We conducted our last review and assessment of the Washington Capitals organizational depth at the goaltending position back in November (here) and prior to that, last July (here), so it’s about time for an update. This post will provide a full depth chart for the position and a 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: [Click to enlarge]
[Note: It has been reported that Mitchell Gibson has signed with the Capitals and will sign an ATO with the Hershey Bears. However, no official announcement from the Capitals has been made at the time of this writing.]
Darcy Kuemper – Kuemper has played fairly well this season. He’s had stretches of poor play, like any goaltender, but also stood tall when the players in front of him were giving up a lot of shots and chances. Kuemper is 21-23-05 with a 2.76 GAA and a .911 save percentage for the season. He’s been under siege at times this season, but still maintains a positive goals differential of 3.70, which is above the league average of 1.547.
Charlie Lindgren – Lindgren got off to a hot start and kept the Capitals in the playoff hunt last fall when Kuemper was struggling. However, things have turned south for Lindgren in the last couple of months. He is 13-9-0-3 with a 3.02 GAA and a .898 save percentage for the season. While the defense has let him down this season, Lindgren has been unable to match Kuemper’s positive goals differential.
Hunter Shepard – Shepard started the season as the number two netminder in Hershey, but his level of play, particularly in the first half of the season, saw him take over the number one spot before the holidays. Fucale has been getting the number one starts as of late, but if the playoffs began today, there is little doubt Shepard would get the start. Shepard is 17-6-5-1 with a 2.09 GAA and a .918 save percentage for the season. Shepard’s GAA is the best in the AHL. His save percentage is 5th-best in the league.
Zach Fucale – As noted, Fucale started the season as the number one netminder in Herhsey but Shepard took over the spot early in the season. Fucale struggled at times this season, but got the hot hand when Shepard went through a bit of a downturn of his own early in 2023. Fucale is 19-10-4-1 with a 2.58 GAA and a .899 save percentage for the season.
Clay Stevenson – Stevenson spent the season with the South Carolina Stingrays and was the number one netminder for decent chunks of the season. Stevenson also played three games with the Bears this season and went 3-0-0 with a 1.96 GAA and a .924 save percentage. Stevenson is 17-11-3-0 with a 2.55 GAA and a .916 save percentage this season with the Stingrays.
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, as it was reported he was dealing with a back injury. He could be dealing with a minor (unreported) injury.
Mitchell Gibson – The Daily Faceoff’s Frank Seravalli reported on Tuesday that the Capitals had signed Gibson to a one-year deal and that Gibson is also expected to sign an amateur tryout agreement (ATO) with the Hershey Bears, which will allow him to join the team this season. The Capitals have yet to make any formal announcement at the time of this writing. On March 16, ECAC Hockey announced its year-end awards, with Mitchell Gibson, Matthew Coronato, and Alex Laferriere Second Team All-ECAC Hockey honorees, In addition, Gibson was one of nine semifinalists for the Mike Richter Award as the nation’s top goaltender (and one of two on that list from ECAC Hockey).
Chase Clark – Clark began the 2022-23 season dealing with undisclosed “injuries”, but finally made his first appearance mid-fall. He spent most of the season 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). While Clark’s ice time was extremely limited in his Freshman season, he was 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 possibly Lindgren for 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 a change is made at the #2 position via other means.
In Hershey, we will likely see one of the netminders go unsigned this off-season. Right now the edge clearly goes to Shepard. I see Shepard and Stevenson the tandem in chocolate town next season. The wild card last fall was Stevenson, who showed he can play in the AHL this season. Next years will be Gibson, who could also challenge for a spot in chocolate town at some point.
By Jon Sorensen
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Jon, “with the Atingrays.” Really? Tsk, tsk
I know that Tyler is not a Caps contract, but neither was Frank and yet he was a valuable part of the Bears this year. Same for Tyler with the Stingrays. He has been as strong as Clay and recently stronger. With Gibson coming on board and if Garin actually plays next year, I see Tyler as odd man out. Shame, because he has had a very good year. And with no reports on Garin all year, I really have doubts about him. Is he going to be the player he was and can he last an entire season?
There were reports about Bjorklund. As it says above, Back injury.
He has not been discussed in any of the radio/FloHockey broadcasts, not even in a discussion with Tyler. (Tyler mentioned how much he liked working with Clay.) I have not seen anything on their website (nor ECHL site). Did he have back surgery? How is his recovery going? When do they expect him back? It’s as though he disappeared down a black hole.
In hindsight, at some point they decided to slide the first year of his entry level contract. So he still has three years remaining on his deal. That’s my guess anyway. Entry level slide rules sare convoluted.
