Minor-league affiliate for Washington Capitals stocked with depth and character

By Patrick Harbolick
Photo: Braden Holtby has been among the several bright spots for a Hershey Bears team that has seen it’s fair share of difficulties. (Photo courtesy of Holly Gunning/HF)

Both the Hershey Bears (AHL) and South Carolina Stingrays (ECHL) have had up-and-down seasons, so far plagued with serious injury concerns and inconsistent play. There have been several bright spots, among them Mathieu Perreault, Jay Beagle, and Braden Holtby. All three have spent some time at the NHL level and are putting together good seasons for their NHL and AHL teams. However, the remaining minor league prospects haven’t done nearly as well, with an overwhelming majority of them battling injuries and inconsistency.


AHL

Mathieu Perreault, C, 22

Perreault has had a rollercoaster season so far. He was averaging better than a point-per-game in the AHL, putting up 25 points in 18 games. He was called up to the NHL in early December and has played well, potting five goals and adding two assists in 12 games. By many accounts, he’s been the best Capital to center the second line and looks to have made good on his invitation to the Show. He suffered a broken nose against Carolina on December 26th, but is not expected to miss many games. It’s hard to predict where he’ll finish the 2010-11 season, but so far he’s shown he deserves a roster spot with the Capitals.

Francois Bouchard, RW, 22

Bouchard has struggled so far in this young season for the Hershey Bears, registering only 10 points in 29 games, far off the pace he set last season with 52 points in 77 games. To be fair, Hershey has experienced many personnel changes from last season and serious injuries problems. He missed a few games due to a neck injury but is healthy now and part of the lineup. He is expected to produce on a nightly basis, but if he can’t do that and find the consistency needed to reach the NHL level, he may never contribute with the Capitals.

Dmitri Kugryshev, RW, 20

Like Bouchard, Kugryshev hasn’t had a stellar offensive campaign either. He’s only mustered nine points and a minus-two rating in 29 games. He was even sent down to the ECHL for a few games in November, but has stuck with the Bears the rest of the way. With the loss of veteran scorer Alexandre Giroux in the off-season, there was room for Kugryshev to shoulder some of the scoring load and translate his high-skill game from the QMJHL to the AHL. Like Bouchard, he hasn’t picked up the offensive slack and that doesn’t bode well for his future in the NHL. If he can’t put up points in the AHL, he’ll be hard-pressed to produce in the NHL.

Braden Holtby, G, 21

Holtby is having a solid campaign for Hershey, posting a 9-3-1 record in 14 games so far. This season, he’s fifth in the league in both goals against average (1.78) and save percentage (.936). He’s also second in the league with three shutouts, trailing only Jake Allen (STL) who has four. Holtby also made his first NHL appearance this season, replacing Michal Neuvirth in the third period in a game on November 5th. The Capitals won that game, and Holtby stopped all four shots he faced en route to his first NHL victory. He posted a 2-2-1 record in the NHL, to go along with a 3.84 goals against average and a .850 save percentage. Not the best numbers, but he mixed some bad games with some good ones, hurting his stats a bit. If he can continue to play well and develop consistency in the AHL, he’s only a few short years away from making an impact at the NHL level.

Jay Beagle, C, 25

Beagle is having another solid campaign, split between Hershey and Washington. In 24 games for the Bears, he’s potted seven goals and added four assists. At the NHL level, he’s added two goals (both game-winning goals) in seven games so far. Against Montreal on December 28th, he scored a beautiful no-look backhand goal en route to a 3-0 victory for the Capitals. He’s shown great energy, being a spark-plug in the bottom six and contributing not only on the score sheet, but on the forecheck. With Matt Bradley out for a few more weeks, look for Beagle to continue to be a force on the lower lines. Beagle is certainly forcing Bruce Boudreau’s hand with his solid play and he could be a regular in the Capitals’ lineup as early as next season.

Zach Miskovic, D, 25

Miskovic is having another consistent, if unremarkable, season for Hershey. With eight points, a plus-seven, and 28 penalty minutes in 32 games with the Bears, he’s showing off his solid two-way play. However, at age 25, his upside is rather limited and it looks like he might top out at as a career minor-leaguer. At some point, he may get an NHL cup of coffee or an injury call-up, but he doesn’t appear to be in the Capitals’ long-term plans on the blue line.

Patrick McNeill, D, 23

McNeill has missed most of the 2010-11 season so far, recovering from offseason shoulder surgery. He made his season debut on December 18th and has only played seven games so far, registering four assists. Missing so many games has seriously hampered the timeline on his development, but it remains to be seen just how negative the impact of that missed time will be. As an offensive defenseman, it’ll be difficult for McNeill to crack a lineup full of them in Washington. He still needs to round out his game and is several years away from contributing with the Capitals.

Trevor Bruess, C, 24

Bruess has earned a regular spot in the Bears’ lineup, playing in 24 games thus far. He’s registered 46 penalty minutes this season, playing his role as agitator for Hershey. He also doesn’t shy away in the rough stuff, participating in four fights so far in this young season. It remains to be seen if he has what it takes to make it to the next level as a bottom six forward. However, with his age and limited upside, it’s more likely he’ll be a career minor leaguer who may see time as an injury call-up.


ECHL

Joe Finley, D, 23

Finley is finally healthy after a nasty deep tissue hand injury sidelined him for most of last season. He was looking to crack the AHL roster, but he was assigned to the South Carolina Stingrays after just seven games with Hershey. Between the two minor league teams, Finley has played in 12 games, registering two assists and 41 penalty minutes. Unfortunately, he suffered a lower-body injury and has missed serious time yet again. With his injury history, it looks like his chances of making the NHL are slim.

Josh Godfrey, D, 22

Godfrey is healthy this season, after dealing with injury problems the last few seasons. He’s played in 25 games for South Carolina this season, potting nine goals and adding four assists. Currently he is second in the league in goals scored by a defenseman and was named South Carolina’s lone All-Star. He’s putting a nice season together and has avoided serious injury, but it’s hard to imagine him cracking the NHL roster anytime soon. Look for him to continue his solid play with the Stingrays and hopefully earn a regular spot in Hershey’s lineup next season, assuming he re-signs with the Capitals in the offseason.

Jake Hauswirth, LW, 22

Hauswirth has taken a step back offensively for South Carolina when compared to last season, in which he put up 44 points in 62 games. Thus far, he’s only contributed six points in 19 games for the Stingrays. He’s missed some time due to injury and perhaps that has affected his scoring touch. It’s hard to imagine him cracking the offense-laden Bears’ roster anytime soon and his chances of making the NHL are slim with his limited production and upside.

Dustin Stevenson, D, 21

Stevenson is having a decent campaign for South Carolina this season, registering three assists and 17 penalty minutes in 25 games. With time to develop, he could progress to be a steady minor leaguer, but his chances of cracking the Capitals’ roster aren’t very good at this time. Look for him to continue his consistent play and fight for a roster spot in Hershey next season.