The infusion of youth so far this season has been a refreshing jolt for prospect trackers and hockey fans a like, as last season saw very little in the way of call-ups to the NHL due to the COVID pandemic. So far the 2021-22 season has seen a lot more call-ups, as teams look to makeup for lost (development) time.
The Washington Capitals recalled forward prospects through the first two months of the season, as the Capitals’ defensive corps was solid in their play and relatively injury-free. But earlier this week Alex Alexeyev and Lucas Johansen got their much anticipated calls from Ballston as the COVID virus struck the Capitals blueline. Alexeyev would ultimately make his NHL debut Wednesday night against the Predators.
Next up on the Capitals blueline call-sheet will likely see Tobias Geisser and or Bobby Nardella make their first trip south from Hershey. Geisser, a 22-year-old lefty, was drafted by the Capitals in the fourth round (#120 overall) of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. After an initial tour of Chocolate Town, Geisser returned home for two seasons of development in the Swiss League before returning this season.
Hershey, Take One
Geisser played in 41 games for the Hershey Bears during the 2018-19 season, making his AHL debut in Grand Rapids on October 12. In an interview with Bears Radio, head coach Spencer Carbery commented that Geisser had improved tremendously in the month that he’d known him. Carbery added he was impressed by how fast Geisser was learning the AHL game.
In a pregame interview on November 10, Carberry added that Geisser was “very wise, beyond his years, with processing coaching directions, reads on the ice…a quick learner.” Geisser would ultimately be awarded “Most Improved” player by the Bears at the end of the season.
“You have to think a lot quicker here because things happen quicker. Obviously the ice sheet is a little smaller over here,” Geisser told Bears Radio earlier this month.” In Europe you have more space to skate. So that’s a little different. I think this year was a little easier because I already played here a season, so it was easier to make the transition.”
The 6′-4″ Geisser played seven games at the start of the 2019-20 season before he returned to his home country of Switzerland. Geisser was the odd man out in Hershey, as the level of competition for a playing spot on the Bears’ blueline was significantly elevated by the arrivals of Martin Fehervary and Alex Alexeyev. The re-assignment allowed Geisser to see more consistent playing time.
The Swiss Mister
Geisser was officially loaned to EV Zug on December 5, 2019, and played in 25 games during the 2019-20 season.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Geisser was officially loaned back to EVZ on August 4, 2020. It was expected at the time of the loan that the Capitals would recall Geisser to North America when the organization’s 2020-21 training camp opened. But then COVID virus shutdown hockey in North America for the remainder of 2020.
In March of 2020, Geisser unknowingly contracted COVID-19. “I thought a flu or a bad cold was approaching.” When he woke up the next morning , the symptoms were gone. A few days later, however, he noticed that he could no longer smell anything.
“But back then, the loss of the sense of smell as a corona (COIVD-19) symptom was not so well known,” said Geisser. For this reason, no COVID test was arranged for him at the time.
But Geisser’s sense of smell did not return to normal. As a result, EVZ wanted to get to the bottom of it. In the fall of 2020 Geisser underwent a COVID-19 antibodies test, which turned out positive.
Regardless, Geisser battled on and wound up playing in 50 regular season games for EV Zug during the 2020-21 season, recording five goals and 17 assists. Geisser and EV Zug would eventually run through their postseason opponents and win the Swiss National League Championship in the Spring of 2021.
“It was great. Obviously we won a lot of games during the season. We had a lot of pressure coming into playoffs because of that. I’m glad we could make it and win the championship,” said Geisser.
Geisser’s time in Switzerland was very beneficial to his overall game. “I think I gained a lot of strength, mental stuff, matured a lot, gained a lot of experience. Helps you being calm in any situation that can happen out there. I think that is the biggest part of it.”
Geisser would return to North America to start to the 2021-22 season, first particpating in the Capitals development camp and then participating in the Capitals full training camp. Geisser would see pre-season game action and impressed Capitals coaches before returning to Hershey for the start of the season.
“It’s been great. Great being back here, for sure. Not a lot has changed since I was here,” Geiser told Bears Radio earlier this month. “I gained a lot of experience back home, in those two years I was there. Championship helped me much.”
Geisser, primarily a defensive defenseman, scored his first career AHL goal Wednesday night against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.
— Jon Sorensen (@jon_m_sorensen) December 30, 2021
Geisser has become steady and reliable defenseman on the backend so far during his second tour with Bears, playng in 22 of the Bears 26 games so far this season, and could arguably be the next blueliner callup-up on the Capitals depth chart.
Washington Capitals Defensive Depth Chart
At 22, and with European pro games and a championhip under his belt, Geisser is closing in on his first call-up to the Capitals. He has the size, tools and smarts to succeed at the NHL level, he just needs to see consistent playing time to develop, both in Hershey and in Washington.
By Jon Sorensen
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