Hunter Shepard: 2023 Annual Review And Forecast

Next up in our annual prospect review and forecast series is Hunter Shepard, goaltender for the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League (AHL). (You can access all of our Capitals Prospect Reports and player analysis on our “Prospects” page in the top menu or right here.)


Shepard, 27, is a 6’-1” netminder from Cohasset, Minnesota. He signed a tw0-year, $750,000 AAV contract with the Capitals on July 28, 2021 and is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2022-23 season.


Prior to his collegiate career, Shepard appeared in 81 games with the Bismarck Bobcats of the North American Hockey League (NAHL) from 2014-15 through 2015-16. In 2015-16, Shepard earned North American Hockey League Goaltender of the Year honors, was named to the First All-Star Team and led the NAHL in games played (50), wins (34), and shutouts (8), while ranking second in goals against average (1.90).

Shepard spent four years with the University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs in the NCAA. In 119 games with the team, which included an NCAA-record 115 straight games from Oct. 21, 2017 to March 7, 2020, Shepard finished with a 76-37-5 record, ranking first all-time in Bulldogs history in wins, goals-against average (1.94), save percentage (.922) and shutouts (17).

Shepard won back-to-back NCAA Championships with the Bulldogs in 2018 and 2019, was twice named the National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC) Goaltender of the Year (2019 and 2020), earned First-Team All-American honors in 2019 and Second-Team All-American honors in 2020. Shepard finished his NCAA career as a three-time Mike Richter Award Finalist, given to the NCAA’s top goaltender, and a three-time All-NCHC selection.

Shepard appeared in three games with the Hershey Bears in the 2020-21 season, finishing with a 3-0-0 record with one shutout, a 1.00 goals-against average and a .969 save percentage. Additionally, he played in 21 games with the South Carolina Stingrays of the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL), earning a 12-6-2 record with one shutout, a 2.55 goals-against average and a .922 save percentage. He earned Goaltender of the Week honors with South Carolina for the week of May 24-30, after going 3-0-0 with a shutout, a 1.33 goals-against average and a .952 save percentage.

The 2021-22 season Shepard spent a majority of his time with the South Carolina Stingrays. He garnered a 2.88 goals against average and a .917 save percentage in 23 games played with the Stingrays.

Shepard also played in nine games with the Bears, earning a 2.06 goals against average and a .922 save percentage. He was also recalled by the Capitals but played in no games. He was reassigned to the Capitals taxi squad on January 6, and returned to Hershey on February 2. He was also recalled by the Capitals in May as a third goaltender for the postseason.

The 2022-23 season was Shepard’s best as a professional. Shepard finished the regular season 20-8-5 with a 2.18 goals against average (2nd inAHL) and a .916 save percentage (7th in the AHL). He became the Bears number one netminder early in the season and there was no question who the Bears would go to in the postseason. Shepard finished the postseason 14-6 with a 2.27 goals against average and a .914 save percentage. Shepard was awarded the Jack A. Butterfield Trophy for series most valuable player. Shepard was called up for two weeks in December but did not see any game action, which may cost the Capitals in the end.


The following is a compilation of our month-by-month prospect reports for Hunter Shepard during the 2022-2023 season. Also included are his monthly scores (0-5, with 2.5 being average). You can find all of our monthly prospect reports on our “Prospects” page in the top menu.


The netminder started twice in October and was strong in both appearances. Unfortunately for Shepard, he did not get the win in either start.

In his season debut in Charlotte on October 22, the Coleraine, Minnesota native was the reason the Bears earned a point. He made four high-end saves in the third period to keep Hershey even. First, Sheppard denied Anton Levchi from between the circles and then turned aside Patrick Giles’ rebound try from in close. He then came up big to allow the game to go to overtime with two huge stops in the last minute. Shepard came across and sprawled out to make a diving glove save on Zac Dalpe to keep the game tied with a minute to go. Then, he kicked out his right pad to deny Aleksi Heponiemi with 33 seconds left to secure Hershey a point.

The two-time national champion at Minnesota-Duluth was a big reason the chocolate and white earned a point against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins on October 29. Shepard made a sprawling right pad save on Ty Glover with 3:45 in the first on a Penguin power play and then made two more stops on the same penalty kill. In the third period, the netminder was the team’s best penalty killer and made several strong stops on three Wilkes-Barre/Scranton power plays. He has a .921 save percentage and a 2.42 goals-against-average.

Monthly Score: 4.0


November was quite the month for Shepard. The Minnesota-Duluth alum went a perfect 6-0 in the month, turning aside 147 of the 157 shots he faced. Shepard posted a 1.63 goals-against average and a .936 save percentage in November. For his efforts, he was named AHL Goaltender of the Month.

