We continue breaking-down the last 12 months of development for each of the Washington Capitals prospects with a review and forecast for goaltender, Zach Fucale. (You can access all of our Capitals Prospect Reports and player analysis on our “Prospects” page in the top menu or right here.)
Zach Fucale, a 6’-2” 190lb netminder from Laval, Quebec, was originally drafted by the Montreal Canadiens in the second round (#36 overall) of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. Fucale, 27, was signed by the Capitals to a one-year, two-way contract ($700,000/$75,000) on August 19, 2020, and signed a two-year, two-way contract for $750,000/$150,000 in 2021-22 and and $750,000/$160,000 in 2022-23 on March 28, 2021. He will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2022-23 season.
Fucale spent the 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons playing in the Quebec Men’s Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) before making the jump to the American Hockey League (AHL), beginning with the 2015-16 season. He spent three seasons playing for the Montreal Canadiens’ AHL affiliates, the St. John’s Ice Caps and Laval Rocket, before moving on to the Chicago Wolves in the AHL.
During the 2018-19 season, Fucale saw action in five AHL games with the Chicago Wolves, going 1-3 and posting a .903 save percentage. He spent the rest of the season with the Fort Wayne Comets of the ECHL where he won 20 games, but his numbers weren’t strong, with a 3.18 goals against average and an .894 save percentage.
The 2019-20 season saw Fucale on the move again, this time spending a majority of the season with the Orlando Solar Bears in the ECHL. He had a pretty decent season, posting a 2.36 goals against average and a .928 save percentage, ultimately catching the eyes of Capitals scouts during the season.
The Capitals signed Fucale to one-year, two-way contract on August 19, 2020. The expectation was that Fucale would play with the Hershey Bears and provide the Capitals with additional organizational goalie depth. The 2020-21 season was a different story for Fucale. He went 9-2-0 with a .932 save percentage and a 1.80 GAA in 11 games played, the best in the AHL. The season ultimately garnered Fucale a two-year extension with the Capitals.
Fucale had a good start to his 2021-22 season with the Hershey Bears, picking up where he left off the previous season. He led the AHL last season in goals against average and was right back at the top of that list with a .96 goals-against average through October, tied for third in the league with a .963 save percentage. November saw Fucale make his long-awaited NHL debut, and he made the most of his chance. He pitched a 21-save shutout over the Detroit Red Wings in a 2-0 Washington triumph. Fucale became the first Capitals goalie to record a shutout in his NHL debut. He would return to the Bears where unfortunately things took a dip for Fucale. After winning his first two starts in January. Fucale gave up three or more goals in nine of his next 10 starts. The Laval, Quebec native posted a save percentage of above .900 once in his last eight appearances. His struggles continued in February before he had a good March. But that was followed by another down month in April.
2021-2022 MONTH-BY-MONTH RECAP AND TREND ANALYSIS
The following is a compilation of our month-by-month prospect reports for Zach Fucale during the 2021-2022 season. You can find all of our monthly prospect reports on our “Prospects” page in the top menu.
Fucale picked up right where he left off last season. The netminder started three games in the month and went 2-0-1. He surrendered just three goals in those three games. His only loss came in a shootout against Cleveland on October 30. He stopped the first seven shots in the shootout before Kevin Stenlund won it for Cleveland. Fucale made 29 saves in that game, including five in overtime. His best save of the game came when he stoned Liam Foudy on a breakaway with 9:47 left in regulation to keep the Bears within one. In his season debut, Fucale made 23 saves, three of which were top notch. He stopped Tyson Foerster on a shot from the right circle in the opening period on the shift following Lucas Johansen’s goal. Later in the period, the Laval, Qubec native turned away Logan Day’s backdoor attempt on the power play. Then, he stoned Isaac Ratcliffe on a breakaway by closing down the five hole. In his next start on the road in Charlotte, Fucale made nine first period saves to keep the game scoreless. With the Bears down one in the third, he denied Logan Hutzko in close. The save proved to be big as Garrett Pilon would tie the game a few minutes later. Fucale then made three big saves in a back-and-forth overtime, before Johansen won it late in the extra session. Fucale led the AHL last season in goals against average and he is right back at the top of that list with a .96 goals-against average through October. He is tied for third in the league with a .963 save percentage.
November saw Fucale make his long-awaited NHL debut, and he made the most of his chance. He pitched a 21-save shutout over the Detroit Red Wings in a 2-0 Washington triumph. Fucale became the first Capitals goalie to record a shutout in his NHL debut.
With the Bears, the Laval, Quebec native got the start in four games, going 2-1-1. Fucale made 28 saves, as the Bears rallied for a 5-3 win over Springfield on November 7. In his next start on November 20, he was the victim of a complete defensive meltdown in the third period. A lack of defensive coverage put Fucale in a spot where he was not going to be able to stop the high quality scoring chances. The netminder did his best to keep the Bears in it with a couple of big stops. He stoned Johnny Brodzinski on an odd-man rush and then cleared the rebound off of the goal line before the puck crossed the line. Fucale was victorious in his final start of the month on November 24. He turned away 22 shots, including 10 in the third, as Hershey topped Providence 4-3 in overtime. For the season, Fucale is 4-1-2-0, with a 2.63 GAA and a .898 save percentage.
Fucale started just one game for the Bears in December and it did not go particularly well for the netminder. He surrendered four goals on just 21 shots against the Laval Rocket.
