Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Training Camp Underway in Hershey

Yesterday the 2010-11 season of Hershey Bears hockey kicked off as training camp started up. There aren't a ton of bodies in camp yet as many of the players remain in Washington.

The biggest story moving forward is the 3rd line center battle in Washington. The outcome will directly affect the Bears so it deserves some attention.

So far all 3 candidates (Eakin, Johansson, Perreault) have looked very good. They have scored goals, recorded assists, and have fit in each place they have played. It is still anyone's guess to who will win the job to start the season. And I have a guess too or maybe more of a theory.

Assuming Fleischmann starts at 2nd line center (which appears likely) there is only 1 spot open in the starting lineup. There is also room for one extra player on the roster that last week I thought would go to Hendricks or Andrew Gordon but now there are rumors that it could be one of the centers.

I don't see it happening. If it did though it would likely be Cody least for a few games. I believe the Caps would have 10 games to see what they have in Eakin and still send him back to juniors for the year...I think. If that is the case I could see them giving him a few games. If it works out and he shines then he stays on the NHL roster this year. If not, then they send him back.

But I don't see them risking Hendricks and/or Gordon on waivers just to keep Eakin for a few games.

I still think MoJo will be the #3 center on opening night and Perry will be back in Hershey to start the season.

As for the Gordon/Hendricks that Hendricks officially has a contract (a one year 2 way deal) this is actually a position battle...I think Gordon is still likely to get it. And the main reason is waivers. The chances are better that a team takes a shot at Gordo instead of Hendricks and that is not something the Caps are going to take a chance least I don't think so.

The Hershey roster could look drastically different come opening night. If Gordo does make the Caps two thirds of the top line from last season would not be in Hershey this year.

But fear not Bears fans as this won't be a repeat of 07-08 either. In 07-08 Hershey was coming off a 2nd consecutive Finals appearance and the roster that year featured many young unproven players like Gordon, Joudrey and Wilson. The main 'veteran' leadership and 'star' role (and I use those terms VERY LOOSELY here) was Joe Motzko. Oh and the million dollar man Ben Clymer was also there.

This year....

Willsie, Hendricks (assuming the above happens), Greentree, and all the returning Bears (Pinner, Coiner, Bouch, and others) and young new Bears (Kugryshev, Hauswirth, Gustafsson, Kashirsky) will still make this a very good year.

The talent level in Hershey will still be very high and as long as the goaltending holds up we could be watching live hockey at the Giant Center well into spring again in 2011!


Hershey released their 3rd or alternate jerseys this past week. Some of you might have already seen 'leaks' of these jersey's online but they were officially unveiled earlier this week...

While it isn't the 'traditional' skating bear logo that we all love it is closer. Definitely expect to see some of these in the GC this season. And it could be as early as this weekend...if you are a season ticket holder headed down for the ticket night festivities tomorrow night these jersey's WILL be on sale.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Hendricks stars as Caps open preseason

The Capitals opened their preseason slate last night in Columbus with a 6-2 win. Plenty of potential Bears got a chance to showcase their abilities including Braden Holtby, Andrew Gordon, and Mathieu Perreault.

But Matt Henricks made the biggest argument for a roster spot as he scored 3 goals on 4 shots. He is only in camp on a professional tryout contract so production like that will definitely help his cause for either a spot in Washington or in Hershey.

Of more concern for most following Washington and Hershey is the battle for the 2 center positions. Based on the roster makeup the Caps would much prefer to have Tomas Fleischmann win the 2nd line center spot. With 4 wingers (Semin, Laich, Fehr, Chimera) all penciled in on the 2nd and 3rd lines if Flash were to end up at wing someone would be out of regular minutes. And that just doesn't make sense.

So how did the centers do?

The 4 that played, Flash, Eakin, Perreault, and Johansson, all had solid games. In fact, of the four, only Perry failed to record a point. But according to some write ups (Capitals Insider, Japer's Rink) he played well.

Flash had the best night of the four however as he scored 2 goals and added an assist as his line (alongside Laich and Semin) accounted for 2 goals and 5 assists on the night. Eakin added a goal and MoJo added 2 assists as well.