Shepard made 26 stops in a 2-1 win in Springfield on November 23, including a highlight reel stop. Five minutes and 36 seconds into the third peropd, Shepard turned the puck over while trying to play the puck behind his own net. The puck ended up with a wide-open Greg Printz. With an unmanned goal in front of him, Printz flung his shot towards the net for what looked like a certain goal. Scrambling back, Shepard dove across the crease and snagged the puck with his glove to keep the game even. He was named the first star of the game.

In his next start on November 25, the two-time collegiate national champion made 30 saves in Hartford, including 10 in the third. He was again the number one star.

For the season, Shepard ranks second in the AHL with a 1.83 goals-against average and is tied for second in the league with a .932 save percentage.

Monthly Score: 4.5


Shepard spent most of the month in the NHL on backup duty with the Washington Capitals. He did not get into a game during his first recall. After being sent back to Hershey, he started three games.

Shepard went 2-1 in those three starts. In his first action in nearly a month, Shepard stopped 27 of 29 shots in a 4-2 road win at Lehigh Valley on December 21. He then turned aside all 22 of the shots he faced in a 1-0 blanking over Providence on December 28. It was the netminder’s first shutout of the season.

His eight game-winning-streak came to an end with a 4-2 loss to Providence on New Year’s Eve.

Shepard continues to lead the AHL with an 1.88 goal-against-average. His .928 save percentage is the fourth best in the league.

Monthly Score: 3.5


Shepard continues to lead the AHL with a 2.12 goals-against average. He is eighth in the league with .918 save percentage. The Minnesota-Duluth product started five games in January, going 3-1-1 in those starts.

Shepard gave up a combined seven goals in his first two starts, but settled in and gave up two goals in each of his last three starts, winning twice. Four of those six goals were power play goals, as Hershey’s penalty trouble hurt Shepard and the team.

Shepard is 11-2-1 on the season.

Monthly Score: 3.5


Shepard was given six of the 10 starts for the Bears in February. He had a record of 2-2-2 in those starts. He started the month strong, turning aside 20 of 21 shots in a 4-1 victory over Bridgeport on February 3. He surrendered four goals on 28 shots in a 5-1 loss to Lehigh Valley on February 4, an all around poor effort by Hershey.

The Grand Rapids, Minnesota native bounced back with his best performance of 2023 against the Hartford Wolf Pack on February 11. Hartford recorded the game’s first eight shots, but Shepard stopped all of those shots to keep the chocolate and white in the game. This included a blocker save on Alex Whelan who was alone in front. After the Bears took a 2-0 lead, Shepard made two high end saves on a Wolf Pack power play and then came up with another pair of big saves late in the frame.

Shepard stopped all 15 shots sent his way in the first. He allowed Hershey to lead 2-0 despite being severely outshot by Hartford. Shepard then turned away 12 of the 13 shots he saw in the second. The netminder held the Wolf Pack off the scoreboard in the third to finish with 33 saves in a 2-1 victory. 

Shepard was winless in his last three starts. He lost once in overtime, once in a shootout and once in regulation. The Minnesotan still leads the AHL with a 2.17 goals against average.

Monthly Score: 3.0


Shepard started six games in the month of March. He surrendered a single goal in five of those starts. He was the hard-luck loser against Providence on March 4. He gave up a single goal but lost 1-0.

Shepard’s next start was his worst outing of the season. He was pulled halfway through the first period after giving up four goals on nine shots in Providence on March 12. The netminder bounced back and surrendered four goals total in his next four starts, all victories. He made 21 saves in a 2-1 win in Lehigh Valley on March 17.

The next night he turned away 22 shots, including 14 in the third period, as the Bears edged Rochester 2-1.

Shepard produced one of his best efforts of the season in Syracuse on March 25. He made two ten-bell saves in succession in the first period to keep the game scoreless. The Coleraine, Minnesota native kicked out his left pad to deny Simon Ryfors. He then got his toe on the rebound attempt from Cole Koepke on what looked like a certain goal.

By the time the game was over, Shepard had stopped 33 shots, tied for the most he has had in a game this campaign. He was named the game’s number one star and was the biggest reason Hershey prevailed 4-1.

Shepard ended the month with a 21-save effort in a 3-1 triumph in Toronto. He leads the AHL with a 2.09 goalsagainst average.

Monthly Score: 4.0


The Bears (unofficially) made Shepard their number one netminder early in the season and never looked back. Shepard finished the regular season 20-8-5 with a 2.18 goals against average (2nd inAHL) and a .916 save percentage (7th in the AHL).

