October 23, 2014

Washington Capitals recall Cameron Schilling; Erskine to IR

The Washington Capitals reached into their AHL affiliate again for personnel, recalling left-handed defenseman Cameron Schilling to make his NHL debut Tuesday night against the Carolina Hurricanes. Schilling will be inserted into the lineup immediately due to injuries to John Erksine (left hand/wrist), who was placed on injured reserve to make room on the roster, and Tom Poti, who is day-to-day with an upper body injury.

Here’s Schilling’s bio information from the Caps press release:

Schilling, 24, has recorded 14 points (six goals, eight assists) and is a plus-seven in 54 games with Hershey in his first full professional season. He currently leads active Hershey defensemen in goals, plus/minus and ranks tied for second in points.

The Carmel, Ind., native played in 144 collegiate games during his four-year career with Miami, collecting 57 points (eight goals, 49 assists) and 155 penalty minutes. The 6’2”, 197-pound blueliner was a member of two NCAA All-Regional Teams (2008-2010) and helped Miami win the 2010-11 CCHA Championship.

Schilling was originally signed by Washington as an un-drafted free agent on March 27, 2012. He will participate in Tuesday’s morning skate and will wear No. 45 for the Capitals.

Schilling is well-regarded by the Capitals brass and will reunited as a pairing with Steve Oleksy, with whom he partnered earlier in the season with AHL Hershey.

Washington Capitals 2012-13 Positional Preview: The Defensemen

Karl Alzner -Practice April 27(Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Karl Alzner at practice, April 27, 2012 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

With the season opener right around the corner, District Sports Page takes a look at the construction of the roster to start the season. Today, the defensemen.

Karl Alzner
Though not the most experienced, highly paid, or offensively skilled defenseman on the Washington Capitals roster, Karl Alzner has emerged as the face of the team’s defensive corps thanks to his consistent play and willingness to face the media in any circumstance. The same composure Alzner demonstrates in front of a camera is evident with his play. Per statistics site Behind the Net, Alzner faced the strongest competition of any Caps player in 2011-12, yet still led the team in plus-minus with a plus-12.

New Capitals assistant coach Calle Johansson sees a younger version of himself while watching Alzner on the ice, and the talented young defenseman should benefit under Johansson’s tutelage. Many years down the road Alzner may also challenge Johansson for the Capitals’ franchise record for games played. The Swede played 983 of his 1,109 career NHL games for the Caps, while Alzner has played 215 games in part of four seasons, including all 82 games each of the past two years.

John Carlson
Riffing on the hockey tradition to not shave during the playoffs, Carlson showed up to training camp looking like he hadn’t cut his hair since the Caps’ playoff loss in May. Surfer hair notwithstanding, Carlson is coming off a career high in goals despite serving with Alzner on Washington’s shutdown defense pairing. The young defenseman may benefit the most from new head coach Adam Oates’s offensive scheme, possessing scoring ability, the speed to get back in the transition game, and the stay-at-home defensive partner to allow him to take chances.

The real test for Carlson will be if he can maintain his defensive form and conditioning. Unlike some of his teammates, Carlson stayed in the D.C. area rather than play professionally overseas or in a North American minor league. Instead, he kept active by skating informally with a small group that included teammates Mike Green, Jason Chimera, and Jay Beagle and former teammate and Maryland native Jeff Halpern. In doing so Carlson has saved several months of wear-and-tear on his body, but a lack of conditioning could lead to injury or poor play if he isn’t able to reach suitable form in short order.

John Erskine
Erskine is of the class of players who stood to suffer the most from the NHL lockout: a non-skill, marginal roster player good enough to stick around the NHL but not good enough to take one of the limited roster spots available to non-Europeans in an overseas league. Instead the Kington, Ontario native returned to his hometown to skate and workout on his own, and showed up to training camp looking much thinner and quicker than he has in years. That seems unusual for a defender for whom the most fitting adjective has traditionally been “hulking,” but perhaps Erskine took a look at film from new assistant head coach Calle Johansson’s career and realized he needed to alter his style to stay in Washington’s longterm plans.