It seems to be a 3 horse race for the 2 spots and with Flash penciled in at #2 center it would be a surprise to see either Eakin or Keith Aucoin (who didn't play last night) beat out Perry or MoJo for the #3 spot.

Obviously one preseason game is a bit early to start making predictions but considering the dynamics of the situation I think, barring an exceptional performance by someone over the next few weeks, the lines are probably set.

Line 1 ~Ovechkin - Backstrom - Knuble
Line 2 ~ Laich - Fleischmann - Semin
Line 3 ~ Chimera - Johansson - Fehr
Line 4 ~ Bradley - Steckel - B Gordon
extras ~ King, A Gordon/Hendricks

Why is that you ask...

It's simple. MoJo isn't going to come to Hershey (more than likely) so its either Sweden or the NHL. If he goes back to Sweden he really doesn't develop anymore. His main issue is adjusting to the pace and rink size here in North America. So sending him to Sweden is silly unless he is straight beat out for the position, which seems unlikely.

In addition Perry can come and go freely form Hershey. If they need him for 2 games then they can call him up without worrying about waivers. Plus Perry's main problem is probably consistency and size, which he can work on in Hershey too.

If MoJo was a candidate for Hershey I think this would be more of a battle but that doesn't seem likely as he isn't interested in playing there. If that changes then you could see the battle play out longer as he could adjust to the rink size in Hershey for a few months.

Both players will get plenty of time in Washington but to start the year I think MoJo gets the opportunity.

As for the other battles, Gordon and Hendricks are probably fighting for the final spot in Washington. There are others up for the position too, Beagle, Willsie, Pinner, but Gordo and Henricks are the leading candidates.

This is a tough one to call. One, Hendricks, has played regularly in the NHL (60 games the last 2 years with Colorado) but has a lower 'ceiling'. The other, Gordon, has played in only 3 NHL games but could become a regular producer for an NHL team.

Both players have to clear waivers to come to Hershey, which factors in to the decision. I think it actually makes the decision for the Caps. If Gordon shows enough I don't see how he gets sent back to Hershey.

Why risk losing him to a waiver claim like Bourque last year? Honestly the Caps were pretty much done with Bourque when the sent him through waivers last year. Obviously he has talent but they had given him every chance to win a spot and he couldn't do it. Gordon is a different case as they don't want to lose him right now.

So in my highly unprofessional opinion we have likely seen the last of Andrew Gordon in Hershey as well. I think he makes the Caps as the 13th/14th forward and will see time on the 3rd and 4th lines with regularity this season.

But remember it is still early in the preseason with plenty of games to go.


Hershey's training camp starts on Monday the 27th and 9 players were reassigned to Hershey earlier this week:

G Todd Ford
D Patrick Cullity
D Joe Finley
F David de Kostrazza
F Anton Gustafsson
F Jake Hauswirth
F Nikita Kashirsky
F Dmitry Kugryshev
F Ashton Rome

Expect more cuts to be made this weekend as the Caps will want Hershey to have a full (enough) roster for their camp on Monday.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Andrew Gordon a Cap.....

I figured with all the forwards already in Washington that Gordon would return to Hershey for another season but I didn't really factor in the waiver wire.

Much like Chris Bourque last year, Gordon would have to clear waivers to end up in Hershey. And considering his talent, production, and age I wouldn't be so sure that he would get through.

Now keep in mind that if he were to be picked up he would have to clear waivers again to get him to the AHL which, like Bourque last year, could allow for Washington/Hershey to come in and get him back.

Corey Masisak seems to think he will be in Washington to start the season...
Gordon scored 37 goals for Hershey last regular season and added 13 more in the Calder Cup playoffs. He doesn’t turn 25 until December, and is versatile enough to play on either an energy line or a scoring line at the AHL level and maybe in the big leagues as well. Plus he earns high marks for his work ethic and compatibility in the dressing room.

Does that sound like a player some NHL franchises might be interested in acquiring for free? Um, yes. The Capitals have 13 forwards signed to one-way contracts. Subtract Michael Nylander and add Johansson or Perreault or Aucoin, and that is 13 forwards on the opening-night roster. If Washington only carries seven defensemen that leaves one spot open.

