We are a little more than a month away from the start of Washington Capitals rookie camp which will be closely followed by the Capitals 2022-23 training camp. Competition for roster spots will be tamped down a bit this preseason, as the Capitals brought in quite a few NHL veterans to patch the immediate holes in the lineup.
As a result, most of the prospects will spend a majority of their season away from Washington, and in many cases, the player will need to clear waivers to make the move to Hershey. Here are my initial projections for each of the Capitals prospects for the coming season.
Alex Alexeyev (LHD) – Alexeyev (shoulder surgery) will begin the season on a rehab assignment in Hershey but could get games with the Capitals in the spring. However, he is not waivers exempt, therefore if he is called up he will have to stay in Washington. The Capitals could conceivably reverse the rehab process (Start in DC and re-assign to Hershey) Either way, one more (partial due to injury) season in Hershey is the likely play, and not a terrible one.
Garin Bjorklund (G) – Bjorklund will start the season in South Carolina and likely spend most, if not all of the year there. He needs stability and a solid foundation after his challenging times in Medicine Hat. He will be an interesting follow this season.
Ryan Chesley (RHD) – Chesley has committed to the University of Minnesota for the 2022-23 season. The Capitals second round draft pick in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft could see mention for Team USA’s Junior National team beginning this season.
Chase Clark (G) – Clark committed to playing for Quinnipiac early in the 2021-22 season, which will provide a solid next step in his development. Unfortunately for Clark, Quinnipiac’s number one goaltender, Yaniv Perets (undrafted) has decided to return to Quinnipiac this season, which will no doubt impact Clark’s playing time. Perets posted a 1.17 goals against average this season, which broke the NCAA record of NHL All-Star Jimmy Howard (1.19), who set the record with Maine in 2004. Regardless, a solid role model for Clark and a solid next step in his development.
Kody Clark (RW) – As I noted in the prospect pool overview, it’s “go time” for the second round pick in 2018. While injuries have been prevalent for Clark, the games and years are starting to mount. Clark (second round, #47 overall) has played 113 games in the AHL and needs to have that breakout season.
Zach Fucale (G) – Fucale will begin the season as the number one netminder in Hershey, backed up by Hunter Shepard. Where things go from there is somewhat in question. Which way will he turn? Will he perform to a level to hold the number one position? Will younger netminders like Clay Stevenson challenge him for work in Hershey? The top three positions in the organization could see a shakeup by season’s end.
Mitchell Gibson (G) – Gibson will continue being the number one netminder at Harvard this season. He’s been solid in his previous seasons. As I’ve previously mentioned, Gibson is committed to getting his degree, as he should, so he will be a relatively late arrival in Hershey when his collegiate career concludes.
Tobias Geisser (RHD) – Geisser signed a three-year deal with EV-Zug in the Swiss League this off-season. The move seemed to counter a traditional path to the NHL, where continued work in Hershey was the obvious next step. I messaged Geisser about the move.
Briefly chatted with Tobias Geisser regarding his decision to sign a 3-year deal with EV Zug in Swiss League. “The NHL is still my ultimate goal. I just think it’s better for my developement to stay here and be NHL ready in a few years when the rebuild finally happens.” #ALLCAPS
— Capitals Prospects (@jon_m_sorensen) June 17, 2022
It’s interesting that Geisser, like the rest of Caps nation, is eye-balling the approaching rebuild. How many other prospects have the rebuild in their sights? At 23, if Geisser plays out the full three years in the Swiss League, it’s probably too late for him to work his way through Hershey to Capitals.
David Gucciardi (LHD) – Gucciardi will return to Michigan State for his sophomore season this fall. He was a big contributor in his freshman campaign, so this could be a breakout season for the Capitals seventh round draft pick in 2022. He will be an interesting watch.
Haakon Hanelt (LW) – Hanelt will most likely return to Gatineau for a second season. He spent much of the season on the injured list last season and still has a lot of development value to be attained in the CHL. The best forecast for Hanelt is a year in Gatineau and be ready to make the leap to Hershey next fall.
Martin Hugo Has (RHD) – Hugo Has is an interesting case. After tracking him for two-plus years, I feel he’s ready for a shot in Hershey, but my gut says he will return to the CHL for one more season. All will be decided on his performance during the rookie camp and/or Capitals training camp.
