Ahead, a Promising Harvest on the Farm

Development camps such as that recently completed by the Capitals have a way of imbuing DraftGeeks and even the more balanced of hockey fan with horizons of heightened optimism. Always it seems there are a handful of young standouts there, among them compelling stories of no-name collegians or free agents making next-season names for themselves. This July’s camp in Washington was no different. Jake Hausworth, a USHL graduate (Omaha) headed for Michigan Tech this autumn, may in his hockey career make no greater imprint than what he did in Washington this past week. All that would make him, then, would be a special hockey player.
Capitals’ fans, I think, ought to delight in the accomplishments of the team’s scouts — high in drafts with lottery selections but also deep into draft Saturdays (Perreault, Gordon). Hershey Bears’ fans, however, ought to be downright giddy at what’s coming their way this autumn, in year four of the team’s affiliation with the Caps.
It’s not out of the realm of possibility, for instance, that Hershey hockey fans could see more of Eric Fehr this coming season. The injury-hampered right wing signed a two-way deal with the Caps last week. He gave great effort in D.C. upon his recall last spring, but a full season of apprentice seasoning in Hershey, earning top line minutes, may not be the worst thing for his career development.
I’m imagining an Eric Fehr, Chris Bourque, Mathieu Perreault, Sami Lepisto, and Andrew Gordon Bears power play at the moment . . . Fehr and Gordon owning the corners, Perreault and CBourque with the puck Krazy-Glued to their sticks, Lepisto making like Mike Green with his passing and hockey sense on the point . . .
Mother, hold me.
Oh, and there’s a bit of a talent infusion in net in the organization to discuss this summer.
Last September, Capitals’ rookies reported first to fall camp and, on Saturday, September 8, skated an exhibition game at the Philadelphia Flyers’ practice facility in Voorhees, N.J. Plans call for the Flyers to reciprocate, and visit Kettler Capitals this September. The Caps haven’t finalized a date for that game yet, but it promises to be a spirited, first-of-its kind event for the facility. If this past Saturday’s SRO turnout for Development Camp’s concluding scrimmage is any indication, Craigslist and or eBay may be involved in admissions with that Rookie Camp tilt.
That game may also inaugurate a season-long intrigue affair between Washington hockey fans and the team’s prospects in Hershey. It’s no secret that the affiliation between the Caps and Bears has been a fruitful one — really a perfect one in terms of the parent club drafting well and feeding quality to the farm, as well as offering fans a friendly proximity by which to travel to one another’s games. But what’s in store this coming season on the farm may be the most appealing that the affiliation has offered to date.
For this coming season in Hershey there will be bluechip prospects for the Caps dressed in Bears’ sweaters at virtually every position, from the goal cage on out: a Rookie of the Year in Finland’s top professional league; an MVP of the QMJHL; the two most recent scoring champions from the Q; at least one member of Team Canada’s gold-medal-winning World Junior champions last year; the backstopper of five shutouts in Russia’s top professional league this most recent postseason; potentially two OHL All -Stars. In other words: fairly an embarrassment of prospect riches.
We live-blogged from Kettler this past Saturday, and joining us in the fun was Bears’ PR guy Chris Poisal. If you followed our musings you absorbed Chris’ significant enthusiasm for the coming campaign. Last year’s Bears may have been somewhat short in the leadership department, and ravaged by injury beyond belief, but this summer’s signings of Dean Arsene, Keith Aucoin, and Hershey 2006 Calder Cup hero Graham Mink have vanquished any leadership concerns. They’ll be expected to mentor a crop of recent Caps’ draft picks abundant in skill but relatively short on pro league experience.
Alluding to Hershey’s offseason signings, and the promise of more help arriving from the parent club, Bears’ head coach Bob Woods on Saturday said, “Leadership was the big thing we were looking to move on, and while we don’t know what’s going to happen here [in Washington] in the fall, you get a [Keith] Aucoin, you get a [Graham] Mink, a healthy [Dean] Arsene back, now you’ve filled a lot of those voids.
“We’ve got a great group of young guys returning,” he added.
Woods admitted that in net, “we’re gonna be young, but from what I’ve seen this week, there’s a lot of promise there.
“Look at a team like Wilkes Barre last year,” he added, “They had two rookie goaltenders and they went right to the finals.”
The ride ought to be fun, and entertaining. A potent potential lineup could include a lot of these names:

Alexandre Giroux Keith Aucoin Eric Fehr/Graham Mink
Chris Bourque Kyle Wilson Andrew Gordon
Oskar Osala Mathieu Perreault / Jay Beagle Francois Bouchard
Maxime Lacroix Andrew Joudrey Scott Barney
Dean Arsene Sami Lepisto
Josh Godfrey Tyler Sloan
Patrick McNeill/Sasha Pokulok
Machesney / Varlamov
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This entry was posted in American Hockey League, Andrew Gordon, Chris Bourque, College Hockey, Development Camp, Eric Fehr, Hershey Bears, Kettler Capitals Iceplex, Mathieu Perreault, Minor Pro Hockey, Morning cup-a-joe, Prospects, Washington Capitals. Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to Ahead, a Promising Harvest on the Farm