In 2011-12 Erskine skated in only 28 games, spending much of the season as a healthy scratch while Dale Hunter relied on rookie Dmitry Orlov and the same roster game-in and game-out. With the addition of Jack Hillen and return of Tom Poti, Erskine will be part of a crowded field vying for one of the bottom pairing spots on the Capitals’ roster. He remains Washington’s de facto enforcer, a status without much cachet under Oates but which nonetheless helps his chances at securing one of the seven roster spots on defense to start the season.

Mike Green
2011-12 was a lost season for the former 31-goal scorer, who only played 32 games due to a recurring groin injury. He’s now completely healthy, but that’s a recent development as of about a month ago. Across the league groin injuries as a major concern for this condensed season, and Green is as susceptible as anyone else. Regardless of whether he’s paired with Roman Hamrlik, Dmitry Orlov, Jeff Schultz, or another teammate, Green will be the defenseman responsible for moving the puck when he’s on the ice, leaving him open to contact.

A complete season would be a triumph for Green, but a return to his scoring form would also be appreciated by the Washington organization. Shortly before the end of the lockout Green underwent laser eye surgery, which if nothing else may give him a psychological boost if he thinks he’s seeing the puck better. Green has traditionally played the right point on the Caps’ power play, which was Oates’ specialty while an assistant coach for New Jersey and Tampa Bay, and any increase in Washington’s power play effectiveness from last season’s 18th will reflect on Green’s personal statistics as well.

Roman Hamrlik
A former first overall draft pick and the most veteran member of the Washington Capitals, Hamrlik is a usually soft-spoken player who drew jeers during the lockout as one of the few voices players to explicitly criticize the NHLPA’s stance on negotiations. As one of six current players — Teemu Selanne, Ray Whitney, Jaromir Jagr, Martin Brodeur, and the soon-to-retire Chris Pronger are the others — to experience three lockouts, Hamrlik’s position is understandable, even if his means of expressing it was ill-considered.

Despite his active NHL best 1,379 career games played, Hamrlik remains capable of playing top-four minutes and was a steady partner to Mike Green last season. He’s seen it all, which makes him a valuable presence in a young defensive corps, and his late-career transition from powerplay quarterback to defensive-minded stopper is the blueprint for teammate Poti to do the same. The ascendancy of Orlov or return of a healthy Poti will spell a decrease in time for Hamrlik, and how he handles the move may be his real legacy with the Caps.

Jack Hillen
At the age of 26, Hillen is already on his third NHL franchise having played parts of four seasons for the New York Islanders before skating in 55 games for the Nashville Predators last season. Prior to signing a one-year deal with Washington in July, Hillen was best known to Capitals fans as the player whose jaw was broken by an Alex Ovechkin slapshot in January 2010. He’s all recovered now, and will challenge for a depth position on the Caps after skating on the third pairing for a dominant Predators defensive corps.

Hillen is a puck-moving defenseman, and his smooth skating drew raves from locker room neighbor Alzner after the team’s first training camp practice. That style of play will endear him with both Oates and Johansson, who are known to appreciate smooth skaters. He’s also acclimated well with his new teammates, sharing jokes with locker room neighbor Alzner after the team’s first session.

Dmitry Orlov
A potential breakout year for Orlov was derailed first by the lockout and then by a groin injury suffered in December, ironically during the Hershey Bears’ AHL Showcase game at the Verizon Center. Before his injury, Orlov was largely underperforming in Hershey with only one goal and eight assists in 18 games. His lengthy stint with the NHL squad last season removed any doubt that he belonged in the big leagues, so his production for the Bears may be more a case of personal disappointment than regression.

