Capitals Prospect Report: Why the preseason matters

J.J. Regan

If you watch him in practice, forward prospect Beck Malenstyn's skills don't immediately stand out. Neither do his stats. In 18 games with the Hershey Bears this season, Malenstyn has three goals and three assists. And yet, when the Capitals found themselves in injury trouble and in need of bodies not just to serve as healthy scratches but to actually play, Malenstyn got the call.

The Caps have had need of a few players from Hershey already this season. Travis Boyd has been recalled twice and plugged into the lineup, Liam O'Brien was recalled to be a healthy scratch and sent back down to Hershey without playing. But on Wednesday in New York, with Garnet Hathaway suspended and Nicklas Backstrom, Carl Hagelin and Nic Dowd all out injured, Washington needed reinforcements to play against the Rangers. They did not call on O'Brien who has previous NHL experience, Axel Jonsson-Fjallby who has scored five goals this season or Shane Gersich who jumped into the Caps lineup when he was signed in 2018. They called on Malenstyn and it is not hard to figure out why.

Malenstyn was one of the standout performers for the Caps in the preseason and Reirden raved about back in September.

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"I like the energy he brings," Reirden said after a preseason game against the Chicago Blackhawks on Sept. 16. "I've liked him for a few years now. ... I just love having him around our room, he's a great kid, really hard worker, passionate. I definitely gravitate towards that type of guy. He can change momentum of a game with his speed, he's physical."

The NHL preseason is fun to watch because you get a chance to see so many prospects who you otherwise don't get a chance to see because they play for their junior teams or in the minors. Those brief glimpses can leave on impression not just on the fans or the media, but the coaches as well.

Between O'Brien, Jonsson-Fjallby, Gersich and Malenstyn, Malenstyn easily was the most impressive in an actual game setting. So it was no surprise then, when the Caps needed not just bodies but a player, that Malenstyn was among those who got the call. He delivered energy on Wednesday and fired three shots on goal on Henrik Lundqvist. He nearly scored on a short breakaway opportunity.

The preseason can seem long and tedious when everyone just wants to get into the regular season, but for those prospects trying to leave an impression, the preseason matters a whole heck of a lot.

Other prospect notes

  • The injury woes continue for the Caps. Malenstyn and Michael Sgarbossa remain with the team. In addition, Christian Djoos was recalled to Washington and Tyler Lewington was reassigned to Hershey. In 18 games with the Bears, Djoos has tallied one goal and 10 assists.

  • Riley Sutter, who was injured before the season began, finally made his AHL debut on Nov. 15.

  • Vincent Gibbons of McKeen's Hockey wrote a profile on Alex Alexeyev:

Alexeyev is a great story wrapped in a very good player who has all the tools to be a top four defender in the NHL. He has good size, skates very well, and has more snarl in his game then most give him credit for. Couple all that with a defender who is an excellent passer both in his own zone as well as when quarterbacking a power play, and he shows real promise. He has had some injury trouble the past couple of seasons and had a tragic loss as his mother passed away mid-season in his draft year. Despite so many ups and downs he has been one of the top defenders in the WHL since his arrival from Russia. He projects as playing both sides of special teams although maybe on second units and he could be a very solid second pairing defender.

  • With all the goalie shuffling on the rosters, the result was that Pheonix Copley was called upon to play all three of Hershey's games last week. He went 1-1-1 despite posting an incredible 0.98 GAA and .959 save percentage in those games. He was named Hershey's player of the week.

  • Stats update: Aliaksei Protas leads the WHL in points with 34. Connor McMichael is tied for the OHL points lead with 46.

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Capitals Prospect Report: Why the preseason matters originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

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