- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Shane Gersich left such an impression on Barry Trotz after his NHL debut last week that the Capitals coach remarked, “If he’s got better than that, I’m excited, for sure.”

Gersich’s playing time was brief. He saw just under nine minutes of ice time, but recorded three shots on goal in Washington’s 3-2 win over the New York Rangers.

But one performance wasn’t enough. Trotz wanted to see more, so the 21-year-old found himself in lineup Monday in St. Louis. He impressed again, leading Trotz to declare Gersich would play in the Capitals’ final two games of the regular season.

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Now, Gerisch has a real opportunity to see playing time in the playoffs. His play has forced him into the Capitals’ internal competition among the bottom six forwards.

Not bad for a kid who was in college as recently as a few weeks ago.

Gersich, who signed with the Capitals in March 23, spent the last three years at the University of North Dakota.

“I’m just trying to play my game … use my speed as much as I can and compete out there,” said Gersich, who the Capitals selected in the fifth round of 2014 draft. “Obviously, I think I have a good hockey sense for the game, so just try to play your own game and go from there.”

In the NHL, teams are increasingly bringing in college prospects to join them late in the season. The Capitals added another one Wednesday, signing Providence College forward Brian Pinho to a two-year entry level contract.

Both Gersich and Pinho were taken by the Capitals in later rounds of the draft, and so they elected to go to college rather than develop in the American Hockey League.

The clubs are taking on some risk, as well. Gersich, for example, inked a two-year deal, but this season counts toward one of the years.

Teams are allowed to expand past the 23-man limit once the trade deadline is over, as long as they stay under the salary cap. The Capitals now have 26 players on the roster, recently calling up defenseman Madison Bowey and center Travis Boyd.

But it’s rare for prospects to actually crack a rotation. With Pinho, Trotz said Wednesday there’s no assurances he’ll see playing time.

Gersich, on the other hand, has made a case for deserving ice time. Trotz, though, said he doesn’t have a playoff lineup set, yet.

“He’s got a good hockey IQ,” Trotz said. “That’s what separates a lot of the players. He’s not intimidated by the competition. He’s not intimidated by who he’s playing with.”

Gersich said he’s primarily playing on instinct. Because he’s still learning the Capitals’ system, he has relied on the skills that got him there.

He added overthinking can cause him to read-and-react too slowly.

Gersich comes from a hockey family. He’s the nephew of Aaron, Paul and Neal Broten — all of whom played in the NHL.

Gersich said he’s trying not to think about these last two games being an audition for the postseason.

“When you’re out there, you just go play,” he said. “Things happen pretty fast out there, so you just gotta go with whatever happens and go from there.”

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