Connor McMichael Prepares For World Juniors, Vitek Vanecek Continues Strong Play: Week 14 Prospect Recap

Welcome to the week 14 Washington Capitals prospect report. The following includes a summary of game action and news that occurred between December 16 and December 22, 2019. (Reminder: you can always access all of our prospect news and analysis in the top menu under the “Prospects” tab. You can also follow the latest Capitals prospect news on Twitter under the #CapsProspect hashtag.


PREVIOUS WEEKLY REPORTS

MONTHLY PROSPECT REPORTS


AHL/HERSHEY BEARS
The Hershey Bears’ week consisted of a pair of home games with the Springfield Thunderbirds. They began their two-game set with a 3-1 win on Saturday night and completed the weekend sweep of the Thunderbirds with a three-goal, third period rally for a 3-2 win on Sunday. The win was the Bears 8th straight and maintains their undefeated status for the month of December. They are 16-9-2-3 (37 points) on the season, and sit in third place in the Atlantic Division, just four points behind Providence and Hartford.

Graphic: reddit/limits660

Vitek Vanecek – continued his top-level play of late in Saturday’s 3-1 win over the Thunderbirds. He stopped 26 of 27 shots faced for a .962 game save percentage. After a slow start to the season, Vanecek has now won five straight, has a 9-4-1-1 record with a 2.20 GAA and a .915 save percentage for the season. He currently looks very calm and confident in the crease, and in control of all of his angles and positioning. He remains the Bears defacto number one goaltender.

Pheonix Copley – made his first start since December 8th in the Sunday afternoon matinee against the Thunderbirds. He played well, stopping 28 of 30 shots faced for a .933 game save percentage. Copley has given up four goals on 55 shots in his last two games. For the season, Copley is 7-5-4-1, with a 2.63 GAA and a .899 save percentage.

Axel Jonsson-Fjallby – would pot the overtime game winner Saturday night versus the Thunderbirds. Jonsson-Fjallby has three goals and seven assists in 29 games played so far this season. He has fired 42 shots for a 16.7% shooting percentage.

Alex Alexeyev – is beginning to heat up for the Bears. He continues to lead all Bears rookies in points (13) and is 5th overall on the team. Alexeyev made this game-saving diving play in overtime Saturday night,  just prior Axel Jonsson-Fjallby’s game winner.

Defensively, Alexeyev continues to improve, but still misses an occasional assignment, or makes an ill-advised exit pass, but those are to be expected just three months into his professional career.

Bobby Nardella – had an assist in the Bears 3-2 win on Sunday night. The Bears power play has now scored in five of the last six games, since Nardella returned from injury. Nardella has a goal and three assists since his return, and has one goal and six assists in nine games played so far this season. More on Nardella and the Bears power play here.

Christian Djoos – was injured late in the second period of Saturday night’s tilt with the Thunderbirds.

Bears Head Coach Spencer Carbery gave an injury update following Sunday’s game.


OHL/WHL 

Connor McMichael
McMichael and Team Canada made their way to Europe on Monday, first stop in Vienna, Austria.

Byron Bader, creator of the NHLe Player Comparison Tool, which allows users to compare current and past prospects, compared the progression of Connor McMichael with prospects from the past 25 years for progression from his DY to D+1. According to his model, the only players that compare to Connor McMichael in the past 25 years are Rantanen and Heponiemi.

The model  includes all skaters drafted in the first seven rounds from 1990 to 2019. As well as select undrafted stars and 1980s drafted HOFs – Over 5,000 players to search in total.

Canada got its pre-WJC schedule underway with a showdown against the Swiss on Friday. McMichael played on a regular (non-checking) line on Thursday afternoon in Canada’s first pre-tournament game vs Switzerland. Skating with Olivier-Benoit Groulx (Halifax Mooseheads) and Akil Thomas, McMichael played the left-wing with Groulx centring the fourth line.

McMichael had no points and was a +1 in the game. He saw a shift on the power play and was involved in Canada’s first goal at even strength.

You can read our latest piece on the latest from McMichael’s journey to the World Junior Championship here.

McMichael survived the final cut and made Team Canada’s final 23-man roster. The announcement was made early in Saturday (more here.)

Team Canada’s final tuneup is on Monday, December 23rd against Team Finland. Puck drop is 11:30 AM ET. McMichael and Team Canada open the tournament against Team USA on December 26th. (Television schedule here).

Aliaskei Protas – is set to return to action with Prince Albert following Belarus’ completion of the Division 1A portion of the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship last Sunday. For the tournament, Protas had four goals and three assists in five games played. He was tied for second with most goals and 4th in overall points for the tournament.

Alex Kannok-Leipert – scored his second goal of the season Wednesday night against Kelowna. He also registered an assist. Alex remains on the Giant’s top defensive pair with Trevor Longo, now that Bowen Byram is on the road with Team Canada juniors.


EUROPE

Martin Hugo Has – continues to progress with Team Czech Republic as they prepare for and host the upcoming IIHF World Juniors Championship, beginning on December 26. Rumors have Has being named team captain, but that has yet to officially occur at the time of this report.

Damien Riat – after he returned for one game following a concussion sustained on November 2, which had him sidelined for almost month, Riat had to deal with some pain in his neck. As a precautionary measure, he did not travel to Göteborg for the Champions Hockey League tournament. Riat has played in just one game since his November 2nd Injury.


NCAA

Mitchell Gibson – Gibson and the Harvard Crimson are off until December 28th.

Benton Maass – University of New Hampshire’s are off until December 29th when the visit Army at West Point.

By Jon Sorensen

About Jon Sorensen

Jon has been a Caps fan since day one, attending his first game at the Capital Centre in 1974. His passion for the Caps has grown over the decades, which has included time as a season ticket holder, social media and community organizer, and most recently led to the founding of NoVa Caps in 2014. Jon earned a Bachelor's of Science in Engineering at Old Dominion University, and is a Systems Engineer during intermissions, which has been instrumental in supporting his Capitals habit.
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6 Responses to Connor McMichael Prepares For World Juniors, Vitek Vanecek Continues Strong Play: Week 14 Prospect Recap

  1. Anonymous says:

    So looking forward to the WJC tournament.

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