capitalslogoThe Washington Capitals billed their participation in the 2015 Prospect Tournament in Estero, Fla., as an opportunity for their young talent to showcase itself across a three-game, four-day format, rather than the one-off matchup with Philadelphia of years past. Goaltenders could settle into starts, instead of splitting periods with their peers. Skaters had time to overcome mistakes and improve, and Hershey-bound players could develop chemistry with their future coaching staff.

For the front-office officials watching from their private suites at Germain Arena, the format was equally ideal.

“The three games allows you to do a better job as far as evaluation,” assistant general manager Ross Mahoney said Wednesday in a telephone interview. “It’s one thing to practice with guys, but it’s also another thing to play games. The more you play with someone, the more chemistry you develop. It was a good opportunity.”

Back in northern Virginia for the start of training camp, during those relatively quiet few days before he hit the scouting trail for the regular season, Mahoney had nothing but positive remarks for the tournament, Washington’s first such event in a dozen years. Since Nashville hosted last season and Tampa Bay this year, Mahoney said the Capitals’ turn will likely come in 2017, with Florida taking the controls next September. He declined comment about possible venues, only confirming that both Kettler Capitals Iceplex and Hershey are options.

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“We haven’t got that far into the discussion,” Mahoney said. “We just know we’re probably going to host in 2017…I just couldn’t comment because we really don’t know.”

Washington’s prospects finished their tournament 1-1-1, falling in a shootout to Florida on Saturday, crushing Tampa Bay by three goals on Sunday and losing to Nashville – with the championship at stake – in the finale on Tuesday. During the telephone interview, Mahoney ran through several of the standouts.

>> Forward Jakub Vrana, the Capitals’ first-round pick in 2014, dazzled with a breakaway goal against the Lightning, using his speed to outrace a defenseman along the boards and his deft hands to flip the puck past the goaltender in close quarters. Vrana joined Hershey as a late-season arrival from Sweden and should begin 2015-16 there, but could find himself receiving an NHL shot if the Capitals need a call-up, either as an injury replacement or on a show-us-what-you-can-do basis, as Stanislav Galiev did last spring.

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“It’s up to them to come to training camp, or if they do get sent down, it’s up to them to play really well in the American League and make those decisions really tough,” Mahoney said. “We’ll see what happens with them. He’ll get lots of opportunities, I’m sure, to play in the exhibition games. It’s up to Jakub to make it tough for the coaches to send him down.”

>> With his Western Hockey League defensive partner, good friend and fellow Capitals draftee Colby Williams sidelined by an upper-body injury, Connor Hobbs tallied goals against both Florida and Tampa Bay during the tournament, steadily impressing on the third pair.

The 18-year-old fifth-round pick will return to the Regina Pats this season alongside Williams, but Mahoney did not rule out bringing Hobbs to Hershey once his season ends.

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“I think his junior team should have a pretty good run in the playoffs,” Mahoney said. “It depends, I guess, when his season would be over. We’ve had that in the past when players come to Hershey. Even if you get a game in or two, it’s really good, but if they don’t, just practicing, the level there, obviously the players are older, faster and stronger. It’s a real good learning experience, just because it’s another level up.”

>> Among undrafted free agents, the Capitals brought aboard the WHL’s second- and third-highest scorers, forwards Trevor Cox (29 goals, 80 assists) and Tim McGauley (42 goals, 63 assists). Both are 20 years old and will return to their clubs in Medicine Hat and Brandon, respectively, but Mahoney said Washington will monitor them as potential free agent signees once their junior eligibility runs out.

“Those are kids that, we’ve had a chance to have a good look at them, and we’ll go watch them again here, because they’re both potential free agents next year because they can’t be drafted now,” Mahoney said. “We’ll have an opportunity to discuss them and follow them again and see. I’m sure both of them will become possible [to earn contracts].”

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Speaking with the Patriot-News after the tournament, Hershey Coach Troy Mann said he didn’t feel that free agent forward Miles Koules “did enough for my recommendation” to the Capitals, but Mahoney held a different opinion.

“He’s got a good hockey sense, got good hands, I think he’s working on improving his speed,” he said. “I think he was faster than I thought he was at some previous camps. We’ll have a look at him again. He’s coming to the big camp, we’ll see how he does against the guys. I think he’s improved every time we’ve had him.”

>> Asked for additional standouts who caught his attention, Mahoney named defenseman Christian Djoos and center Travis Boyd. Djoos signed his entry-level contract in May 2014,while Cox inked his deal in May. Both are expected to join Hershey this season.

>> Among the top prospects not in attendance, goaltender Ilya Samsonov has already begun his KHL season, Williams was still recovering from his injury, and Zach Sanford (Boston College), Brian Pinho (Providence) and Thomas DiPauli (Notre Dame) are all still in college.

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