Chandler Stephenson had his first exposure to professional hockey when he joined the Hershey Bears late in the 2013/14 season. The Capitals drafted Stephenson in the third round of the 2012 draft. He would return to play for the Regina Pats and the Western Hockey League before playing two games with the Bears. He scored his first goal in his first game with his first shot on April 16, 2014. The Caps saw potential in the young Canadian and in June 2017 they signed him to a two-year contract–the first year as a two-way and the second as a one-way deal.
Stephenson benefited from the excellent coaching in Hershey to develop his skills as a versatile forward capable of playing left wing or center. However, he still struggled to be a consistent scorer for the Bears. So much so that the Caps placed him on waivers in October 2017 because he failed to display the level of proficiency they were looking for from him during training camp.
Back to Hershey he went. Once there he put a full throttle effort into playing his best. In six games Chandler racked up five goals and an assist, including a hat trick on 21 October.
Each year his recorded overall points in Hershey has improved, to the extent that the Capitals began to pay closer attention. He was one of those players to ride the roads between Pennsylvania and Washington DC.
The Capitals finally gave Chandler his first chance in the NHL in October 2015. He would not earn his first NHL point until 14 March 2017 with a sneaky goal against Vancouver.
The 2017/18 season has been a memorable one for Stephenson. The Caps called him up from Hershey 24 October 2017 and this time he stayed for the remainder of the season as well as the playoffs. The Saskatchewan native proved his added value to the Caps, grinding away to keep the puck in play.
There is something exciting about his style that emerged this season. He is a strong and speedy skater, capable of playing offensively and defensively. He is good on the power play kill and could become part of the special unit for power plays too. He had his first two-goal game in January 2018 and demonstrated the potential that then development coach Reirden must have seen in him back at training camp.
Stephenson spoke with reporters about his experience following the playoffs saying: “The whole year has been a dream come true. I’ve been soaking in everything with every day that goes by. It’s been awesome, I mean just being a sponge since I’ve been here and trying to learn as much as I can.”
Chandler will most likely fill in the gap on the third line vacated by Jay Beagle. Stephenson saw some time in the upper lines; however, he probably is best suited for the lower two until he has a proven record of consistent play and can increase his scoring measure.
Read our Hershey Bear reports to meet the players and prospects who might follow Stephenson’s path to the NHL.