The Washington Capitals made another cut on Monday, and it was a pretty noticeable one. Washington assigned goaltender Pheonix Copley to the AHL’s Hershey Bears. He requires waivers.
That leaves 33 players on the Capitals’ training camp roster and three goaltenders: Ilya Samsonov, Vitek Vanecek and Zach Fucale.
Copley started the Capitals’ preseason opener against the Bruins, allowing two goals on 14 shots (.857 save percentage). He also served as Samsonov’s backup against Philadelphia.
The Michigan Tech alum has been in the Capitals’ organization for a few years. He’d spent some time in St. Louis following the T.J. Oshie trade, but was re-acquired by the team in 2017. He made the full-time NHL jump in 2018-19 as Braden Holtby’s backup, going 16-7-3 with a 2.90 GAA and .905 save percentage in 27 games.
Right now, Samsonov and Vanecek are still vying for the starting role for Washington. Samsonov, however, has not skated the last two days due to a lower-body injury. He played the entire game on Saturday in the team’s 3-1 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers, making 28 saves on 31 shots.
READ MORE ON WHN: Samsonov Dealing With Lower-Body Injury
Fucale will back up Vanecek when the team faces New Jersey on Monday, but right now, the plan is for Vanecek to play the entire game.
This decision speaks volumes for Washington and indicates the team’s faith in Fucale. The Quebec native spent time up with Washington’s taxi squad last year and also had a strong showing with Hershey. In 11 games, he went 9-2-0 with a league-leading 1.80 GAA and .932 save percentage (second-best). He has also made a strong impression so far in training camp. Not only has he showcased his ability at practice, but he also made quite a statement in Washington’s preseason tilt with New Jersey, starting in net and coming up big on several occasions.
Fucale is entering his seventh pro year and is looking to make the most of it with the Capitals organization.
“This is a great opportunity for me to be in such a good spot,” Fucale said after Sunday’s preseason game, adding, “All I want to do is continue to take that opportunity and get my shot eventually. So for me, it’s just about being myself, continuing to play my game, improve little aspects.”
Right now, it appears that Fucale is the go-to option after Vanecek and Samsonov. And for Copley, there’s work to be done when it comes to climbing back up the depth chart. The Bears kicked off their training camp on Monday.
As mentioned, Copley must clear waivers before reporting to Hershey. Washington prospect Axel Jonsson-Fjallby, who was placed on waivers on Sunday following more cuts, was claimed by the Buffalo Sabres. So, it is possible that Copley could head elsewhere if a team takes a gamble and picks him up off of the waiver wire.