PHILADELPHIA | Philipp Grubauer will be in Washington Capitals uniform for the first time in a regular-season NHL game Wednesday night at the Philadelphia Flyers. With Michal Neuvirth sick, the organization’s top goaltending prospect got the call to dress as Braden Holtby’s backup.
That’s a big step for the 21-year-old, who started the season with the Reading Royals of the ECHL and then performed well in his first consistent American Hockey League duty with the Hershey Bears.
“Everything you throw at him, he seems to rise to the challenge,” Caps associate goaltending coach Olie Kolzig said in a phone interview. “Obviously he’ll take it as a sign of how the organization thinks about him. As far as his makeup goes, I don’t know if there’s a goalie in our organization that has a better makeup to handle that situation.”
Grubauer was one Holtby injury or rough performance away from making his NHL debut. He did that in the second period, relieving Holtby after the starter gave up four goals on 18 shots.
After going 19-5-1 with a 2.30 goals-against average and .912 save percentage in the ECHL, he’s 6-4-1 with a 2.10 goals-against average and .928 save percentage in the AHL.
“Philipp’s progressed as good as you could hope,” Kolzig said. “You think that by keeping him back in the East Coast League for another season would kind of deter him a little bit, but he went down there with a great attitude, he dominated and when he has a chance to come up to Hershey he continued his great play.”
Kolzig called Grubauer, a fourth-round pick of the Caps in 2010, “everything you want as a player.” Talking about Grubauer potentially making his NHL debut against the Flyers, Kolzig was confident the young goalie could handle it.
“Obviously the level of play is a little higher at the NHL level, the shooters are better, you have less time to react, so that remains to be seen how he handles that,” Kolzig said. “But everything we’ve thrown at him so far, he’s done great.”