Ryan Hofer (C) – Hofer is another interesting case. He most likely will return to Everett for his third season in the WHL, but his offensive production and age (20) could be argued for a shot in Hershey. It’s likely the Capitals will make that call after rookie camp and training camp in September. The Bears are currently deep at center for the coming season, so that will play into the final decision as well.
Cassius “Bear” Hughes (C) – Like Henrik Rybinski, Hughes will do battle for a starting center position in Hershey this fall, but there are a number of others looking for playing time at the position as well. Unlike Rybinski, Hughes signed a Bears contract, so he will spend the season with Hershey unless his contract situation changes.
Vincent Iorio (RHD) – Iorio will make the leap from the CHL to the AHL this season, and will likely get starts right off the bat, likely by direction of the Capitals. The better move would be to ease the 19-year-old into the lineup and work towards making him a regular starter by springtime.
Lucas Johansen (LHD) – Johansen will be given every opportunity to earn a spot on the Capitals roster this fall. It’s his job to lose in many aspects. But there will be competition, as the Capitals brought in Erik Gustafsson and Gabriel Carlsson to compete for the same spot (7th or 8th defenseman). The offeseason acquisitions were not exactly a vote of confidence for Johansen. He would also require waivers to move from Washington to Hershey. At 25, it’s now or never for LuJo.
Brent Johnson (RHD) – After riding the pine at the start of his freshman season at North Dakota, Johnson slowly began getting consistent starting time, and will look to secure a regular starting role for his sophomore campaign. He impressed me in the few games he played, and will be another very interesting watch this season.
Jake Karabela (C) – The Capitals fifth round pick in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft will return for his second season with the Guelph Storm in the OHL. Karabela doesn’t turn 19 until March, so he could be looking at two more seasons in the CHL. He will also be in consideration for the next two World Junior teams for Team Canada.
Dru Krebs (LHD) – Krebs will most likely begin the year in South Carolina, but could see games or extended time in Hershey. He was difficult to assess last season, on a very poor Medicine Hat team, so this season should give us a much better feel for his potential.
Hendrix Lapierre (LW/C) – Lapierre played in a total of 54 games last season, still on the low side, but much better than the 2020-21 season (30 games) and 2019-20 season (24 games). He was sidelined with two different lower-body injuries that kept him from competing in the full 68-game regular season schedule. Lapierre still needs games as injuries and Covid have drastically limited his playing time. He might get a few games with the Capitals to start the season, but he will ultimately end up in Hershey, and that’s a great next step for him. If the Capitals need him this season, there is trouble in Washington.
Brett Leason (RW) – Unfortunately Leason is not waivers exempt, meaning he will likely play a full season wherever he starts the year. I can’t see him starting with or being called-up by the Capitals and then being waived in an attempt to get him back to Herhsey. It’s too soon in his development to take that risk, and likely why the Capitals decided to trade for Connor Brown. The best move for everyone is a full year in Hershey for Leason.
Joaquim Lemay (LHD) – Lemay will report to the University of Nebraska-Omaha for his freshman season this fall. The fourth round pick in 2021 will look to secure a starting role on a very competitive blueline.
Oskar Magnusson (LW) – Magnusson has already confirmed that he will return to AIK in the HockeyAllsvenskan league. The drop down from the SHL to the HockeyAllsvenskan last season has seemed to suit him well so far. One more year, then it has to be to the SHL or AHL for next season.
Beck Malenstyn (LW) – Malenstyn’s grit could certainly be used in Washington this season, particularly while Tom Wilson is sidelined. Unfortunately he will be competing with Axel Jonsson-Fjallby for the fourth line left wing spot vacated by Carl Hagelin. Overall the needle currently tilts towards Jonsson-Fjallby. Malenstyn would also have to clear waivers to move from Washington to Hershey.
Ivan Miroshnichenko (RW) – “Miro” continues to work his way back after his battle with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma beginning in January. He was cleared to skate in June and continues his solo skates in advance of his return to the Omskie Krylia club in the KHL. No rush for the 18 year-old. Time with the KHL team this season would be fantastic, but any games after battling cancer would be a huge victory.
