About ten years ago, a young hockey player was sitting in the waiting room for his dentist in his hometown of Herndon, Virginia, when none other than Alexander Ovechkin walked in. Like any good fan of the Washington Capitals, Joe Snively, then in his early teens, asked Ovechkin to sign a pair of hockey gloves while they both waited for their appointments.
On Monday, the Caps signed Snively, now 23 years old, to a two-year, entry-level contract that will begin in the 2019-2020 season. Because the Caps organization has reached the maximum 50 contracts, Snively is not eligible to play for the Caps this season, but he is expected to join the AHL Hershey Bears on an amateur tryout agreement.
The 5 feet 9 inch, 180-pound forward just finished his senior season at Yale University, posting 139 points in 129 career games, leading the team in points all four years.
Caps fans shouldn’t get too excited about those numbers. Undrafted college free agents often don’t make the NHL at all. If they do, they rarely, if ever, match their NCAA production. Snively will have to get a lot better to produce offensively in the NHL, and at 23, he’s already pretty old for a rookie (for reference, he’s about a month older than Jakub Vrana, who will have played two full NHL seasons by the earliest time Snively could theoretically debut).
Snively is not projected to be a top-six NHL forward, at least not in the near future. In fact, he’s unlikely to even make the Caps roster next season. Still, he shows potential to be a solid bottom six winger with a sought-after scoring touch. Coaches and analysts praise his competitiveness and work ethic, which are crucial for an undersized depth player.
If and when Snively does play for the Caps, he’ll be the first player from the D.C.-area to play for the Caps since Jeff Halpern in 2012.. Halpern is a good comparison for several reasons: like Snively, he went undrafted but proceeded to put together a highly successful college career at an Ivy League school (in Halpern’s case, Princeton). Halpern would go on to serve as the Caps’ captain during a 14-year NHL career.
The Caps are thin on forward prospects, and at the very worst, Snively will fill out the ranks for Hershey. Signing him is a cheap gamble on the potential of a hometown player to put in the work and chase his dream of wearing a Washington Capitals jersey professionally.