His rookie season with the Capitals last year saw Orlov post three goals and 16 assists in 60 games, averaging a respectable 16:52 time on ice. One of the smaller defensemen on Washington’s roster, Orlov’s abilities fit better in Adam Oates’ system than that of Dale Hunter, who nonetheless relied heavily on the services of the Russian defender over those of John Erskine and Jeff Schultz much of the season.

Tom Poti
For the first time since 2009, the Boston-born Poti is healthy at the start of the season. A groin injury and then fractured pelvis kept Poti to only 22 games played in the 2010-11 season, and he was on long-term injured reserve for all of last season, during which general manager George McPhee said he thought Poti’s career was over. Instead, the defenseman declared himself 100 percent healthy shortly before the end of the lockout, and since then has proven a man of his word. After passing his physical Poti was sent to the Hershey Bears for a conditioning assignment, upon which he scored a power play goal in his first game Saturday night.

It’s unclear what Poti can bring to the Capitals roster at this point, if only because no one has any clue how his skill set has changed in the past two years. He was already beginning to transition from puck-moving offensive threat to physical stay-at-home defender when he was injured, and it’s hard to imagine him resuming the puck-moving role with Green, Carlson, and Hillen or Orlov on the roster. Although he’s 35, staying out of professional hockey for two years has saved that much wear and tear on his body and allowed him to heal up from all those little aches and bruises that accumulate over the course of the years.

Cameron Schilling
Of the ten defensemen invited to training camp, Schilling was the longest shot when it comes to making the roster, and indeed has already been sent back to Hershey. The undrafted player from Indiana was signed as a free agent last spring immediately after the conclusion of his senior year at Miami University and appeared in 11 games for the Hershey Bears. His stint included four games in the Bears’ five-game first round series loss to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, in which Schilling netted two goals. In 33 games this season in Hershey Schilling has three goals and four assists and is fifth on the team with a plus-6 rating.

Compared to the rest of the players in the Capitals organization, Schilling has a leg up in one regard: he’s the only player with significant experience under Adam Oates as head coach, when Oates took over bench duties in Hershey for a stretch in late 2012. Although George McPhee insisted that every player in camp has a chance to make the Capitals’ roster, Schilling’s presence was largely to get the youngster acclimated to the NHL experience. Washington only has four defensemen with NHL experience under contract for the 2013-14 season, and the camp invite was a notice to Schilling that he’s expected to be ready should the need arise later this season and to contend for a spot next season and beyond.

Jeff Schultz
The erstwhile top-four defenseman and league plus-minus leader is now relegated to fighting for a spot on the Capitals bottom pair every night. Although Schultz has seemed to be on the outs for the past few seasons, the four-year, $11 million contract he signed after the 2009-10 season has kept him in Washington red and white. He was a favorite of Bruce Boudreau, who coached Schultz while in Hershey, but began to fall out of favor under Dale Hunter’s regime. It remains to be seen how he fits into Calle Johansson’s defensive scheme.

Schultz has demonstrated the ability to stick around for the past few seasons, and the quiet Canadian seems to get along well with his teammates. Although he doesn’t possess overwhelming physical or puck-moving capabilities, he plays strong positional hockey and rarely panics in his own end. There is no guarantee that Schultz will be able to maintain his roster spot this season, particularly with the return of a healthy Poti, but stranger things have happened.

As Lockout Ends, Fans Welcome Caps Back to the Ice

At approximately 10:30 pm on Saturday night, the NHLPA signed a Memorandum of Understanding that brought an end to four-month-long the NHL lockout.

At exactly 10:30 am on Sunday morning, a standing room-only crowd welcomed the Washington Capitals with rousing applause as the team, led by netminder Braden Holtby, stepped on the ice for an abbreviated training camp starting less than a week before the start of the shortened regular season.

