As a kid, Joe Snively would find himself walking into the Washington Capitals practice facility to train and lace ’em up as part of the Little Caps. It was just a 27-minute car ride away from his hometown of Herndon, V.a., and ultimately, those trips paid off as Snively made his way up the ranks and eventually, back at that same rink. But this time, up with the Capitals.
After a strong start to his NHL career, time on the top-6 and a three-point outing with Montreal that saw him pick up his first two NHL goals and fill in for Alex Ovechkin alongside Evgeny Kuznetsov and Tom Wilson, Snively has earned an extended stay up in the District.
“It was a night I’ll remember for sure,” the softspoken winger said after the win.
Snively started the year down in Hershey after a highly competitive training camp, where there weren’t many vacancies. However, he made quite the impact with the Bears, putting up 38 points in 35 games down to become one of the AHL’s top scorers.
The 5-9, 176-pound forward said that his development with Yale, where he led the team in scoring over his four-year tenure, along with his transition and coaching in Hershey, has helped him finetune his game on both sides of the puck.
“Last two and a half years have been a good learning adjustment for me,” Snively explained. “Certain parts of my game defensively, managing the puck, I think I have gotten a lot better at. It has prepared me for this opportunity.
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His growth and numbers caught the attention of head coach Peter Laviolette and Washington, who called up the 26-year-old to see what he could bring to the table in wake of more injuries and COVID-19 issues.
“We’ve dealt with a lot of younger players this year. I think as you see them grow and mature, you see what it leads to. It’s a guy when you’re 26 years old, you’re a little stronger, you’re a little more physical, you’ve played a few more games. I think the experiences that he’s had, the time in the minors, going through college, the year that he was having this year, all that kind of leads up to him being set up to be successful up here.
“I think the coaches down there did a terrific job with him. Last year kind of got him going. But this year, he was on pace for over a point a game, and he was doing the right things on the ice. I feel like when you’ve got a player like that, you’ve got to put him up in a situation where he can be successful… he’s proven he can fit [on the top-6].”
Through six games up in the NHL so far, Snively has picked up two goals and three assists. He also unselfishly passed up his chance at a hat trick on Thursday, electing to make a “safer play” and pass the puck to Tom Wilson for an empty-netter to secure the win.
“That just shows you the type of person and player he is,” Laviolette added.
Beyond the numbers, the speedy forward is able to get to high-scoring areas, drive to the net and generate multiple chances on the forecheck.
Right now, the Capitals are looking to turn things around and put a lengthy stretch of inconsistency behind them. They also need a boost in their secondary scoring. So, seeing Snively step up his game has been something vital for the team — and it hasn’t gone unnoticed, either.
“He’s worked really hard. Obviously, you guys saw it [in Montreal] what he can do. So I’m really happy for him,” Connor McMichael, who played with Snively in Hershey in 2020-21, said.
“[Secondary scoring] is huge. I mean, especially in this league, we can’t have the same guys scoring every single night,” McMichael added. “So it’s always nice when guys chip in here and there and play a big role.”
Right now, Snively is playing top-6 minutes and has become a fixture in the lineup. Aliaksei Protas headed back down to Hershey, leaving Snively and Brett Leason as the team’s two remaining call-ups at forward. T.J. Oshie and Anthony Mantha are still recovering, and if Snively keeps it up, he’ll continue to fill in on that second line and even potentially see more time on the first.
“He’s detailed, he’s tenacious, he’s quick, he’s got a good skill level. You notice him in the battles, you notice him when he has open space. Then you notice that he can make plays as well… it’s something we’ve noticed in most of the games,” Laviolette said, adding, “He does a good job. He brings a lot of tenacity to the game.”
And for Snively, he just plans to keep the momentum going as the Capitals look to get back into a rhythm and ignite their offense on a consistent basis.
“It’s an amazing opportunity… it’s a privilege and I’m just trying to make the most of it,” Snively said. “I’m just having a lot of fun.”