Ok, I think that means he has to play under NHL 10 games. But he could play CHL, ECHL, or AHL games and still slide, right? He doesn’t appear to be playing any hockey. If he is just sliding, why isn’t he playing? If he’s injured, why isn’t he on some sort of IR?
I’m checking on that.
Sorry Jon, it just doesn’t make any sense to me with what we know and it has bugged me all year. I’m just hung up on this ‘ghost.’
The evidence is scant. He has posted social media pics from Charleston on occasion. That much I know.
I guess they know what’s going on and it just doesn’t matter if anyone else does or not.
Actually had a back surgery.
FloHockey says of the ECHL South: Clinched: None
Likely In: Greenville Swamp Rabbits (80), South Carolina Stingrays (79), Jacksonville Icemen (78)
Bubble: Florida Everblades (76), Atlanta Gladiators (71), Orlando Solar Bears (68)
Eliminated/Close To It: Savannah Ghost Pirates (56)
From 1-6, it’s a tight race in the South, with the race for both the division title and the final berth both likely up for grabs until the final weekend of the season. Though Greenville, South Carolina and Jacksonville all are listed as likely in, that certainly could change, if one of them should falter and one of the bubble teams should get hot.
You gotta go with Shepard and Stevenson next season in Hershey. That’s is if the Capitals can sign Shep Daddy
We have a pretty good goaltenders group. Somehow that bunch has rarely suffered over the years, even when we give up Sammy and Vitek
Not sure what the point in keeping Darcy on board is. If the team does not contend next year — and it may or may not — then he’s a decent trade chip and should be considered as such.
The point is that Leonsis has said he wants the team to stay competitive while Ovi chases Gretzky’s goal record. All personnel decisions that are in the future, till Ovi breaks that record, will have to take that into account. Darcy and Charles ain’t going nowhere….at least till Ovi breaks the record.
Not saying I agree, just explaining Caesar’s rather warped train of thought.
So you two think they should have let Ovi walk? Because that is what he’d have done if TL hadn’t agreed with his terms of the Caps “trying to stay competitive”.
As Novafyre has pointed, the organization will be facing a goalie logjam next season. Chase Clark will likely stay in college, since he’ll only be a sophomore, and will be looking to take over as Quinnipiac’s starter as a junior. That leaves Darcy, Chuck, Stevenson, Bjorklund and Gibson signed. An AHL starter is needed, since even though Stevenson had some AHL action, you can’t throw him to the wolves as a starter. So let’s assume Hunter is resigned. Hunter and Clay in Hershey. Tyler Wall’s Hershey contract will expire at the end of this season too. We could resign him, to tandem with Gibson or Bjorklund in SC. That leaves one goaltender out. The easy solution is to loan the spare to another organization. This was done with former Bear Matt Moulson a few years ago. While under contract to the Sabres, he was loaned to the Kings’ affiliate, the Ontario Reign.
I’ve been disappointed in our Caps goalies this year. Darcy is ahead of Vitek in Sav% but behind Sammy and Varly. In GAA, he’s behind Vitek, Sammy, Varly, and Cops. That is not an improvement. Now, I’m not going to blame it all on him, but when the swapping out was done, most of us felt we could cross goaltending off our problem list. I have put it back on.
Agree with you and to roughly quote The Rolling Stones…..No, you can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you sign as a free agent
You can’t always get what you in a trade
But if you try sometime you’ll find
You never get what you need as long as you have PL as HC and BM as GM
At the beginning of the year, the Caps sent two goaltenders to South Carolina, Clay Stephenson and Garin Bjorklund. Unfortunately, both were injured and not available. So the Stingrays went through a number of goalies before signing second year player Tyler Wall to an ECHL contract. Clay came back and he and Tyler have been the Rays’ goalies ever since. In November, the Bears signed Tyler to an AHL contract.
Garin is still out (said to be recovering from back surgery) so Clay and Tyler have become tandem goalies for the Rays. No goalie #1 and goalie #2 here. 6’3” Tyler has played 32 games and 6’4” Clay has played 34. In interviews they stress how they have liked working together, helping and challenging each other to be better. It sure seems to have worked.
25 year old UMass graduate Tyler has 20 wins and is 10th in the ECHL in GAA (2.63) and 14th in Save% (0.911).
24 year old Dartmouth graduate Clay has 18 wins and is 5th in GAA (2.48) and 8th in Save% (0.918).
The Stingrays join the league leading Idaho Steelheads as the only teams with two goalies in the top 15 in Save% and also the only two in the top 10 in GAA. As long as both stay healthy (and don’t get called up) they look strong getting ready for the Kelly Cup playoffs.