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The Washington Capitals are in Day 2 of hosting their annual Development Camp for the organization’s drafted prospects and free agent invitees, where both the team’s brass and fans have the opportunity to catch a glimpse of the future of the team. Among those overseeing the on-ice drills and instruction is Hershey Bears Head Coach Scott Allen.Allen, who guided the Capitals’ American Hockey League affiliate to a 34-32-6-4 regular season record and a first-round Calder Cup playoff exit in his first season as bench boss, worked with a number of players that could potentially find their names in the NHL team’s lineup coming Opening Night and knows first-hand the capability and readiness some could provide.
Among the young players that could see a role in Washington this season is former first-round pick, defenseman Lucas Johansen (taken 28th overall in 2016). The younger brother of Nashville Predators forward Ryan Johansen has had his fair share of inconsistent play and injuries since turning pro, however rebounded last season, finishing the 2021-22 AHL regular season second on the Bears in Goals, Assists, and Points among blueliners, re-signing with the Caps on a two-year contract earlier this year.
“He had a great season. He was our most consistent and best defenseman from start to finish. Little things weren’t rattling him, in the past he’s had some injury problems that he’s had to deal with. He had a couple injuries this year, and the turnaround as far as the injury to him actually getting back and playing was a lot quicker than it had been in the past. I think he got out of his own mind, he was in a little bit of his own head these last couple years, that’s just my opinion. Maybe not only because of the injuries but there’s a certain pressure when you’re a high draft pick there’s a little more pressure that guy has a tendency to put on themselves and maybe Lucas did that. You know I was so happy for him this year with the season that he had and how he was able to perform for us, and to get to come up and play in his first NHL game was exciting for him.”
The Capitals’ youth showed signs of their potential last season, when a myriad of injuries and other situations on the NHL roster opened the door for the likes of Brett Leason, Aliaksei Protas, Beck Malenstyn, among others at times, to all see ice time in a Caps sweater. General Manager Brian MacLellan suggested in his pre-draft press conference that the team’s young players would have an opportunity to do so again, come the start of the regular season.
“You know it’s a unique situation because almost the longer a guy spends up here, it’s a challenge, actually, to come back and play because they play a different role up here, they play less minutes. He [referring to Protas] did spend some time on the power play which was nice but it is the challenge to come back and play more minutes and bigger role, different situations, to try to be a more relied upon player as far as scoring, but that is the challenge. Same thing with Brett Leason and the amount of time he spent, very similar those two guys. But again, extremely exciting times for these young players, and with the amount of guys that came up and played this year and performed fairly well, it should make for a more competitive [training] camp, especially with the jobs that will be potentially available. So exciting times for the young prospects of the Washington Capitals.”
Forward Joe Snively made history last season as the first Virginia-born player to suit up for the Capitals. The Herndon, Virginia native signed with the Capitals as an undrafted free agent in March 2019. In 12 games with the Caps last season before suffering a wrist injury that required surgery, the 26-year old recorded seven points (including four goals). Signed to a two-year contract in March, the 5’9″ forward figures to be one of the many young players vying for a spot in the Opening Night lineup.
“I certainly hope so, I hope so for his sake. His game, his confidence went through the roof as he started to play well. When he came up I believe he was riding a 14-game point streak in the American Hockey League. We were a team that struggled to score…when you take a guy that you can almost count on a goal, now to try to replace that. For him personally, I think he played a dozen games up here, I thought they did a great job with him once he got here and he got the opportunity to play with some puck-movers and guys who had the potential to score as well, and he responded well to that. So, another guy that injuries derailed slightly, but we’re hopeful for him I know he’s excited how the season went for him this past year and I know he’s excited to get going in training camp this year.”
To see Allen’s full comments, see HERE
The Capitals’ Development Camp runs through Friday, July 15.
By Michael Fleetwood