After completing his four-year career with NCAA powerhouse Boston College that included two national championships and four Beanpots, Washington Capitals 2009 fourth-round pick Patrick Wey signed an entry-level contract with the team in April.
Wey, the oldest player participating in last week’s Development Camp, also his fifth, didn’t play in Hershey late last year due to thumb surgery. Now he’s expected to begin his AHL career this fall with the Hershey Bears, but it won’t be easy. He’s got stiff competition. With newly signed David Kolomatis and Tyson Strachan, the Capitals currently have nine defensemen under contract set to start the season in the minors, and two more have signed contracts with the Bears, Patrick Wellar and Michal Cajkovsky.
When RMNB’s Ian Oland asked the 22-year-old defenseman if he thinks the logjam is good for his development, he said, “Absolutely. I need an opportunity to be competitive and fight for a spot and it’s good. No matter where I am or what organization I am in, the sooner I have to fight for a spot and play my best, the better. So I’m excited to fight for a spot against all these good [players].”
Hockey players are accustomed to terrible nicknames; they’ve got a lot. The current iteration of the Washington Capitals includes Patsy (Aaron Volpatti), Crabber (Joey Crabb), and Carly (John Carlson). Now we know Steve Oleksy‘s too, though he won’t be happy with RMNB once his teammates read this. See: Oleksy’s lifelong nickname isn’t Stevie O (as head Adam Oates called him); it’s Binky. And we’ve got the story behind that.
“When I was younger, I was sick and I was in the hospital quite a bit,” Oleksy told me recently. “I called my pacifier my binky, and every time I started crying the nurses would tell my mom to put my binky in. She started calling me that, and then the kids at school caught on, and it just kind of grew with me.”
Steve Oleksy (pronounced OH-lexi) is one of the team leaders for the Hershey Bears. This call up is his first shot at the NHL. He leads the Bears in penalty minutes, mostly due to fights caused by sticking up for his teammates. Off the ice, Oleksy is one of the most down-to-earth players you will meet. Very involved on Twitter, Oleksy is the founder and president of Eastside Elite Hockey, a summer hockey league that helps players stay in shape.
The Chesterfield, Michigan native will be a good addition to the Caps blue line. Oates watched Oleksy earlier this season as an assistant to Mark French during the lockout. Don’t be surprised to see Steve throw his body around. Despite being only six feet tall and weighing just 190, he is still a big force on the ice.
Their defensive depth was supposed to be a strength. The plan for the Washington Capitals was to have nine blueliners with serious NHL experience at their deposal, ready to jump into to a game at any minute. It didn’t work out that way. The pair of Karl Alzner and John Carlson has struggled, giving up a majority of the team’s goals against. The other D-men haven’t been much better. Tom Poti has played three games in two years. Mike Green is scoreless. And then there are the injuries. Jack Hillen went down after playing less than four minutes. Dmitry Orlov has been out indefinitely. The Caps have been forced to call up Tomas Kundratek.
So what happened to Orlov, one of the team’s rising stars? While skating for the Hershey Bears in the AHL Showcase at Verizon Center in November, the young Russian absorbed a hit up high from Emerson Etem. He didn’t appear to be favoring anything when he attempted to play one more shift that night, leading many to believe he suffered a concussion. In an interview with RMNB’s Ian Oland, Bears coach Mark French did not confirm or deny that Orlov may have received a concussion on the hit.
“The only thing we’ve said so far — as far as my understanding — is that it’s an upper body injury,” French told Ian. “It’s above my pay grade and above my qualifications to say any more. It’s certainly an upper body injury.”
“Our hope is that once we regroup as a team following the All-Star break he would be able to skate,” said the coach.
Photo credit: Tim Stough / Sweetest Hockey on Earth
A year ago Caps defenseman Tom Poti was considered washed up. After a pestering groin injury and a broken pelvis, which apparently is an actual thing that can happen to a person, his future as a pro hockey player was dubious at best. Fast-forward to January 2013. Tom Poti has recovered. He passed his physical in DC and got sent to Hershey on a conditioning stint. Poti proved himself capable on Sunday night, scoring a power play goal in 5-0 rout over the Whalers.
On December 6th, the Verizon Center hosted the AHL Showcase between the Hershey Bears and Norfolk Admirals. Due to the lockout, it was the first hockey game played in Washington since May 9th, when two current Bears were playing with the Capitals: Braden Holtby and Dmitry Orlov.
The Hershey Bears have long been considered one of the elite teams of the American Hockey League. The Bears have won eleven Calder Cups and had eleven of its coaches and players inducted into the NHL or AHL halls of fame. With its rich history and fantastic arena, the Bears have routinely churned out top prospects and cultivated a huge following, leading the AHL in attendance for the past six seasons. But how do they compare to the rest of the world?