Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Washington Capitals: One and Done -- The Onesies, Part IV: Rocking the Red

The last look at skaters who dressed for only one game with the Caps is the last pair who not only dressed for just one game with the Caps, but for just one game in the NHL.  

Peter LeBlanc

It is said that all good things come to those who wait, but sometimes it’s a case of good things coming to those who stick around.  That might be said of winger Peter LeBlanc’s journey from amateur draftee to NHL player.  After two decent, if not jump-off-the-page seasons with the Hamilton Red Wings of the Ontario Provincial Junior A Hockey League (combined 24-34-58 in 70 games), LeBlanc was drafted in the seventh round of the 2006 NHL entry draft (186th overall) by the Chicago Blackhawks. 

Instead of taking the minor pro route up the developmental ladder, he enrolled at the University of New Hampshire, where he played for four seasons.  After posting 34 goals and 51 points in 153 games at the college level, he started up the pro development ladder splitting time with the Toledo Walleye in the ECHL and the Rockford Icehogs in the AHL in 2010-2011.

LeBlanc spent the next two seasons in Rockford, but it was there that his development stalled.  Mid-way through that second season, LeBlanc was traded to the Capitals for future considerations (later to become Matt Beaudoin), and he completed the 2012-2013 season with the Hershey Bears.   LeBlanc skated the entire 2013-2014 season in Hershey, going 12-16-28 in 65 games, but with the Caps’ regular season winding down and out of playoff contention, he got his NHL chance.

In the Caps’ 82nd and last game of the season, LeBlanc made his way into the lineup at Verizon Center against the Tampa Bay Lightning.  He did manage to skate 11 shifts and almost ten minutes, but he did not record a point.  The thing is, no one else did, either.  And neither did any Lightning skater.  The teams played a scoreless regulation 60 minutes, and then they went through the five-minute overtime without a score.  Matt Carle scored the only goal in the Gimmick to give the Lightning a 1-0 win in Adam Oates’ last game as head coach for the Caps and one of the more forgettable games of the Rock the Red era.

For his part, LeBlanc did have one shot attempt (a miss), two hits, and a blocked shot.  It was his first and last game with the Caps, his first and last game in the NHL.  The following season he moved to Sweden to skate with Rogle BK.  He has split time between Europe and the ECHL since then, last skating for the Fife Flyers in the Elite Ice Hockey League in Great Britain in 2017-2018.  LeBlanc is the last Capital to wear sweater number “64” for the club.

Photo: AP Photo / Alex Brandon

Garrett Mitchell

The 2009 NHL entry draft was generally a successful one for the Caps.  In the first three rounds, they selected Marcus Johansson, who played in 501 regular season games for the Caps before he was traded to the New Jersey Devils for second and third round draft picks in 2018 (the Caps selected Martin Fehervary with the second round pick and the third round pick was sent to Chicago for defenseman Michal Kempny); Dmitry Orlov, who has played in 365 regular season games for the Caps; and Cody Eakin, who played 30 games for the Caps before he was included in a trade package to the Dallas Stars for Mike Ribeiro in June 2012.

In the sixth round of that draft the Caps selected forward Garrett Mitchell out of the Regina Pats in the Western Hockey League.  He had not given much notice that he was a big producer on offense; he was 10-5-15 in 71 games for the Pats in 2008-2009.  He improved on that in each of the next two seasons (15-16-31 in 57 games in 2009-2010 and 18-34-52 in 70 games in 2010-2001), even getting a few games with the Hershey Bears in the AHL along the way.

Mitchell split time between Hershey and the South Carolina Stingrays in 2011-2012 and then made the Bears his permanent home thereafter.  Late in his sixth full season with the Bears, he finally got the call, almost eight years after he was drafted by the Capitals.  He and fellow Bears forward Chandler Stephenson were recalled to the team for the last regular season game on the schedule.  It was a reward for the Hershey captain, who was deemed worthy of an opportunity for his years of hard work

The Caps, who had already clinched their second consecutive Presidents Trophy with the league’s best record, might not have had sufficient focus to make much of a game of it against the Florida Panthers.  Whatever the reason, the Caps did not play their best game of the season and dropped a 2-0 decision.  In fact, it was the shortest contest in terms of length of game (coming in at just under two hours) of the season.  As for Mitchell, he had no points and no shots on goal (the only Capital not to record one) in a team low 8:48 of ice time. 

Mitchell returned to the Bears, where he has played since, this season becoming the 26th player in franchise history to appear in 400 regular season games.  What made the 2016-2017 season special for him was getting that call.  And while the line on the score sheet in his one turn in a Capitals jersey might lack enough marks on it, there cannot be anything that takes away from the moment one gets the word that you’re going to the show.

Photo: Katherine Frey/The Washington Post

We will take one final turn with the one-and-done players later this week when we look at the goalies who strapped on the pads once for the Capitals.