The Washington Capitals, who have long since clinched the President’s Trophy for the best record in the NHL this season, have next to nothing to play for in their 2016-17 regular season finale. What better use for such a game than to reward a time-tested contributor to the organization. The Capitals announced today that they have recalled Garrett Mitchell, as well as Chandler Stephenson, from the AHL’s Hershey Bears for the last game of the season. Mitchell, the Hersey captain, will make his NHL debut at 25 after being a sixth-round selection of the Capitals back in 2009. Far from an offensive juggernaut, Mitchell is instead a physical two-way forward who makes up for his lack of points by sticking up for the Bears’ younger players and leading by example in his own end. It is a classy move by Washington to give a player who has worked hard for the organization a brief glimpse at NHL life, even though his ceiling appears to be a nothing more than a fourth-line player at this time.
Around the league, the transactions are coming in fast:
- Washington’s opponent tonight is the Florida Panthers and newly-recalled young goalie Sam Brittain. It remains to be seen if Brittain will make his NHL debut tonight, but he’ll at least be on the bench as Florida announced that the 24-year-old had been promoted from the AHL’s Springfield Thunderbirds for the game. Brittain has played mostly in the ECHL this season and is far from being a regular NHLer any time soon, but will at least get a look at big league action in the season finale.
- Another goalie getting a rare look at the highest level is the New York Rangers’ Magnus Hellberg. Buried behind all-world keeper Henrik Lundqvist and one of the more reliable backups in the league, Antti Raanta, Hellberg was surely excited to hear that he had been called up from the AHL’s Hartford Wolf Pack. Hellberg, 26, has never started an NHL game and that won’t change tonight as Raanta gets the call for the Rangers. However, Hellberg has seen the ice three times in his career and has strung together several strong AHL seasons in a row, so gaining some more experience tonight, even from the bench, brings him closer to an NHL future.
- A goalie headed the other way today is the Montreal Canadiens’ Charlie Lindgren. Despite nothing but success in his few NHL appearances early in his young career, the Habs are set in net with Carey Price and Al Montoya. Lindgren will have to wait for opportunity to strike for a longer stint with the Canadiens, as he’ll head back down to the AHL and the St. John’s Ice Caps alongside defenseman Brett Lernout, the team announced.
- Another pair headed back to the minors are Winnipeg Jets’ prospects Kyle Connor and Nelson Nogier. Following their season finale yesterday, the Jets decided today to return the duo to the AHL’s Manitoba Moose to get some final play time in this season. While the Jets expected more than five points in 20 games from Connor in his rookie season, after being a Hobey Baker finalist for the University of Michigan last year, expect him to play a major role for Winnipeg in 2017-18.
- Another player set to take on a major role next year is Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Robert Hagg. Fans can get a preview of the prospect-studded blue line that Philly is likely to roll out in 2017-18 when Hagg makes his NHL debut today. The team announced his recall this morning from the AHL’s Lehigh Valley Phantoms, and he will skate alongside the likes of Shayne Gostisbehere and Ivan Provorov tonight and Travis Sanheim and Samuel Morin as well next year in a truly impressive collection of young talent.
- Across the state, the Pittsburgh Penguins are planning on resting some of their players today – those that aren’t already injured anyway – and have called up a trio of players from the AHL’s Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins to help fill the voids. Oskar Sundqvist and Derrick Pouliot, two names familiar to Penguins fans, will return to the lineup, while Jean-Sebastien Dea will make his NHL debut. A longtime WBS contributor, Dea’s work ethic and consistency has finally earned him his first shot at the pros for a team that is in desperate need of depth that can step up their play.
- Pittsburgh’s Round One opponent, the Columbus Blue Jackets, are adding some promising young talent of their own in forward Sonny Milano. The team announced that they had promoted the 2014 first-rounder from the AHL’s Cleveland Monsters and that he will get the call today against the Toronto Maple Leafs as the Jackets look to reverse their recent luck before the postseason gets underway. Milano has only skated in three games with Columbus this season, but leads the Monsters in scoring with 46 points in 61 games.
- The St. Louis Blues announced that they have recalled defenseman Chris Butler from the AHL’s Chicago Wolves. However, Butler’s return to the NHL lineup may be overshadowed by the possibility that Vladimir Sobotka could also make his season debut after a long hiatus from the team while playing in the KHL.
- With an extremely disappointing season finally over in Dallas, the Stars have moved a slew of players back down to the AHL’s Texas Stars to give them some play time before the end of the season. Forwards Jason Dickinson, Mark McNeill, Gemel Smith, Denis Gurianov, and Remi Elie and defenseman Julius Honka will all head back to Texas, a team that, like its affiliate, has no chance at the playoffs either.
More to come throughout the final day of the 2016-17 season