Shepard continued his solid play throughout the Bears entire run to their 12th Calder Cup. He had a few off-nights, like any goaltender, and when he did, the Bears typically lost the game. He was simply the lynchpin to the Bears championship. To drive that point home, consider this save in game 7, with the Bears already trailing 2-0 in the second period.

If that breakaway is scored, the Bears are arguably still chasing their 12th Calder Cup.

Shepard was awarded the Jack A. Butterfield Trophy for series most valuable player.

Shepard finished the postseason 14-6 with a 2.27 goals against average and a .914 save percentage.

Monthly Score: 4.0




Some may be a bit discouraged by Shepard’s age, but in this case I’m a little less concerned. He’s been a classic “late bloomer”, has very low mileage on his body and regardless of age, he has won championships all along the way. He has weak spots in his game, like any goaltender, but he is still developing, believe it or not.

We don’t know why Shepard wasn’t given at least one game during his December callup, but to be fair to the Capitals, maybe they saw something in practices they were unsure of. It could have been Laviolette wanting to start somebody else in each game. We just don’t know.

The Capitals would love to re-sign Shepard, but it might be too late. The decision is up to Shepard, who is an unrestricted free agent and will have a number of interested teams. He put the icing on his resume winning the MVP of the Calder Cup. If he wants to test the market, find a better opportunity or the biggest payday, his time in the Capitals organization will be coming to a close, and nobody can blame him for that. Fingers crossed the Capitals and/or Danny Brooks can talk him into staying.

By Jon Sorensen

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About Jon Sorensen

Jon has been a Caps fan since day one, attending his first game at the Capital Centre in 1974. His interest in the Caps has grown over the decades and included time as a season ticket holder. He has been a journalist covering the team for 10+ years, primarily focusing on analysis, analytics and prospect development.
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10 Responses to Hunter Shepard: 2023 Annual Review And Forecast

  1. Anonymous says:

    No starts with the Capitals in two callups is a head scratcher.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Please re-sign Shep Daddy

  3. Prevent Defense says:

    It would take a massive dosage of stubborn and stupid for the Caps to not give Hunter Shepard a clear shot at making the 23-24 roster. All that magnificence, plus the Calder Cup Championship and MVP. If that isn’t good enough then nothing is

    • novafyre says:

      Firebirds TV announcers were very impressed with him. Ollie was very impressed with his game 7 after admitting he had a poor game 6. Some NHL team is going to want him.

    • Jon Sorensen says:

      The decision is up to Shep Daddy.(UFA) Pretty tasty resume to dangle in the free agency waters.

  4. hockeydruid says:

    Here is the perfect person to resign and keep on the roster. however the NHL have to make a rule change and all or teams to carry 24 players rather than 23 with one exception the 24th player must be a goalie. If no rule change then sign him to an NHL contract and trade Lindgren as he is a year older. Hunter is ready for at least a backup role in the NHL. Offer him a 3 or 4 year deal. Get this young man in Washington and stop messing around!! Now you have Kuzy, Lindgren and Mantha and probably Snively to put in the basket to trade!!.

    • Tfirey says:

      I agree; this would seem to be a smart money move: Resign Shepherd (none of this works if he’s not in the organization), deal Lindgren (who is a fine #2 goalie on a good contract and should find interest), get a draft pick in return (probably a mid round?), and bank a little cap space. Then try to get Fucale to reconsider KHL offer and return to Hershey to be Caps’ de facto #3 goalie.

  5. Prevent Defense says:

    The Caps goalie craziness from last off-season makes me all the more disgusted with the Laviolette experience. Two very promising, talented home-grown goalies were “the future” of the Caps’ goal for years to come. But Pete declared that neither one had “seized the starter’s job” during the Korny Kovid seasons. So he whined to management and demanded two replacements from outside the organization.

    VV and IS performed more than admirably for their new NHL clubs, both in the same Conference as the Caps. Sure each of them had some bad games and bad stretches, each young man took their new teams to a playoff berth. During their time in DC, the Caps team in front of those two young goalies were NOT good, and were part-and-parcel of the failed Pi$tol Pete system. In a repeat of the T Reriden disaster, several EXCELLENT home-grown players with great “upside” were sent packing, replaced with players from far, far away.

    So the great riddance of 2023 was sending Pi$tol Pete into the night, the guy who dissed the Caps very good farm and development system. We don’t need leaders who thumb their nose at the rest of the organization. [If I’m a NYR Minor League affiliate coach or player, Pete’s arrival is NOT a welcome piece of news].

    Professional baseball pitchers are expected and encouraged to “Trust their stuff.” The Caps, like any NHL franchise, are well advised to Trust Their System of drafting and development. The hiring of Spencer Carbery is a great start.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Please stay, Shep Daddy!

  7. Anonymous says:

    In Shep We Trust!

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