HERSHEY, Pa. – It’s just a matter of days now until the puck drops for the official start of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs. All of the teams have reported to their hub cities (meaning Toronto for the Washington Capitals), and the NHL affiliate of the Hershey Bears has brought some players who predominately wore the Chocolate and White in 2019-20.
The full roster for the Capitals is below:
The Capitals official roster for the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs. pic.twitter.com/DB0eSRoUuR
— CapitalsPR (@CapitalsPR) July 26, 2020
Since the Caps have the ability to bring 31 total players with them to Toronto, the club brought Phil Maillet, Beck Malenstyn, Brian Pinho, Daniel Sprong, Alexander Alexeyev, Martin Fehervary, Tyler Lewington, Pheonix Copley, and Vitek Vanecek as insurance for the postseason. Due to the roster limitations, the Caps left Garrett Pilon, Shane Gersich, and Ilya Samsonov (who was injured before camp began and was subsequently ruled out of game action) back home.
The Caps also gave a spot to their 2019 first round pick Connor McMichael, who won’t be able to suit up for the Bears in 2020-21 due to the 18-year-old age requirement. He is plenty qualified to do so, though, having scored 102 points (47 goals, 55 assists) in just 52 games with the OHL’s London Knights this past season.
Hershey’s skaters will by vying for time with Washington in Toronto, and a couple of different avenues that could see them suit up for the big club in some capacity. The biggest one will be at the goaltending position. While the crease will very clearly belong to Braden Holtby, it’ll be interesting to see which of Hershey’s goaltenders gets the nod to back up the former Bear. Copley spent most of the 2018-19 season as Holtby’s understudy, and yet Vanecek has been an AHL All-Star for two straight seasons and is an equally solid choice. With both goaltenders being among the AHL’s best in 2019-20, either netminder will be beneficial to the Caps.
It’s possible that the Bears players will be an emergency option at the forward position, with Caps players Lars Eller (August) and Carl Hagelin (September) expecting to leave the bubble for the birth of a child. It already seems that former Hershey forward Travis Boyd is set to fill in for Eller on the third line when this happens, and it’s more than likely that the two will not overlap to create a bigger hole in the lineup unless injuries happen. In the case that this happens, it seems logical to expect either Daniel Sprong or Brian Pinho to be heavy candidates for the role, as Sprong has plenty of NHL experience and both players had strong camps for the Capitals.
It will be interesting to see if there’s any experimentation for the Caps in their exhibition game on Wednesday afternoon against the Carolina Hurricanes (4:00 PM ET, NBC Sports Washington/NBC Sports Network). It is a contest that officially counts for nothing, but according to reports will allow the Caps to dress an extra forward and an extra defender for their contest.
The Caps will most likely be using the contest to get into game shape for the round robin games (beginning for the Caps on Monday, August 3 at 4:00 PM ET against the Tampa Bay Lightning on NBC Sports Network). While the Caps will most likely dress Boyd as the extra forward, it might allow for Alexander Alexeyev or Martin Fehervary to get some experience and give us some insight as to who would have the inside track on that position.
On another note, it’s been 141 days since the Bears were officially last in action, and the wait continues to find out what shape the 2020-21 season will take. In a normal offseason, Hershey’s schedule would most likely have arrived by this point, but with the NHL’s offseason taking a different shape, possibly looking more towards a November or December start time.
These dates are, of course, dependent on the world situation changing to the point where crowds will be allowed to some extent and something that the AHL’s Return to Play Committee is no doubt constantly evaluating. It’s tough for right now, but patience is the biggest key in what will likely go down as the longest offseason the league has seen in a long time.
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