Friday, September 17, 2010

Rookies win 4-3....Camp begins tomorrow

Congratulations the the Caps rookie's as they defeated the Flyers rookies 4-3 yesterday. Defenseman and sometimes Bear Josh Godfrey scored 2 goals while Cody Eakin scored the game winner with just over a minute to go.

Some players impressed more than others this week. Eakin, Marcus Johansson, Stanislav Galiev, and Dustin Stevenson were the position players mentioned and Braden Holtby, who volunteered to take part in camp so he could get some extra work, was also mentioned for his obvious work ethic and eagerness to show what he can do.

But how will those players do over the next couple weeks and what does all of this mean to the Bears?

Here is the main storyline to watch during Caps camp that will greatly shape the Bears opening night roster.

The 2nd (and 3rd) Line Center Competition

The Caps are still looking for that second line center that has been missing from their roster since Sergei Federov left a couple years ago. By my count there are no more than 6 players competing for not only the 2nd line center but the 3rd line center spot as well.
  • Keith Aucoin -a definite veteran presence that has shown year in year out at the AHL level the ability to make those around him better. He played 9 games for the Caps last season collecting 1 goal and 4 assists. Extended out over a full season that equals 9 goals and 36 points. As a 3rd line center that wouldn't be bad.
  • Cody Eakin - the 2009 3rd round pick has impressed everyone on a consistent basis. He earned playing time in the 2010 Calder Cup Playoffs after a stellar junior season where he scored 47 goals and 44 assists in 70 games. Not eligible for Hershey this season so its either NHL or WHL.
  • Tomas Fleischmann - played much of last season at center and was okay. Not a consistent force on faceoffs and highly inconsistent offensively. He has frustrated fans and the organization and some speculated that he could be traded this summer but that didn't materialize. Last year was his best year as a pro as he scored 23 goals and added 28 assists in 69 games. Boudreau loves him too, which doesn't hurt.
  • Marcus Johansson - the 2009 1st round pick was "the most consistent player on the ice" during the rookie game yesterday. Playing in the Swedish Elite League the last two years he has totaled 15 goals and 15 assists. Highly unlikely that he would end up in Hershey so if he doesn't make the Caps he is back to Sweden.
  • Brooks Laich - another player who had a career year in 09-10 as he scored 25 goals and added 34 assists (both career highs). He is more than likely a winger but has played some center during his career and if any of the players falter he could step up.
  • Mathieu Perreault - the diminutive, late round pick has done nothing but impress since making the Hershey roster 2 years ago. He is listed at 5'9" and 166lbs but has supposedly spent the summer adding muscle to his frame. There might not be a better pure playmaker on this list as he will always look to pass first, sometimes too often. He played in 21 games for the Caps last season scoring 4 goals and 5 assists. Extended out over a full season would be roughly 16 goals and 20 assists.
Beyond those players you could make an argument for Boyd Gordon or Jay Beagle being up for the 3rd line spot but I would say they have little to no chance in beating out the other 6.

Obviously if the Caps give the spot(s) to either Aucoin or Perreault (or both!) then Hershey will definitely feel it beginning opening night. As of now Coiner and Perry are both penciled in to the #1 and #2 center positions in Hershey.

In my completely unprofessional and unwarranted opinion I would rank them like this:
  1. Perreault
  2. Johansson
  3. Fleischmann
  4. Aucoin
  5. Laich
  6. Eakin
Personally I love watching Perry play and truly believe that he would be a great addition to the Caps. Sure his size is a concern but plenty of smaller players have thrived in recent seasons, Patrick Kane being front and center. His stick handling is unparalleled and his vision on the ice is tremendous. The only flaw in his game it seemed was his strength and endurance which if he spent the summer working on should be much improved.

Selfishly I am hoping they give the spots to Flash and MoJo since we aren't going to see them anyways but I am not convinced Flash is an every game center and I think MoJo would be better served spending a season on the 3rd line between Laich and Fehr.

Eakin would be 3rd if he wasn't still junior eligible. I think they would prefer him to Flash at center but considering they can't send him to Hershey and have to commit in the first 10 games (I think) for the whole season I don't see them keeping him around. If he was AHL eligible he would probably make the opening night roster. But he needs to add more strength as well. He could remain on the Caps for the opening week or so before they send him back just to give him a 'test' run.

Coiner deserves the chance and if this were last season I think he would have had a shot but with MoJo and Perry getting so much better over the past year I think he is stuck in a numbers game. Which is just fine for us in Hershey but unfortunate for Coiner as he would surely love another chance at a full time NHL gig.

Keep an eye on this over the next couple weeks as Hershey's roster could be greatly impacted by the outcome.

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