  1. Greg says:

    I live up near Hershey and I can’t wait for the start of the season. The talent on this year’s team is going to be unmatched by previous teams. I would be very excited to see Eric Fehr back in Hershey this season and I believe it can (and should) happen. He seems to need a little more work before he can be a regular contributor to the Caps.
    You mentioned Scott Barney on that roster and I know you said “possible” but I believe Barney is a free agent and I would be surprised if they brought him back.

  2. Smitty says:

    I think this is finally the year I get serious about making the pilgrimage to Hershey to take in a Bears game or two.
    Who’s the big rival? Philly? Wilkes-Barre?
    On a completely different topic – whatever happened to the boards?

  3. Blackaces says:

    Flyers? Visiting the Caps facility for a game?
    BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

  4. maruk says:

    I may have to head to Norfolk one fine autumn weekend.

  5. Greg,
    Things do get pretty speculative in forecasting the third and fourth lines of AHL clubs in mid-summer. My hope was to convey an overall sense of how promising a lineup Hershey looks to have for ’08-09.
    Smitty, pretty much any weekend game in the Giant Center is a festive affair, but especially for the Bears’ East division rivals.

  6. MinkIsBack! says:

    Philly games are heated, and many Philadelphians drive up for the games, but Wilkes Barre’d Booster Club brings the busses, and the constant cheering battles create a crazy atmosphere. I highly suggest attending a WBS/Hershey game on a Saturday night at Giant Center.

  7. MinkIsBack, right you are on all counts, the Mini-Mullets most particularly. I was fortunate enough to be seated low, hard by the glass, for a playoff game against WBS in the spring of 2006, during that sweet sweep of a series, en route to the Calder, and among the visiting Iron City swilling set. It was awesome atmosphere.

  8. TG says:

    Do you know if Hershey plays the same style as the Caps? I know it’s a balancing act for the minor league team as they have to prepare players for the parent club, but also hope to do well so the coaching staff can also get a call up to the big leagues. But knowing the difference between BB’s style and Glen Hanlon, I was wondering if there was going to be the same disconnect or if Hershey was going to keep BB’s style of play making for a more seamless transition for players going up (or down).

  9. MinkIsBack! says:

    Such a great series, I loved every game of it (both in Hershey and in WBS). My favorite was when I was talking with a group of my girlfriends in front of the Giant Center and we discussed how great it was to wear flip flops to a hockey game (warm enough weather to show off our chocolate and white painted toes), only to see the female fans of Wilkes Barre exit the bus in work boots, cargo shorts, and jerseys. Mini-mullets and work boots are female fashion staples there.

  10. MinkIsBack! says:

    To TG:
    Hershey’s head coach now, Bob Woods, is BB’s former assistant in Hershey. Woods was with him for BB’s 2 and 1/4 seasons in Hershey. With all the injuries Hershey faced last season, he did what he could to maintain the style while dressing new arrivals almost nightly. Ask again next season, when we can see what Woods does with a healthy team 🙂

  11. steve says:

    Is there a reason Michal Neuvirth’s name was left off the list?

  12. Carmine says:

    The list is lacking Pinner and GMAC!

  13. strungout says:

    I wouldn’t be surprised to see Perreault start is SC. Beagle and even Morin should earn those center spots before he will/should.
    And yeah…as Carmine mentioned…totally missing some Pinner.

  14. JR says:

    I think you will see Godfrey on the point for the PP that’s if he’s not playing for the Caps.

  15. JR – CBourque has been used rather liberally, and rather effectively, on the Bears’ PP point, and obviously Sami’s one of the American League’s most promising returning rearguards. Godfrey I imagine will see some time, on the second unit. He won’t be playing for the Caps this year, however.

  16. Doug says:

    If Fehr skated in Hershey, could the Caps bring him up without him clearing waivers? I don’t think they can, but could be wrong. Personally, I’m hoping Fehr makes the Caps opening night roster.

  17. Steve, while I think Hershey fans will see some of Neuvirth this season, the hard reality is that somebody has to tend goal in Carolina, and the Caps may want both of their prized young golaies to earn big minutes rather than divide a single job in a single town. Just one blogger’s intuition.

  18. Doug says:

    From listening to Mike Vogel on the Caps Report, if we send Eric Fehr down to Hershey, it requires waivers. And someone will surely claim him. So….it’s the big club for Fehr, or he’ll likely be gone.
    I’d like to package Flash/Jurcina & possibly Boyd Gordon in a trade to the Western Division.

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