Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman is reporting on Thursday that the Washington Capitals are signing Dartmouth goaltender Clay Stevenson. Rick Dhaliwal of CHEK TV adds that Stevenson met with both the Capitals and New York Rangers, while drawing interest from the Vancouver Canucks and Seattle Kraken.
Hearing Dartmouth goalie Clay Stevenson (from Chilliwack, BC) is signing with WASH after a tremendous season with the Big Green
— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) March 24, 2022
Stevenson, 23, had an excellent second season this year with the Green Wave, posting a .922 save percentage and a 2.70 goals against average on an otherwise underwhelming Dartmouth team.
Dartmouth and Chilliwack goalie Clay Stevenson will sign with Washington.
He had visits with the Rangers and Capitals, interest from Vancouver and Seattle.
Former Coquitlam Express goalie.
— Rick Dhaliwal (@DhaliwalSports) March 24, 2022
Stevenson, 6’-4”, 195lbs, played well in the BCHL before leaving for college. According to Pro Hockey News, for the Coquitlam Express in 2019-20, the big goaltender posted a 30-2-2 record with a .936 save percentage, taking home the BCHL Top Goaltender award but missing a chance to win the Fred Page Cup after the league was shut down because of COVID-19 concerns.
“You could really get that sense of maturity with Clay,” recalled Jacob Lazare, who worked with the Express as Director of Communications from 2018-2020. “Clay was with the Express the year before his breakout year — and he was good — but he kind of struggled at times. I think the big thing was clearly going into 18-19 he was sort of expected to be the guy, and then the Express went out and traded for Kolby Matthews. When they traded for him, it kind of forced Clay to really compete for that starting spot and they ended up splitting time. I think having that internal competition forced Clay to mature a little bit and to work hard and that was part of the whole culture change under Jason [Fortier] — not allowing guys to just come in and assume that they’re better than the team or that something’s been given to them, and I think that was really beneficial for Clay.”
“Even when he was a 20 year old in 19-20 — Jack Watson would have started on almost any other team in the BCHL, and he was backing up Clay for most of that season. It just forced Clay to keep getting better, and I think you saw that in Clay’s maturity throughout the year.”
According to CanucksArmy, Stevenson faced a situation right before his breakout season that nobody — especially a 20-year-old kid — should have to face in their personal life.
Clay’s mother, Holly Stevenson — a paramedic — committed suicide just ten days before the Express’ first regular-season game.
Stevenson knew his mom had been having a difficult year, struggling with her mental health, but he never expected the news his younger sister Brie delivered when she showed up at the front door of his billet family’s home in Coquitlam.
Finding out about his mother’s death hit him hard, but Stevenson was determined to get back out on the ice, holding the belief that it’s what his mother would have wanted.
“Clay is the ultimate team guy,” said current Coquitlam Express captain Ryan Tattle, who was a rookie on the 19-20 Express team that Stevenson backstopped. “I think it was the day of his mom’s funeral. We had a game and our team went to the funeral. And you know, he obviously spoke at the funeral, it was a very emotional day. We played that night, we ended up losing 6-1 or whatever it was — the game didn’t really matter. But Clay came to that game and didn’t play, but he was still there with us. That gesture right there just speaks to who he is as a person.”
It was COVID issues that stole what would have been Stevenson’s regular freshman season in 2020-21 as well when Dartmouth and the other Ivy League hockey programs decided not to play. The NCAA ruled that he would not lose a season of eligibility though, so this year is technically an impressive freshman campaign for the 22-year-old, even on a team without much success.
Stevenson is playing for former Capitals coach Reid Cashman, who left the Capitals for the head coaching position at Dartmouth in 2020.
Stevenson was named to the All-ECAC Hockey third team and rookie team after a stellar season between the pipes for the Big Green.
He started all 15 ECAC Hockey games that he played in. He finished with 456 saves while allowing 35 goals for a .929 save percentage and a goals against average of 2.39.
Stevenson earned his first career shutout with a 37 save performance in a 2-0 win over Yale on February 12. He received his first weekly honor when he was named the ECAC Hockey MAC Goaltending Goalie of the Week on February 14.
In addition, Stevenson was named a finalist for the ECAC Hockey Ken Dryden Goaltender of the Year Award. The winner will be announced on Tuesday, March 15.
Stevenson has the option of finishing his degree at Dartmouth, which would mean he’d stay at the school for an additional two years, or he could immediately enter the Capitals system, most likely in South Carolina or possibly in Hershey.
By Jon Sorensen