Capitals’ Joe Snively Deserved His Hometown Debut

With five top-six forwards out of action through injury and COVID, it was a matter of when not if Joe Snively would make his Washington Capitals debut. Nonetheless, the 25-year-old’s rookie lap before the Caps faced the Los Angeles Kings was a sight to behold.

While an army of relatives and friends watched on at Capital One Arena, Snively made history by becoming the first Virginia native to suit up for Washington in an NHL game. It was pretty sweet.

After all, we’re talking about an undrafted player who iced for the Washington Little Caps’ U13s and later spent four years in Yale University’s NCAA program. Three seasons in the American Hockey League (AHL) would follow – and when his Hershey Bears graduation eventually arrived, it was glorious.

Joe Snively’s Capitals Debut

Snively’s NHL debut came as Washington fell to a 3-2 loss versus the Kings at home on Sunday. Sharing the third line with Connor McMichael and Beck Malenstyn, he made it onto the scoresheet within eight minutes of puck drop.

With play edging towards the Kings’ net, Snively took control of the puck before making a smart pass to McMichael, who awaited with bated breath on the edge of the crease. A moment of banging and crashing later, the lamp was lit, and the Caps had a 1-0 lead.

“It’s always really nice when one finds the back of the net,” McMichael said of his goal versus the Kings, “Joe [Snively] made a nice play to me… it felt good.”

The debutant agreed.

“It was an awesome experience,” Snively said of his debut, “I had some nerves, but overall, it was a lot of fun.”

Although injuries (and the COVID Protocol) played a key role in Snively’s promotion, Washington head coach Peter Laviolette insisted that the former Little Cap deserved his 6:53 of ice time.

Related: Capitals’ Rookies Covering For Injury Crisis in Washington

“I thought he was good,” Laviolette said. “It was good that he jumped in there. He brought some speed and tenacity, chipped in on a goal, and off the forecheck. His line was good, I don’t think they were a problem. I thought he had a good debut.

“He worked hard [in the AHL], he put himself in a position to have his name called.”

Even though Snively’s NHL debut was split across 11 brief even-strength shifts, he was solid against Los Angeles. He registered two shots on goal and a hit in a performance that meant a lot to D.C.’s hockey community.

Washington, and the areas around it, isn’t a place that has produced a tonne of NHLers (Jeff Halpern is the most prominent example) – but Snively’s slow march to ice time with the Caps shows that the potential is there.

Of his warm reception from Capitals fans, Snively said: “It’s cool, I got some goosebumps for sure. It was a loud building tonight; it was really fun.”

Given his “hometown boy” tag, there’s no wonder Snively was a popular addition to Washington’s lineup.

Joe Snively’s Road to the NHL

Standing at 5-foot-9, Snively’s game is built on his speed, tenacity, and ability to make plays. Forechecking isn’t necessarily his thing – but he can be trusted to chase down loose pucks when required.

Based on his numbers in the AHL from this season alone, it’s hard to deny that Snively warranted a call-up at some point. He’s registered 22 points (8 goals, 14 assists) in 21 games for the Bears this term, a significant improvement on the 17 points he notched in 30 games last season.

Joe Snively, Washington Capitals
Joe Snively, Washington Capitals (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

All in all, his career trajectory has pointed in this direction for a while. After a rocky first year in the United States Hockey League (48 games, 16 points), he later found his feet. Snively put up 109 points in his last 111 appearances for the Sioux City Musketeers and was handed the ‘A’ in his final season with the club.

He underwent a similar experience at Yale, scoring 28 points (10 goals, 18 assists) in 32 appearances in his freshman year. Through the rest of his college career, he performed at more than a point-per-game rate.

In Hershey, he established himself as a key player and now has a Capitals appearance to his name.

Snively’s debut was a cool moment – but it was one he absolutely deserved.

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