Bobby Nardella (LHD) – At 26, Nardella’s window for playing time in DC is quickly drawing to a close. He needs to make a statement in training camp, get on the Capitals radar for a potential callup. At 5’-9” his size may be the discouraging factor, because his offensive capabilities are worthy of a shot at the NHL level.
Ludwig Persson – Persson recorded 25 goals and 36 assists in just 41 regular season games for the J20 team during the 2020-21 season. He also played for Frolunda HC in the Swedish Hockey League (SHL) in the 2020-21 season, but stepped down a level to play in the HockeyAllsvenskan league last season and will return to the HockeyAllsvenskan league this season. Persson has a signed contract with Frolunda HC but will be on loan to BIK Karlskoga.
Garrett Pilon (C/RW) – Pilon is one of several who will feel the crunch of new acquisitions, and will need to outbattle several for the 13th forward position. He too will require clearing waivers to make it to Hershey.
Aliaksei Protas (C) – While Protas has demonstrated he’s on the cusp of a full time position with the Capitals, he too will be caught up in the numbers game, as there are simply no positions open for him. However, another full year in Hershey will be good for the 21-year-old. The good news, Protas is waivers exempt, so he will likely see callups and time with the Capitals during the 2022-23 season.
Damien Riat (RW) – Riat decided to return home to Switzerland rather than pursue an NHL career in the summer of 2021. While the Capitals still own the rights (and therefor we will continue to track), at 25, it’s unlikely he will make another run for an NHL job. Never say never, but I wouldn’t bet on a return.
Henrik Rybinski (C) – Rybinski will do battle for a starting center position in Hershey this fall, but there are a number of others looking for playing time at the position as well. Since he is already signed by the Capitals, the team may want to get a good, extended look, and make sure he starts games at the beginning of the season.
Hunter Shepard (G) – Shepard will begin the season as the number two netminder in Hershey. He will get every chance to takeover the number one spot from Zach Fucale, but will also feel the heat from Clay Stevenson in South Carolina. It’s a win-win for the Capitals and Bears.
Alexander Suzdalev (RW) – Suzdalev’s assignment for the 2022-23 season is very much up in the air, and that’s a good thing in this case. He could return to HV71, or the Capitals could have different plans. Training camp will be the deciding point for the Capitals third round pick in the 2022 draft. He’s already signed with the Capitals.
Joe Snively (RW) – Snively, 26, will be given every opportunity to earn the 13th forward roster spot with the Capitals this season, but the competition for that spot will be stiff. He was playing at a very high level for the entire 2021-22 season, both in Hershey and with the Capitals, before the hand/wrist injury ended his season.
Clay Stevenson – Stevenson will most likely start the season with the Capitals’ ECHL affiliate in South Carolina, but he could see a quick rise to Hershey. He should at least get a game or two early in Hershey to get a taste, but he could also challenge for a regular spot by mid-season.
Riley Sutter (RW) – Sutter will return to Hershey for his fourth season, and as noted in my recent prospect overview post, he needs to have a breakthrough season this season. Sutter (third round pick, #93 overall) has played 89 games in Chocolatetown.
Bogdan Trineyev (LW) – Trineyev, who made a brief appearance with the Hershey Bears and made his AHL debut last season will return to the Dynamo Moscow club for the 2022-23 season (Announced back in May). He will get time with the top team but will also get time with Dynamo’s Junior team. He needs to make the most of his KHL time this season and be ready for the jump to Hershey in the fall of 2023.
Interesting Times Ahead
As noted in the aforementioned player descriptions, several players will have to clear waivers to make the move to Hershey. As a result, the Capitals could look to package one more more of the “edge” players in a training camp deal.
A lot of discussion about how next year’s draft will be one of the best (most talent) in many years. #ALLCAPS will need to consider several players that will require clearing waivers in order to return to Hershey, and weigh their value vs. packaging for additional 2023 picks.
— Capitals Prospects (@jon_m_sorensen) August 10, 2022
The projected talent in 2023 draft is shaping up to be one of the best in many years, which might be reason enough to make a deal or deals for picks.
By Jon Sorensen