Gordon would have to clear waivers if he is sent back to Hershey. Does he make the team in part because the Capitals are worried about losing him for nothing? If no other forwards are moved between now and cutdown day, that might be a pretty sound bet.

In the same post Masisak also lists his top 30 organizational prospects. You can find the whole post by clicking this link (there are 5 stories to watch for as well in there) but I also provide the list below.

I am excited about the list not for this season but for future seasons...plenty of talent in the pipeline. The teams beside their name are where you can likely find them this season.

1. John Carlson, Washington
2. Evgeny Kuznetsov, Traktor Chelyabinsk (KHL)*
3. Michal Neuvirth, Washington
4. Marcus Johansson, Washington
5. Braden Holtby, Hershey/Washington
6. Cody Eakin, Swift Current (WHL)*
7. Mathieu Perreault, Hershey/Washington
8. Dmitri Orlov, Mettalurg Novokuznetsk (KHL)*
9. Andrew Gordon, Washington/Hershey
10. Patrick Wey, Boston College (NCAA)*
11. Stanislav Galiev, Saint John (QMJHL)*
12. Patrick McNeil, Hershey/Washington
13. Jay Beagle, Hershey/Washington
14. Anton Gustafsson, Hershey
15. Philipp Grubauer, Kingston (OHL)*
16. Steve Pinizzotto, Hershey
17. Dmitry Kugryshev, Hershey
18. Dustin Stevenson, South Carolina/Hershey
19. Trevor Bruess, Hershey
20. Francois Bouchard, Hershey
21. Caleb Herbert, Sioux City (USHL)
22. Garrett Mitchell, Regina (WHL)
23. Brett Flemming, Mississauga (OHL)
24. Zach Miskovic, Hershey/Washington
25. Greg Burke, New Hampshire (NCAA)
26. Dan Dunn, St. Cloud State (NCAA)
27. Jake Hauswirth, South Carolina/Hershey
28. Phil DeSimone, New Hampshire (NCAA)
29. Samuel Carrier, Lewiston (QMJHL)
30. Sean Collins, Hershey

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.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Rookie Camp, Matty Hendricks, and More

I don't really have much to report from Caps Rookie camp as I am not there. But the links below should give you some information:

Dustin Stevenson is impressing Corey Masisak

Interview with Caps director of player development Steve Richmond Mike Vogel

5 Rookies to Watch Puckhead's Thoughts

Guys to keep your eye on Ravings of a Rink Rebel

If you are more interested in Caps training camp and what players may or may not make the Caps try these:

Alzner and Perry set for camp Capitals Insider

Caps Training Camp Primer Japer's Rink

And let's welcome back former Bear Matt Hendricks as he has been invited to try out with the Caps during training camp:

Who is Matt Hendricks Rock the Red

Caps camp starts Saturday as all the veterans and rookies will join up for a few weeks. Hershey camp will surely start sometime the following week as the Caps send players to Hershey or back to their junior clubs.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Hockey is back!!

This Sunday marks the beginning of the hockey season. Sure some players have been working out at Kettler for the last few weeks but nothing has officially started.

Until Sunday.

At 10:30am the Capitals Rookie Camp officially kicks off with the first practice of the (almost) week long camp.

24 players (listed below) will be a part of the 2010 camp which will conclude with a scrimmage against the Philadelphia Flyers rookie players on Thursday night.

And then training camp starts on Saturday the 18th for 42 other players on the Caps roster including many players expected to play in Hershey this season.

Rookie Camp Roster:


Philipp Grubauer
Jared DeMichiel
Brandon Anderson


Samuel Carrier
Patrick Cullity
Joe Finley
Brett Flemming
Josh Godfrey
Johann Kroll
Zach Miscovic
Dustin Stevenson
Dylan Yeo


Trevor Bruess
David de Kastrozza
Cody Eakin
Stanislav Galiev
Anton Gustafsson
Jake Hauswirth
Marcus Johansson
Nikita Kashirsky
Dmitry Kugryshev
Felix LeFrancois
Garrett Mitchell
Anthony Pisano