The Washington Capitals’ rookies continue to come in clutch, and the youngsters again saw another milestone just minutes into the first period of Saturday’s tilt with the San Jose Sharks.
Aliaksei Protas picked up the secondary assist on Conor Sheary’s strike just 2:17 minutes into the first period, giving him his long-awaited first NHL point.
Shears gets one in the Shark Tank! pic.twitter.com/wpSttEv0wi
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) November 21, 2021
With Protas on the scoresheet, each of the Capitals’ rookie skaters now have points to open the 2021-22 campaign. It’s an impressive feat, especially with Washington deploying several first-year players in wake of multiple injuries.
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It all started with Hendrix Lapierre netting his first NHL goal in his debut on Oct. 13. After Lapierre, Brett Leason was the next Washington freshman to score, lighting the lamp for the first time at the NHL level with a tally against the Bolts on Nov. 2. Connor McMichael finally found twine just two days later for his first NHL goal on the road against the Panthers. Then, Axel Jonsson-Fjallby picked up a helper on one of Garnet Hathaway’s goals against the Blue Jackets on Nov. 12. Garrett Pilon also joined the party, scoring his first NHL goal after being thrown into action with Lars Eller entering the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol. Now, Protas joins them with an assist against San Jose.
Even goaltender Zach Fucale got in on the fun, recording a 21-save shutout in his debut. He is the first netminder in Capitals history to post a shutout in his NHL debut.
“When guys go out, other people have to step up… we need these guys. Right now we need them, and they’ve done a good job,” head coach Peter Laviolette said about the rookies.
Lapierre has since returned to juniors and Leason was re-assigned to Hershey on Saturday. Jonsson-Fjallby, Protas and Pilon stayed up as Nic Dowd and T.J. Oshie drew back into the lineup against the Sharks.
Washington’s rookies have combined for a total of 18 points through 18 games for the Capitals (10-2-5) this season with Oshie Dowd and Eller, as well as Anthony Mantha and Nicklas Backstrom, having missed some time to start the campaign.