Hershey Bears Spotlight: Aaron Ness

Aaron Ness recently signed a brand new one-year two-way contract with the Caps/Bears worth $425,000 in the AHL and $625,000 should he be brought up to the Caps.

Aaron started his hockey career playing at USHS-MN system from 2005 through 2008. He joined the US National U18 team in 2008, alongside Cam Fowler, Nick Leddy, and Ryan Bourque. Aaron was also drafted in 2008 by the New York Islanders in the second round #40.

After being drafted, Aaron Ness went on to play for the University of Minnesota for three seasons.  His teammates in his final season included the likes of Nate Schmidt and Erik Haula (both who have now signed with the new kids on the block, the Vegas Golden Knights).

Once Ness completed his seasons in the NCAA league it came time to visit the AHL; the Bridgeport Sound Tigers where he donned both the “A” and the “C” for a time. During his five seasons with the Sound Tigers his cumulative 23 goals were that of a beginning defenseman. Bears 2016 ness peters Ellis goalie

As a free agent, Ness signed with the Hershey Bears in 2015. Since joining the Bears his numbers have remained on the same level as in previous seasons. We have not seen a huge improvement in his scoring but he has been a consistent player for the Bears. We see Ness as a good backup when needed for the Caps but he lacks that extra skill that the John Carlsons of the world posses. We need to see more fiNESSe in his offensive play and the ability to put it in the back of the net.

Read our Hershey Bear reports to meet the players.

Djoos

Bourque

Barber

Johansen

Boyd

Hobbs

Vrana

Copley

O’Brien

Capitals Defense Struggles

We knew there would be some growing pains this year for the Capitals and Saturday we saw how real the problem is. Matt Niskanen is on long-term injured reserve (LTIR) and will be out for at least 10 games or 24 days. That was a blow to the blue line.

With Nisky out the door opened for Madison Bowey to finally see his NHL debut. We were pretty excited about it as we wrote Saturday. Unfortunately it was not as great a debut for him as it was for Hershey teammates Djoos and Walker. For example, he lost his stick and was outplayed by the Flyers which led to a goal by Wayne Simmonds. He ended the game a -3.

Bowey wasn’t alone with the defense struggles. John Carlson had two penalties for slashing, a turnover, and an assist. We need to see more consistency in his play. Brooks Orpik, with a -2 also recorded an assist. More consistency issues. Dmitry Orlov, while shooting at the net also had a -4. Awful for him. And Aaron Ness wasn’t really visible this game.

The Caps just couldn’t get the momentum to  stop the fast skating and slick passing of the Flyers. 

On the positive side, Christian Djoos was the only defenseman ending with a +1. Even when the Caps lost to Pittsburgh it was Djoos who stood out. Read more here.

  • Nick Backstrom remains solid with a beauty of a goal- a five game streak with 11 points. And Jakub Vrana is finding his groove with a goal himself. 
  • Evgeny Kuznetsov now has 11 assists. We are ready for his first goal of the season!

All-in-all, it was a brutal game. The forwards didn’t seem to connect, the defense wasn’t where it needed to be, and Grubi had a few errors of his own. There were too many turnovers. All part of the process of a team early in the season that is adjusting to change. They have time to focus on those gaps in performance and right the ship. 

Caps practice Monday, participate in a season ticket holder event, and practice again Tuesday before they meet the Maple Leafs at home at 7 pm. 

Caps and Their Defense Gap

Now that we know Nate Schmidt won’t be on the Caps roster next season, we are left wondering what the defense might look like. Additionally, we can assume with a high degree of confidence, that Karl Alzner won’t be back either.We have read that he is exploring his options as well.

Who is left then?

Dmitry Orlovplayoffs126 still needs to sign a new agreement with the Capitals. Coach Trotz usually speaks positively about Dima and seems to have great hopes in his improving abilities. Orlov now has two full seasons in the NHL from which we can gather information. From a scoring perspective, he has increased his assists by six, although he had two fewer goals. In the past season, he ranks fifth in the league and second on the Caps roster with a plus 30, and 10th on the Caps with 33 points. He is also credited as the Caps player who most contributed to scoring opportunities, (defensive point shares/DPS). We see a lot of potential in the 26 year old (his birthday is Friday).

Brooks Orpik: watermarked192017-03-06-1112There has certainly been a lot of discussion on social media over the pros and cons of Orpik, who turns 37 in September. Oprik loves a physical defensive play which can often send him to the box. Last season he spent 48 minutes in the box. He averaged 17.47 minutes on the ice per game—among the lowest time for defensemen on the team. He blocked 132 shots, second only to Karl Alzner. With 181 hits, he was more physical than any D-men—only Tom Wilson and Alex Ovechkin had more hits. He ended the year with a plus 32, highest on the team. He too ranks high on contributing to the scoring advantage, although many fans see him providing more opportunities to opponents.  The Caps said there would be no buyouts, which likely means Brooks is here to stay. It just isn’t clear to us that he will continue as s a top defenseman, given his history of injury and his age. Read more on Orpik here.

