The Washington Capitals have a group of intriguing near-NHL ready prospects. Each of them, for better or for worse, will play an important role in the future of the Capitals. If you want to gaze into a crystal ball to see the future of the Capitals, it’s in Hershey, Pennsylvania because a number of those prospects will be playing for the Hershey Bears.
Hershey Bears: The Stars
There are three players who will be playing for the Hershey Bears who are going to have a huge influence on the future of the Washington Capitals. Their success is mandatory if the Capitals want to have a bright future.
- Andre Burakovsky. Burakovsky is a forward who has drawn a lot of comparisons to former Capitals forward Alexander Semin because of his potential to be a dominant force on offense. He is extremely skilled and he showed that in his first season in North America. He scored 87 points (41 goals, 46 assists) in 57 games with the Erie Otters of the OHL. In Hershey, he will benefit from more physical competition and from top six forward minutes. Burakovsky will hope to further develop his offensive game, improve his defense, get stronger physically, and become a more consistent player.
- Madison Bowey. Bowey is a defenseman prospect. He projects to be either an offensive defenseman or possibly a two-way defenseman. He is extremely skilled at moving the puck and has an above-average slapshot. In 72 games with the Kelowna Rockets of the WHL, Bowey had 21 goals and 39 assists. In Hershey, Bowey will benefit from better competition and from consistent top pairing or second pairing minutes. He will also hope to cut down on penalties and further improve his overall game, particularly his positioning on defense and running power plays from the point.
- Philipp Grubauer. Thanks to the signing of Justin Peters, Grubauer can be the starting goalie for the Hershey Bears next season. Gruabuer impressed during his time in the NHL last season, but he still has some wrinkles to iron out of his game. He must work on his positioning and on being more consistent (particularly in shootouts). Being the starting goalie in Hershey will definitely help with that.
Hershey Bears: The Role Players
Past the stars, there’s a solid group of prospects who will play for the Hershey Bears who could have a big impact on the future of the Capitals. They aren’t stars like Burakovsky, Grubauer, or Bowey, but they are role players, which every team needs.
- Nate Schmidt. Schmidt might start the year with the Washington Capitals, or he could start it with the Hershey Bears and get more playing time. If Schmidt starts the year for the Hershey Bears, he’ll certainly bring an element of offense to their blue line that they have lacked in recent years.
- Connor Carrick. Carrick hopes to rebound from a rough season last year and get consistent playing time with the Hershey Bears. He’s still very raw, but he has a ton of potential. I see him as being a Brian Rafalski type with the right coaching.
- Chandler Stephenson. Stephenson has the potential to be a third line or second line center. He’s a two-way forward and is an excellent skater. He spent some time with the Hershey Bears last season, and he looked good. He’ll definitely benefit from more physical competition, as he must toughen up to be NHL-ready.
- Caleb Herbert. Herbert has the potential to be an above average bottom six forward in the NHL. He is a very high energy center who excels at fore checking. Despite being slightly under-sized, he’s a very aggressive player on defense. With the Hershey Bears, Herbert must become more disciplined and not take so many penalties.
The Hershey Bears should be a ton of fun to watch this season. I’ll be making several trips to see them!