We conducted our last assessment of the Capitals organizational depth at the goaltending position back in July (here), so it’s time for an update. This post will provide a full depth chart and brief player summary for each goaltender in the Capitals organization, and conclude with a brief one-year forecast for the position.
The Washington Capitals organizational goaltending assessment includes: Darcy Kuemper, Charlie Lindgren, Zach Fucale, Hunter Shepard, Clay Stevenson, Garin Bjorklund, Mitchell Gibson and Chase Clark:
2022-23 GOALTENDING DEPTH CHART
Here is the Capitals current organizational depth chart for the goaltending position, with basic stats through play completed on November 14:
Darcy Kuemper – Tossing out the first period in Sunday night’s game against the Lightning, Darcy Kuemper has been as advertised in his start with the Capitals, and a big reason why the Capitals have been in almost every game so far this season. He’s been under siege at times, but saving more goals than his expected goals against statistics. He has the 16th-best goals differential (xGA – GA) among all NHL goaltenders with a minimum of 150 minutes of ice time.
Charlie Lindgren – Lindgren has also started the season strong and is looking like another bargain-bin find by Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan. One could even argue that Lindgren has earned a few consecutive starts, but that’s a post for another day. He currently has the 17th- best goals differential among all NHL goaltenders. (Chart below). Any positive number means the goaltender is saving more than expected.
Zach Fucale – As expected, Fucale has been the Bears number one netminder since the beginning of the season. He continues to draw a bulk of the work and two games in three-game weekends. His play has been solid, with very little, if anything negative to report. Hershey is 8-2-2-0 on the season, and goaltending is a big reason why.
Hunter Shepard – The Bears number two has also got off to a pretty good start this season, and could arguably be the Bears number one netminder right now. While his won-loss record is not what Zach Fucale has posted, Shepard has been better, statistically. Don’t be surprised if Shepard gets two games in a three-game weekend set in the near future.
Clay Stevenson – The Capitals announced on October 1 that Stevenson would miss 4-6 weeks after an injury and surgery to his right hand. Stevenson recovered and returned faster than originally forecasted and currently has the best stats among all goaltenders in South Carolina. Look for him to eventually head north for a game or more with the Hershey Bears as the season progresses.
Garin Bjorklund – Bjorklund spent time in the Bears training camp before being re-assigned to the South Carolina Stingrays on October 9. Since his arrival in Charleston, not much has happened on Bjorklund’s end, as he has yet to see any game time. He could be dealing with a minor (unreported) injury. Bjorklund, Stevenson and Tyler Wall makeup netminders on the Stingrays roster.
Mitchell Gibson – “Gibby” has picked up where he left off last season, and has been solid for Harvard in the early going. He’s second in the NCAA in GAA and 20th in overall save percentage in the NCAA so far this season. Gibson is considered a senior, but his sophomore season (2020-21) was a complete wash-out due to the pandemic, therefore it’s believed college eligibility remains for Gibson. The question remains, will he use it or move on to the pros?
Chase Clark – Clark began the 2022-23 season dealing with undisclosed “injuries”, but has finally made his first appearance. He’s stopped all four shots he’s faced in just 5:05 of time on ice. He is backing up Yanev Pareets, who was outstanding last season, posting a 1.17 goals against average, which broke the NCAA record of NHL All-Star Jimmy Howard (1.19), who set the record with Maine in 2004. While Clark’s ice time maybe be limited in his Freshman season, he is backing up and learning from a pretty good goaltender, which has to be considered an overall win for his development.
In Washington, barring any drastic changes (trade, injury, etc.) the Capitals are pretty locked-in with Kuemper and Lindgren for this season and next season. That’s not to say a netminder further down the chart won’t be able to challenge Lindgren for the backup role next season, or make an appearance this season.
In Hershey, we could see one of the netminders go unsigned this off-season, depending on the play of both Shepard and Fucale, and the play of Clay Stevenson and Garin Bjorklund. There is plenty that remains to be decided.
In the college ranks, Gibson has stated he is staying at Harvard until he gets his degree, which could come this spring. Will he stay for another year or look to turn pro remains to be seen. As for Clark, he will hopefully takeover the starters role next season for Quinnipiac.
By Jon Sorensen