The 2019 Prospects Showcase at Ford Ice Center in Antioch, Tennessee, featured top prospects from the Washington Capitals, Carolina Hurricanes, Nashville Predators and Tampa Bay Lightning. Held Sept. 7-10, the showcase consisted of six games and a pair of practices for each team. Participants included prospects under contract, unsigned draft picks, free agents and undrafted players. Since it is highly probable that a dozen players from the tournament will be called up to the big leagues, it is important to scrutinize the skills of those rising within the ranks for the Capitals.
Good Start to the Showcase
Before the Capitals begin on-ice sessions in Arlington, Virginia, tomorrow, their rookies hit the ice for a four-team prospect showcase to advertise their talents. Hershey Bears (AHL) head coach Spencer Carbery led the rookie team, which contained 18 draft choices — the highest of the teams in the quartet. The first game confirmed the ample skill of the young hopefuls, as they opened the tournament with a 10-3 win over the Hurricanes. Since the Capitals boasted many returning players, the team got into the groove earlier with the Hurricanes, suffering from a torpid start, unable to adequately respond. Capitals defensemen grabbed four goals and eight points. The ultimate defender, Ilya Samsonov, steered away 37 shots.
The Capitals’ goalscorers in that game were Brian Pinho (twice), Beck Malenstyn, Martin Fehervary (twice), Garrett Pilon, Joe Snively, Bobby Nardella, Shane Gersich, and Kristofers Bindulis.
A name hard to pronounce but one to know is Martin Fehervary. Considered one of the top stars in the Capitals system, the defenseman concluded a strong 2018-19 season with the HV71 Jonkoping in the Swedish League. He demonstrated stamina and power, often deployed on both special units. The last two tournaments proved him a well-rounded prospect with the reputation of a workhorse. He was certainly the superstar of Saturday’s showing versus the Hurricanes. Although he has continually displayed strong skating skills, the second-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft still has talents ready to unfurl. Fehervary can turn pro this fall.
Some Positives, Some Negatives
Unfortunately, the win over the Hurricanes was the highlight of the tournament. The Capitals followed up a dominating performance with a disappointing 3-2 overtime loss to the hosting Predators. The Capitals scored; then the Predators scored. Rinse and repeat. On a positive note, goaltender Logan Thompson stopped 40 of 43 shots. On the other hand, defenseman Alexander Alexeyev was injured from a high hit by Josh Healey but, thankfully, the damage was not serious. The back-and-forth affair ended at 1:19 in the overtime session when Predators first-round pick Eeli Tolvanen one-timed from the right circle.
The Capitals’ goalscorers in that game were Kody Clark and Brian Pinho.
Pinho is also a name to know. Like Fehervary, he excelled at the prospects showcase for the last two years. The center collected an assist and shorthanded strike in the 2018 tournament. This time around was even better, as the 2013 NHL Draft pick (6th round, 174th overall) topped his Capitals teammates with three goals and two assists. As one of the oldest players in the showcase, he certainly utilized the extra years maturing his game.
The product of Providence College did not always perfectly fit within the forward mold. He finished last season with the Bears at four goals and eight assists in 73 games. He must figure out a way to turn his current supporting role into a roster staple. If Pinho can pinpoint his unique contributions and exploit his niche, he might carve out a long career for himself. Think former Capital Jay Beagle.
Bad Finish for the Rookies
If the second game was mediocre, the final game was just plain sad. The Capitals fell 7-2 to the Lightning in the showcase finale. The team was outshot 22-9 in the middle frame, where the Lightning capitalized on four shots that escaped goaltender Beck Warm, a free-agent invitee who currently plays between the pipes for the Tri-City Americans. The Bolts never looked back, outshooting their opponents by a 33-18 margin for the final two periods. The first period was great for Washington, but one period does not decide a 60-minute battle. One small victory came from the teamwork of Fehervary and Connor McMichael. Fehervary, who did not dress against Nashville, assisted on McMichael’s power play goal in the opening stanza.
The Capitals goal scorers were Alex Kannok-Leipert and McMichael.
You know the names Alexeyev and Samsonov, but how about Connor McMichael? The 18-year-old was one of three first-round picks on the Washington roster. The center showed steady improvement in all offensive categories over the past couple of seasons. You might not know his name, but you sure know Dale Hunter’s name. With the London Knights in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), McMichael registered 36 goals and 36 assists in 2018-19 for the former Washington Capitals head coach. His reputation as a reliable player preceded him at the rookie tournament, as he provided a helping hand in several offensive opportunities for his team.
The rookie Capitals came away from the 2019 Prospect Showcase with a 1-1-1 record. Does that indicate future successes for the Washington franchise? Maybe. Maybe not. After all, one of the greatest parts of the game is that anything can happen.