It’s Time for the Capitals to Lock Up Shane Gersich

Posted March 21, 2018
Shane Gersich

UPDATE: According to KVRR News – Fargo, North Dakota’s FOX affiliate – Shane Gersich will indeed sign an entry-level deal with the Washington Capitals, forgoing his final season at the University of North Dakota.

Despite being relatively inactive at this year’s trade deadline in terms of making a big splash, the Capitals did add two quality depth defenders in Michal Kempny and Jakub Jerabek who figure to factor into another crucial playoff run for the organization.

Now, a somewhat unexpected course of events may allow to Capitals to add another player that could play a role in the coming weeks.

Junior forward Shane Gersich, a 2014 fifth-round pick of the Capitals, and his North Dakota Fighting Hawks had an uncharacteristic and disappointing finish to their season, ending an incredible 15-year run of NCAA tournament berths for the perennial powerhouse a couple of days ago.

Gersich had a breakout season in 2016-17, scoring 21 goals and adding 16 assists before a heartbreaking defeat at the hands of Boston University at home in the NCAA Regional Semifinals. The season prior, Gersich tallied 9 goals as a freshman along with two assists as his team went on to win the National Championship.

Gersich’s 2017-18 season was a little bit underwhelming following his high-scoring campaign the season prior. His 13 goals and 16 assists, good for third on the team, made for an obvious decline, though that can be partially explained by two of his frequent linemates – Brock Boeser and Tyson Jost – signing with the Vancouver Canucks and Colorado Avalanche, respectively. While the talent level on that line likely led to Gersich’s high point totals, it says a lot that he led that team in points.

It is no secret that Washington has made an effort to lock Gersich up prior to his NCAA eligibility ending next spring. Their most recent attempt came after another impressive showing last year at the Capitals’ annual Development Camp, though he opted to return to school for a third season.

After Thomas Di Pauli, a 2012 fourth-round pick of the Capitals, opted to hit free agency following the conclusion of his college career at Notre Dame in 2016, it is extremely important that Washington doesn’t let Gersich – who is clearly a superior talent when compared to Di Pauli – follow the same path.

There’s no way to be sure at this moment which way Gersich is leaning, though it has been reported that he is “undecided” as of yet. However, North Dakota’s leading scorer, defenseman Christian Wolanin, signed with the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday morning after being drafted by that organization in 2015. With a National Championship under his belt and more high-end talent leaving, the Capitals should be making every effort to sign Gersich before he opts to return to school for his senior season, in which their chances to eventually sign the talented forward would conceivably take a big hit.

It is unclear as of now what kind of role Gersich would have in Washington if he were to forgo his final year of NCAA eligibility and sign in the coming weeks. At the time of his selection, he was viewed as a great skater that needed his hands and scoring ability to catch up with his feet. After potting 43 goals and 34 assists over the course of his three-year college career to this point, it is obvious that he has turned into a well-rounded player that can be a dangerous scorer.

The Capitals have always lacked depth scoring in the playoffs when it has mattered most, so there’s a fair chance the Gersich would be given an opportunity in the bottom six, where he could add a lot of speed, athleticism, and potentially some scoring ability that, specifically, the fourth line is currently lacking. Conceivably, he could even see a trial run on the third line if Brett Connolly goes through another stretch of inconsistency.

Worst case scenario, Gersich would spend time in Hershey to get his feet wet as a pro and be a priority call-up if somebody were to go down in the playoffs.

No matter where he would be projected to play in the immediate future for Washington or Hershey, the Washington Capitals simply cannot afford to let a talent like Gersich walk, especially as an organization that spends up to the salary cap ceiling year after year. He would be precisely the type of young (and cheap) talent that needs to be infused into the lineup.