The native of Laval, Quebec did make several quality saves in the game. He stopped Jean-Christophe Beaudin on a two-on-one just 2:20 into the game. Two minutes later, he turned a shot away with his mask. With 8:11 left in the opening period, Fucale made a shoulder save to prevent another Laval opportunity. In the end, he was done in by Hershey’s breakdowns on the power play, as the Rocket scored twice shorthanded, including on a game-winning penalty shot in the third period. Fucale spent the rest of the month either with the Capitals or in COVID protocol.
For the season, Fucale is 4-2-2-0 with a 2.80 GAA and a .889 save percentage with the Bears.
Fucale is struggling to find his form in Hershey. He is winless in his last three starts, after winning his first two starts in January. Fucale has given up three or more goals in nine of his last 10 starts. The Laval, Quebec native has posted a save percentage of above .900 once in his last eight appearances.
He has had a hard time holding onto shots and controlling rebounds. Against Toronto on January 15, he left a soft rebound off a Chad Krys shot in the second period. Alex Steeves scored off the rebound to tie the game at two. Fucale then dropped a shot 30 seconds into the third period that Josh Ho-Sang swept in to give Toronto a lead.
With Pheonix Copley playing well, Fucale is not getting as many starts and that limits his chances to regain his form. He has played well in his appearances in the NHL and needs to find that level to help the Bears going forward.
February started and ended well for Fucale. In between, there were significant struggles. He began the month stopping 24 of 26 shots in a 3-2 shootout loss to Hartford. The Laval, Quebec native won his next start in Cleveland on February 4. He turned aside 29 Cleveland shots in a 4-1 Hershey win.
Then came the potholes. Fucale was pulled after two periods in Lehigh Valley on February 11 when he gave up five goals on 13 shots. He did not play bad in his next game on February 13, but surrendered two goals on 20 shots in another loss at Lehigh Valley.
Fucale’s next two starts were in Providence against the Bruins and they did not go well. He gave up five goals on 26 shots on February 18 versus the Bruins. Fucale looked off in this game. He reacted late to shots and struggled to hold onto shots. Two days later, Providence put up a four-spot on Fucale to hand the netminder his eighth loss in nine starts. After the two Providence games, Fucale ranked 37th out of 38 qualified goalies in the AHL in save percentage and 30th in the league in goals-against-average. He was in desperate need of a quality start.
Fucale got just what he needed in Utica against the Devils on February 25. He stopped 14 first period shots and allowed the Bears to leave the first period with a 1-0 lead. He made seven more saves in the second. Fucale’s best stop came when he denied Chase De Leo with a glove save with Utica on the power play. He turned 13 shots aside in the third. Fucale made 34 saves in the game and earned his first shutout of the season (his second as a Bear). Hershey needs Fucale to stay at this level down the stretch.
After struggling to find his game, Fucale began March on fire. He earned shutouts in each of his first two starts to become the first goalie in Hershey franchise history to record shutouts in three consecutive starts (also had a shutout on February 25).
The Laval, Quebec native turned aside 26 shots on March 8, including 13 in the third period, to blank the Lehigh Valley Phantoms 4-0. Five days later, Fucale stymied the Phantoms again. This time, Fucale stopped 29 Lehigh Valley shots to merit a 2-0 shutout victory.
However, Fucale went winless in his final three starts of the month, but played well in two of those losses. He made 25 saves on 27 shots in Toronto on St. Patrick’s Day, but the Bears did not score and lost 3-0. Fucale allowed just one goal in Providence on March 25, but again his team did not provide any offense as the chocolate and white were shutout 2-0. The lone poor outing of the month for Fucale came in his hometown of Laval on March 19. He allowed four goals in that contest and was not sharp.
Fucale started six games in April. He won only one of those starts and has lost nine of his last 10 outings. The Laval, Quebec native gave up four goals in each of his first two starts of the month and had a save percentage below .860 in both games.
Fucale then turned away 24 of 26 Springfield shots in a 3-2 overtime victory on April 10. His best stop came with 4:31 remaining in the first period when he denied Dakota Joshua on a two-on-one rush with a left pad save.
The netminder lost his final starts, but did not play poorly. He saved 35 shots in a 3-2 overtime loss in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on April 13. Fucale surrendered two goals in each of his last two starts, but the Bears scored a total of one goal in support in those contests. He concludes the regular season with an 11-15-5-3 record. Fucale’s save percentage for the season is .896 and his goals-against average was 2.62.
Fucale had an excellent start with the Bears at the end of the 2020-21 season and good start to the 2021-22 season before an extended mid-season dip. It should be noted that Fucale also became a new father which directly coincided with his mid season dip. He concluded the regular season with an 11-15-5-3 record, with a save percentage for the season of .896 and a goals-against average of 2.62.
Fucale has wide swings in the level of his performance and needs to find consistency in order to make any kind of push for a role with the Capitals, or at minimum, earn another contract extension. He had a long stretch of games where he had trouble posting a .900 save percentage, but then had a stretch of three-consecutive shutouts in the 2021-22 season. Rebound control was a big part of his mid-season issues.
Fucale will likely start the season as the number one goaltender in Hershey, backed up by Hunter Shepard, assuming Pheonix Copley’s time with the Capitals organization is over.
By Jon Sorensen
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It’s crazy how wide his performance swings are. He needs to lock it down this season in Hershey.
Sounds like an inexpensive replacement for Sammy for 2 years until Shepard is ready. Also hoping that VV steps up his game for the next 2 years.