On Thursday, the Capitals recalled defensemen Julien Brouillette and Patrick Wey from AHL Hershey. When they take on the Winnipeg Jets tonight at Verizon Center, the Caps will roll out a lineup that features four defensemen with fewer than 100 games worth of NHL experience.
Greybeards Karl Alzner (320 career games) and John Carlson (291) will comprise the top pairing while Dmitry Orlov (96) and Connor Carrick (18) will skate together on another pair. The 27-year-old Brouillette will be making his NHL debut tonight, playing alongside first-year pro Wey, whose only NHL experience is his own debut, achieved two months ago in a Dec. 7 game against the Predators at Verizon Center. Wey’s pro career to date consists of that one game with the Capitals, eight games with the ECHL Reading Royals and 14 contests with Hershey this season.
It doesn’t take an abacus to figure Washington’s cumulative total of blueline experience coming into tonight’s contest; it’s 726 games.
Brouillette played junior hockey with the Chicoutimi Sagueneens of the QMJHL. His pro career started in 2007-08 with the Columbia Inferno of the ECHL. He has played pro hockey in four different ECHL cities (210 games) and in five different AHL cities (209 games). There is also some overlap; Brouillette has played for teams in both of those leagues in the same city (Charlotte).
“It’s special,” says Brouillette of his NHL opportunity. “It’s a been a lot of games, a lot of junior games and a lot of pro games. I just did my thing my whole life. People said, ‘You won’t make it.’ I just kept playing away and working hard. I took the longer route, but it’s definitely satisfying when you get rewarded and I’m pretty happy.”
All along the way, Brouillette played on teams with many of his future Hershey teammates and several past members of the Capitals as well.
Hershey forward Joel Rechlicz was a teammate of Brouillette’s with Chicoutimi in 2006-07. Bears defenseman Patrick Wellar played with Brouillette in Columbia in 2007-08, as did ex-Caps forward Owen Fussey.
Ex-Bears goalie Dany Sabourin was with the AHL Providence Bruins in 2009-10 when Brouillette got his first brief taste of the AHL with that club. Current Bears captain Dane Byers and ex-Caps winger Donald Brashear were both members of the ’09-10 Hartford Wolfpack, where Brouillette also played.
Brouillette and Bears winger Dustin Gazley were both members of the 2010-11 Greenville Road Warriors of the ECHL. Among Brouillette’s teammates with AHL Lake Erie in 2010-11 were future Bears teammates Ryan Stoa and Steve Oleksy.
Brouillette was in the midst of his third season with the Bears at the time of his recall. He leads all Hershey defensemen with nine goals this season, and his seven power-play goals are tied for the team lead with veteran forward Jeff Taffe. Brouillette netted three goals in three games for Hershey last weekend, all of them coming on the power play.
“I went up and down, back door on the weak side,” says Brouillette, when queried as to his usual spot on the Hershey power play. “I’ve been put there, I’ve been put on top, I’ve been put in one game and put out the other one. I just do what’s given to me. I don’t know what’s going to be given to me tonight, I’m just going to go with it.”
Brouillette becomes the 13th different defenseman to suit up for the Capitals this season and the sixth to pull on a Washington sweater for his NHL debut in 2013-14, joining Carrick, Wey, Michael Latta, Nate Schmidt and Tom Wilson.
A native of St. Esprit, Quebec, Brouillette comes from a farming family. His parents are expected to be in attendance after traveling down from a small town outside Montreal today.
“My parents should make it down,” says Brouillette. “My dad worked overnight with the farm to try to make sure he’s down here on time. It will be pretty special for them, too. I can’t thank them enough.”
Believe it or not, 19-year-old Carrick is Washington’s fourth most seasoned NHL defender heading into tonight’s game with the Jets, who feature nine skaters with 10 or more goals this season, the most of any club in the NHL.
Here’s how the Capitals are expected to line up tonight against the Jets:
Martin Erat – Nicklas Backstrom – Alex Ovechkin
Marcus Johansson – Casey Wellman – Troy Brouwer
Jason Chimera – Eric Fehr – Joel Ward
Brooks Laich – Jay Beagle – Tom Wilson
Karl Alzner – John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov – Connor Carrick
Julien Brouillette – Patrick Wey
Michal Neuvirth will make his fourth straight start for the Capitals. Lifetime against the Thrashers/Jets, Neuvirth is 6-2-1 with a shutout, a 2.74 GAA and a .918 save pct.
Neuvirth’s fellow countryman Ondrej Pavelec is expected to get the start tonight for Winnipeg. He is 9-13-2 with two shutouts, a 2.92 GAA and a .907 save pct.