for finding open areas of the ice for higher percentage shots, rather than outracing opponents to the goal. Opposing teams respected Gersich’s speed early-on last season, which should afford him advantages, space, and more controlled and open shots. 10-12% would be a good goal this season.
LOCKING IT DOWN
Another area in which Gersich will look to improve this season is in the area of one-on-one puck battles. Shane lost numerous battles along the boards in the early part of last season, but improved as his ice time increased.
Gersich will never really outmuscle an opponent for the puck, but with his quickness and agility, he can be evasive and defensive in other ways. Again, this will likely come with time, as he learns the game. Gersich will need to improve his puck protection skills, and try to emulate teammate Nicklas Backstrom’s general techniques for defending the puck (as demonstrated here.)
“Big Picture” Perspective
We have to tamper-down our expectations somewhat, and remember that Gersich was a fifth round pick. History has shown that fifth-round picks have an uphill battle in making it in the NHL.
Gersich signed a one-year, two way contract with the Capitals on May 20, 2019. He will have at least one more season to show Capitals brass that he can make the leap and return to the Capitals. For this coming season, he will be looked to anchor down a consistent top-6 role this season, so expectations will also be increasing. There is still time and a chance he could be that fifth-round steal teams are always looking for.
Goals: 16 to 18
Points: 37 to 43
By Jon Sorensen