Matt Niskanen: img_8640Another player fans love to hate. He joined the Caps in the 2014/15 season, like Oprik he came from Pittsburgh. Like a fine wine, his scoring just gets better every year. Should Orlvo return, it is likely that he will be paired with him once again. He surpassed Karl Alzner and John Carlson in defensive point shares, and as a whole for the season, had more time on ice then Carlson. He is under contract through the 2020 season and we don’t see him going anywhere. At 31, he still has a good career ahead of him.

John Carlson: John has been playing for the Caps since he was 20–he turns 28 in January. He missed a fair amount of the 2015/16 season with an injury and was out for some of the past season as well. Since his 2015 injury, he has not seemed to play as aggressively as he once did. Coach Trotz has tried some different pairing with him, returning to the best mix of John and Alzner. That, of course is off the table now. When he shoots, it is a power puck that flies. This past season he recorded 28 assists, sixth on the team and eighth in overall points (37). His plus/minus dropped to seven and his power play assists have stayed pretty static at 13. He becomes an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. He will really need to step it up this year if he wants to ensure a spot on the roster come 2018.

That brings us to some of the question marks we have about next season. Who will possibly fill in the holes left by Alzner and Schmidt? What if Orlov isn’t signed?

Taylor Chorney: Taylor didn’t see that much ice time last season, playing in only 18 regular season games and seven playoff games. He previously filled in when Carlson and Orpik were out with their injuries. Some have suggested that the coach team him with either Madison Bowey or Christian Djoos, should they become part of the NHL roster. He has one more year left on his contract, and hopefully, if given more ice time he will be able to fill the Schmidt gap. He has one more year on his contract.

Madison Bowey: Bowey has been with the Hershey Bears for two seasons. He has always been impressive during development camp and this could be his standout summer. He was out much of last season with a broken ankle but all indications are he is ready to go. A/GM Mahoney recently said that Bowey is one of two players ready for the NHL (Jakub Vrana was the other).GMBM is looking for some young blood to add to the line up and the 22 year old could fit the bill. He notched four points in the AHL playoffs, including scoring the game winning overtime goal in game five of the Atlantic Division finals. We are optimistic that he would be a compliment to the Caps blue line.

Christian Djoos: The Caps signed him to a two-year $1.3 million contract today. The first year will be a two-way followed by a one-way contract in the 2018 season. It’s a $650,000 cap hit for those of you calculating. The Caps like their Swedes!! That means he should be seeing some NHL time this season. If this isn’t his year to join the Caps, it could be a year of transitioning him into a slot for 2018 and beyond. He has demonstrated his skill at the AHL level and will have the chance to prove himself during camp. They will likely be looking at his speed and ability to protect the puck.

Aaron Ness: We’ve seen glimmers of Ness in the NHL–10 with the Caps. He has been with the Bears since the 2015 season with 44 points – 33 of those assists. He currently has one year left on his contract with a $612,500 cap hit. We are not big fans of Aaron and look forward to see how he does at camp. Don’t think he will be what the Caps need to fill the Alzner/Schmidt gap.

Kevin Shattenkirk: wm-11To keep Shatt would be costly for the Caps. When he came he had one year left on a 4 year / $17,000,000 contract with the St Louis Blues and a cap hit of $4,250,000. He only played 19 games and we ran hot and cold with his performance. It is unlikely the Caps will sign him. he ended with 14 points and even to game winning goals. But we saw nothing notable in the playoffs. Rumor has it the NY Rangers might be interested or he could ultimately end up in Vegas as part of a trade.

It is important that the Caps have a strong blue line presence that can give Braden Holtby added protection. Fan expectation is to have more aggressive scoring defensemen. As the management team gets about filling the gaps this summer, our hope is they will bring forward some new blood with the same desire to win that Schmidt and Alzner had. The Caps shouldn’t have far to look, although a trade isn’t out of the question either.

Lucky Number 13

Last night the Caps tied the franchise record for consecutive home- wins at 13. It was a low scoring game with the final score being 2-1. Tom Wilson scored early in the 1st period while Justin Williams scored the game- winner late in the 3rd.

It was also the Caps “You Can Play” night and Holtby was showing off his rainbow stick during warm-ups

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Some Bears players also made an appearance, Riley Barber and Aaron Ness:

Tom Wilson is always such a ham, and we’re okay with it.

Kuzy is a family man, and his daughter is adorable..

Some of the bad guys too:

BUT

WE WON!!!

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Photos By Mel

Photos From Behind the Scenes of Hockey N Heels

On January 12, Scarlet Caps hosted Hockey N’ Heels. Although there is some controversy about the event name, it is an opportunity to bring more women into the hockey fandom. This event taught all aspects of the game including: face-offs and slap shots, player nutrition, information about equipment. It’s an amazing opportunity to learn from the pros and to make new friends.

I’ve been to Hockey N’ Heels in the past and have been impressed with what I learned from players, coaches, and even the other fans I met. As this wasn’t my first rodeo, I was the resident expert in my group of friends (or so I labeled myself), which included the ladies from FiCP:  Brittney, Renee and me, as well as my mom. My mom even got interviewed by Fox5 and was on the 11 o’clock news. She thinks she’s a big shot now! Once we checked in we were put into four different groups– we naturally Rocked the Red as the Red Group. Continue reading “Photos From Behind the Scenes of Hockey N Heels”