The Washington Capitals have had penalty of blue line troubles over the past few seasons, due to injuries to Mike Green among others, and the lack of healthy two way defensemen that are needed in the new system implemented by head coach Adam Oates. However, help could be on the way this season and in the years to come. Capitals’ management has stockpiled a few defensemen with NHL potential in their system including the Russian born puck mover Dmitry Orlov and Miami University defensive product Cameron Schilling.
Schilling was signed by the Washington following four solid years at Miami University of Ohio, where he registered eight assists and 49 assists in 144 games in the CCHA. He was one of the top college free agents available to NHL teams, and the Capitals quickly signed him after his senior season ended.
“Cameron was a highly sought-after college free agent and we are delighted that he signed with the Washington Capitals,” said McPhee when signing Schilling. “He will be a solid pro for many years.”
After the signing, Schiling signed a tryout agreement with the Washington’s AHL affiliate, the Hershey Bears and played in the last couple regular season games and in the first round of the Calder Cup playoffs.
During the 2011-2012 AHL regular season, the 24 year old defenseman played in seven games and totaled 14 penalty minutes along with a minus three. However, he came up big in Hershey’s first round playoff series. Schilling totaled two goals and four penalty minutes in four games during the Bears first round loss to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.
This season, Schilling’s played a big role on the Bears’ blue line, earning a stable spot on Hershey’s second defensive pairing, most recently paired with AHL veteran Garrett Stafford. He’s totaled six goals and eight assists through 54 games and has the team leading efficiency rating, with a plus seven. He also leads all defenseman in game winning goals with three, and has definitely improved his offensive game since the beginning of the year.
On Tuesday, he was recalled by the Capitals, likely due to the upper body injury suffered by Washington defenseman John Erskine in Sunday’s Capitals loss to the New York Rangers. Erskine is listed as day-to-day according to the Capitals Public Relations department, so Schilling is likely a stop gap till Washington’s more experienced defenseman returns. He joins fellow Hershey defenseman in Washington, including Tomas Kundratek and the newly signed Steven Oleksy.
The Miami University of Ohio product was paired with Oleksy during the Capitals morning skate and is expected to play in Washington’s divisional matchup against the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday. Washington defenseman Tom Poti will be scratched and is listed as day-to-day.
He could earn time on both Washington’s power play and penalty kill, as he brings a strong two way defensive game. Bears coach Mark French has thought about using his bomb of a shot on Hershey’s power play this season, ranked 16th overall in the AHL at 17.1%.
The 24 year old improving defenseman is currently is in the first year of his two year entry level contract, holding a 1.775 million dollar cap hit per season. He’ll hit restricted free agency for the first time after the 2013-2014 season, likely earning between two-three million per year on a one or two year deal.
Schilling is a player the Capitals are very high on and he gets his chance to impress against a divisional rival tonight.
“Cameron’s a guy that needs to continue to improve for us and for the organization,” Hershey Bears coach Mark French has said of Schilling on March 3rd after three straight wins. “He played a really good three games for us this weekend.”