Whenever a rookie first steps onto the NHL stage, the result is always a wildcard. Wednesday, during Shane Gersich’s NHL debut, the talented forward was arguably the Capitals best player.
According to Natural Stat Trick, Gersich, in eight minutes and fifty-two seconds of five-on-five ice time, had a 68.2 shot-attempts percentage (15 shots for, 7 against), finishing second only to John Carlson (73.1 percent). The University of North Dakota alum also led the team in scoring chance percentage (80 percent), seeing eight chances and two against while he was out on the ice.
The undersized forward was fast and skilled as advertised, but he was a real difference maker while forechecking and backchecking. Gersich’s tenacity forced turnovers and wore down opposing players in the defensive zone. He finished the evening with three shots on goal, second only to Alex Ovechkin and John Carlson (5).
“I loved it. I thought he was dangerous every time I put him on the ice,” Capitals head coach Barry Trotz said after the game. “He seemed to create something. He was picking guys’ pockets, he was getting to those areas. His speed is undeniable. He’s got some good hockey sense. Just a really good game for him.”
“You know, we didn’t have him in any special teams, any of the bump-up lines, so his ice time was a little bit limited, but I was really impressed with him,” Trotz continued. “I thought for the first game, if he’s got better than that then I’m really excited for sure.”
Gersich created havoc in his opening shifts, which is normally a time when rookie players are uncomfortable or feeling butterflies.
For instance, Gersich’s line, consisting of Lars Eller and Devante Smith-Pelly, had one of the most dominant shifts of the evening early in the first period. The trio did everything but score. Gersich, wearing number 63, forced a turnover and got off several shot attempts.
Here’s a another look from behind the net.
The trio followed that shift up with another forechecking exhibition.
Gersich later almost scored in the third period after making a power move to the net.
“I actually felt really good,” Gersich said after the game. “Probably playing on a lot of adrenaline right now. I got some fresh legs. I felt good out there, and Lars and Devo did a great job of talking to me and making it easy on me.”
Before signing a two-year entry-level contract with the Capitals, Gersich spent the last three seasons with the University of North Dakota, a powerhouse NCAA school. The university has churned out stars such as Brock Boeser, TJ Oshie, and Jonathan Toews. Gersich won a NCAA championship in 2016, his freshman year.
When asked if anything surprised him during his first NHL game, Gersich seemed unfazed.
“I don’t know. I just think the pace of play is a little bit higher,” Gersich said. “Besides that, I felt pretty good.”
While Gersich was proud of realizing his dream of playing a game in the NHL, he still has one first he’d like to accomplish sooner rather than later.
“Obviously you want to [score a goal] every game, right?” Gersich said. “But no, I had a few good looks there and credit to Lars and Devo there, they were playing great tonight.”
— TJ Oshie (@TJOshie77) March 29, 2018
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