Capitals fans watch Sunday morning's practice session from the upper level of Kettler Capitals Iceplex.(photo by Abram Fox)

Capitals fans stand to watch Sunday’ practice session.
(photo by Abram Fox)

Other than an on-ice warmup introduction by public address announcer Wes Johnson, Sunday morning’s session was no different than a normal team practice. Because of injuries and the organization’s desire to only bring players with legitimate shots at making the opening day roster to camp, there were just 26 players on the training camp roster and only 24 on the ice Sunday, with Brooks Laich (lower body injury) and Tom Poti (conditioning assignment) both in street clothes.

For fans, the hour-long practice was the first opportunity to see free agent signees Joey Crabb, Jack Hillen, Cameron Schilling, and Wojtek Wolski, 2012 draftee Tom Wilson, and trade acquisition Mike Ribeiro in Capitals uniforms. While those players had technically been members of the Capitals organization for months, former winger Eric Fehr was a surprise attendee. News broke of Fehr’s return late Saturday night, and the 27-year-old winger didn’t technically sign his one-year, $600,000 contract until after the on-ice session ended.

“I’m really excited to be back, [Washington] feels like a second home to me,” said Fehr, who skated in Finland’s SM-Liiga during the lockout.

During the on-ice session Fehr was one of four players wearing the white jerseys of the third line, along with Mathieu Perreault, Matt Hendricks, and Crabb, who signed a one-year, $950,000 contract on the first day of free agency this past offseason. Crabb spent the last two seasons in Toronto, a hotbed of hockey fandom, and was impressed by Sunday’s turnout by Caps fans.

“I didn’t know much about Washington before I came here and the fans seem great…[Kettler Capitals Iceplex] is not the smallest practice rink, so to have a packed house on your first day, it’s great.”

Although Crabb didn’t say it outright, several players gave the impression that they weren’t sure how they and the organization would be received by fans after the lengthy lockout. Schilling, who has played 32 games for the Hershey Bears this season and expects to return there at the end of camp, said he was “surprised” by the size of the crowd, adding that he thought “the packed house…was awesome.”

One of the fans who returned was Suzanne Kang, who made the trip to Kettler on a foggy morning for the first chance to see the Caps in action since last May. Although some of her friends were ambivalent about following the NHL after the lockout, Kang “didn’t consider not coming back for one second.”

“It looked like everyone was happy to officially have Caps hockey back,” said Kang, who added that she “saw a lot of hugging, a lot of smiles, and fans were cheering pretty loudly when the guys hit the ice.”

Training camp continues through Friday, with the team hosting a special open practice on Thursday night in the Verizon Center as part of a Fan Appreciation Week. Washington opens their regular season schedule Saturday night in Tampa, with the home opener on Tuesday against the Winnipeg Jets.

Washington Capitals Assign 21 Players to Hershey Bears

Capitals Assign 21 Players to Hershey

ARLINGTON, Va. – The Washington Capitals have assigned 21 players to the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League and loaned forward Tom Wilson to Plymouth of the Ontario Hockey League, vice president and general manager George McPhee announced today.

The players assigned to Hershey, Washington’s AHL affiliate, include forwards Mike Carman, Stanislav Galiev, Garrett Mitchell, Danick Paquette, Mattias Sjogren, Matt Clackson, Zach Hamill, Ryan Potulny and Ryan Stoa; defensemen Brett Flemming, Tomas Kundratek, Dmitry Orlov, Cameron Schilling, Dustin Stevenson, Kevin Marshall, Patrick McNeill and Garrett Stafford; and goaltenders Brandon Anderson, Philipp Grubauer, Braden Holtby and Dany Sabourin.

In addition, Washington has loaned Wilson to Plymouth (OHL).

The 11-time Calder Cup champion Hershey Bears will celebrate their 75th AHL season in 2012-13, and are scheduled to open training camp on Sept. 30.

Braden Holtby stretching during warmups at Verizon Center, May 2 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Mattias Sjogren – Captials practice at Kettler, September 14, 2012 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

 

 

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