What's going on "down on the farm"? or "in the system?" Well despite the Capital' up and down performance which has captured 0.550 of the points available to them so far this season, the Capitals two Minor League affiliate the AHL Hershey Bears and the ECHL South Carolina Stingrays have gotten their seasons off to a good starts. As of the completion of Hershey's game in Philadelphia, against the Flyers' AHL affiliate Philadelphia Phantoms, the Bears are 8-3-0-1. So the Bears are actually flying high atop the AHL standings. The Stingrays have gotten off to a fair start and are 3-2-0 in five games played, they are in fifth in the ECHL's American Conference's South Division however they have at least one game in hand on the four teams ahead of them and three of those four teams are tied for second place.
In one of the more "interesting" goings on in the Capitals Minor League pipeline, it appears that Michael Nevirth is headed back to North America and the ECHL South Carolina Stingrays because of an inssue with his contract with the team he was being loaned to in the Czech Republic. In addition to Neuvirth the Stingrays have 10 other players on their current roster who are on contract to the Capitals, and zz players who are on contract to the AHL Hershey Bears. In addition to the prospects in the Caps pipeline the Stingrays also have several other players with NHL potential.
In fact, the Stingray's lineup includes these players under contract with the Capitals and the Bears. Twenty four year old Center Travis Morin, a 9th round choice in the 2004 entry draft who spent 4 years in the NCAA before signing with the Caps in March 2007; twenty-one (21) year old LW Maxime Lacroix, a fifth round pick by the Capitals in the 2006 entry draft; twenty-four (24) year old right wing Steve Pinizzotto who looked very good at the Caps Rookie Camp this summer but wasn't getting enough playing time during the first 5 games of the AHL season up in Hershey; 20 year old defenseman Josh Godfrey, a 2nd round (34th overall) pick in the 2007 NHL entry draft, who look like with some seasoning is a potential NHL'er; 22 year old defenseman, Sasha Pokulok; a first round selection (14th overall) from the 2005 NHL entry draft who has yet to "come into his own" and reach the potential orginally seen in him; Russian Victor Dovgan, a 20 year old defenseman who was a 7th round pick in the 2005 entry draft by the Caps and who is here in North America for his first season after spending a couple of seasons in the Russian Elite league "bulking up"; and Hershey Bears "properties" - 20 Year old LW Michael Dubuc, who recently signed a two year contract with Hershey; twenty- two year old right wing Tom Maxwell; twenty-three year old foward, Keith Johnson, a University of Maine product; and twenty-five (25) year old goaltender Bobby Goepfert, who has been up with Hershey for the last week while Simeon Varlamov nurses an injured groin. In two games with Hershey this past week Goepfert has had a save percentage of 0.903and a 1-0-1 record. In fact as of the end of this past weekend Goepfert has the best save percentage of the three goalies who have worn a Bears sweater so far this season. When he gets back to South Carolina, the Stingrays will be with the services of a top notch netminder.
All these things should make the Stingrays highly competitive with the elite in the ECHL this season and should mean that Hockey Fans in and around Charleston, SC will see a lot of good hockey. In addition to prospects in the Caps development pipeline South Carolina has a few other solid players with developmental prospects. Looking ahead it sure seems like the South Division of the ECHL's American Conference will likely be a battle between the Stingrays and the Florida Everblades who also have a very solid roster.
Things in Hershey are going simply "swimmingly." How else can one describe an 8-3-0-1 record in 12 games. Even though this weekend the Bears went 0-1-0-1 against the Philadelphia Phantoms in a "Home-Home" pair of games, Hershey is remains 2 points ahead of the Bridgeport Sound Tigers in the East Division of the Eastern Conference of the AHL. The Bears have four players in the top 20 scorers in the AHL: scoring leader Keith Aucoin with 18 points (5 goals, 13 assists) in 12 games, #5 Aleaxdre Giroux with 13 points (9 goals, 4 assists) in 12 games; #12 Graham Mink with 12 points (6 goals, 6 assists) in 12 games; and #14 Chris Bourque with 12 points (4 goals, 8 assists) in 10 games played. Bourque has also played one game already this season with the Capitals.
So things "down on the farm" are solid, hopefully after these past couple days of reaffirming the importance of accountability here in DC, things will return to being on a solid footing for the "Big Club." All accounts indicate that the Caps had a hard, solid practice on Sunday to shake the memories of Saturday's poor outing against the Sabres from the teams collective psyche. Now the team Capitals can begin to prepare for their upcoming game against Ottawa on Tuesday.
LETS GO CAPS!!!!!!!!!