Earlier today, the Capitals recalled defenseman Patrick Wey from AHL Hershey. In a corollary move, the Caps reassigned defenseman Tyson Strachan to the Bears. Strachan played in nine games with Washington this season. If he were to play in one more game in the NHL, he would require waivers to be reassigned to the AHL.
Wey, a first-year pro, was Washington’s fourth-round draft choice (115th overall) in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. After a four-year collegiate career at Boston College, he signed a two-year entry-level deal with Washington last April.
A regular at the team’s summer development camps for the last five summers, Wey finally had a chance to attend his first pro training camp this fall. After July’s development camp, I asked Caps director of player development Steve Richmond if the plan was for Wey to be a regular on the Hershey blueline this season.
“We’d like to [have him there,]” replied Richmond. “That’s up to him. He’s going to have that opportunity. He’ll come to [training] camp and he’ll be ready to play. In an ideal world, yeah, we want to see him playing there. If he’s not ready for that, he’ll play in Reading and he’ll play top four there and get ready to move on up. But we’ve got to put the kids in position to succeed. He’ll get the opportunity to do it, and we think he can do it.”
Wey acquitted himself well at his first pro training camp in September, getting into his first two NHL preseason games and not looking at all out of place. He skated 18:03 in his NHL exhibition debut at Philadelphia on Sept. 16; he blocked three shots in the contest. A week later, he logged 18:39 against the Bruins in the familiar environs of TD Garden in Boston. Both of those barns and opponents are good tests for young defensemen.
Reassigned to the AHL Hershey Bears on Sept. 24, Wey was a healthy scratch for Hershey’s season opener and was subsequently reassigned to ECHL Reading on Oct. 9.
Wey played in his first pro game for Reading on Oct. 19 against South Carolina. In three weeks with the Royals, he collected three assists in eight games. Hershey summoned him from Reading on Nov. 11.
With the Bears, Wey netted his first pro goal on Nov. 24 against Binghamton. He totaled a goal and three points in seven games with Hershey before getting the call to report to D.C. for today’s practice.
“I’m definitely excited to be back,” Wey remarked after Thursday’s practice. “I’ve got to taste a little bit of every league; it’s great to be up here and to have this opportunity.”
If Wey appears in a game for the Caps this season, he will become the first Capitals skater to play at the ECHL, AHL and NHL levels all in the same season since forward Jonas Johansson achieved that feat in 2005-06. Johansson didn’t ascend to the NHL until the final game of that 2005-06 season, and that contest turned out to comprise the entirety of his NHL career.
Goaltender Michal Neuvirth appeared in games at all three levels in 2008-09, but it’s a bit more commonplace for goaltenders to play at all three levels in a single season.
What’s more remarkable about Wey – again, if he does happen to suit up and play for the Capitals – is that he was in the ECHL less than a month ago, and the 15 games he has played for Hershey and Reading this season represent the entire total of his pro career.
That’s one more game’s worth of pro experience than Nate Schmidt had when he debuted for the Caps on Oct. 12 against Colorado. Schmidt has played every game since then – a total of 24 straight – while averaging 19:27 a night in ice time.
Washington has deployed 11 different defensemen this season, tied with Winnipeg for the most in the league. The Caps have used five different defensemen with fewer than 100 games worth of NHL experience, tied with Detroit and the New York Islanders for the most in the circuit.
Wey would give the Caps the league lead in most defensemen used and in most defensemen used with fewer than 100 games worth of NHL experience. Thus far this season, Washington has used Dmitry Orlov (67 games through Tuesday), Steve Oleksy (48), Alexander Urbom (34), Schmidt (24) and Connor Carrick (three).
The last Capitals team to deploy more than a dozen defensemen in the same season was the 2008-09 edition, which needed 13 blueliners to reach the finish line.
Wey would join Schmidt and Carrick as the third first-year pro to suit up on the Washington blueline this season.
To the best of my research, it’s been more than three decades since the Caps have suited up as many as three first-year pro defensemen in the same season. You’ve got to go all the way back to 1981-82 when Washington employed 20-year-old Timo Blomqvist for 44 games, 18-year-old Tony Camazzola for three and 18-year-old Eric Calder for one.
Finally, if Wey gets into the Washington lineup, he’ll be the 11th different Capital to take the ice this season with fewer than 100 games worth of NHL experience. Others on that list: goaltenders Philipp Grubauer and Braden Holtby; defensemen Carrick, Olesky, Orlov, Schmidt and Urbom and forwards Michael Latta, Aaron Volpatti and Tom Wilson.