If you’re familiar with the 2016-2017 Hershey Bears roster, then the 2018 Stanley Cup Champions roster will look very familiar. As any NHL team does when they make the playoffs, the Washington Capitals recalled quite a few of their minor league players to help assist the team in capturing their first Stanley Cup. Let’s take a look at those individuals who spent the majority or in some cases all, of their time on the Hershey roster just one season prior to the Capitals’ hoisting of the Cup.
Let’s start with those who spent the entirety of the playoffs in the press box. Madison Bowey (51GP, 12A, 12P) was a mainstay on the Capitals roster for the better part of the regular season but was demoted to the seventh defenseman after the Capitals acquired defensemen Michal Kempny and Jakub Jerabek from the Chicago Blackhawks and the Montreal Canadiens, respectively, around the trade deadline. Bowey saw no playing time in the playoffs. Pheonix Copley was also recalled at the beginning of the playoffs, but it was made clear early that he was only recalled for insurance purposes.
Travis Boyd (8GP, 1A, 1P) and Nathan Walker (7GP, 1G, 1P) spent the majority of the 2017-18 season in Hershey but were recalled for the playoffs, and both saw some playing time in Game 6 of the second round against the Pittsburgh Penguins. In an interesting side note, Walker was the first Australian to play in an NHL game, score a goal, play in the playoffs, and record a point in the playoffs.
After injuries to Nicklas Backstrom and Andre Burakovsky and the suspension of Tom Wilson due to his high hit on Zach Aston-Reese, the Capitals found themselves juggling the lines. Walker was slotted into the fourth line with center Jay Beagle and right winger Alex Chaisson. Walker would go on to assist in Chaisson’s goal to open the scoring. Travis Boyd slotted into the third line center spot, with Brett Connolly and Devante Smith-Pelly on his wings, and recorded 12 minutes of ice time.
Last and certainly not least, we have the three heavy-hitters that were mainstays on the playoff roster, and all three largely contributed to the Stanley Cup Final win. First, we have Chandler Stephenson, who played in all 24 playoff games. In those 24 games, Stephenson found himself as, arguably, the most versatile Capital. He spent the majority of the time as the second line winger alongside Nicklas Backstrom and TJ Oshie. However, he saw time as the third line center, slotted into Tom Wilson’s top line spot, and finished the playoffs on the fourth line. Stephenson scored two goals and recorded five assists.
Another former Bear who found himself playing a big role with the Capitals was Jakub Vrana, another versatile forward during the Capitals’ run. After being a healthy scratch for nine games and constantly moved around in the regular season, Vrana found himself mostly on the second and third lines during the playoffs, outside of a brief stint on the top line. Vrana recorded three goals and five assists, including the game-winning goal in Game 5 against the Penguins.
Finally, we have Christian Djoos. Djoos played 63 games in the regular season but, similarly to Madison Bowey, became a regular healthy scratch after the trade deadline. Djoos was scratched in favor of Jakub Jerabek for Games 1 and 2 of the Columbus series. After the Capitals went down 0-2 in the first round, Djoos was placed back into the lineup alongside Brooks Orpik, with whom he spent most of his season playing with. Djoos would go on to play in every game for the rest of the playoffs, averaging 10:51 time on ice. He also had one assist in Game 6 of the first round.
The Capitals’ road to the Stanley Cup was not an easy one, but it would have been a much more difficult path without these former Bears in the lineup. I feel that most, if not all, of these players will be regular roster players for the Capitals come the 2018-2019 season.
Featured image courtesy of NHL.com