HERSHEY, PA — After leading the Toronto Maple Leafs’ power play to consecutive top two finishes in power-play percentage, Spencer Carbery emerged as the the top young coaching prospect available on the NHL market this summer, garnering interviews from the Washington Capitals, Anaheim Ducks, and New York Rangers.
Upon his hiring by the Capitals on May 30, Carbery became the first head coach in team history to lead all three levels of the same organization. Carbery served as head coach of the ECHL South Carolina Stingrays from 2011 through 2016 and was the bench boss of the AHL’s Hershey Bears for three seasons from 2018 through 2021.
With all those years in the Capitals organization, Carbery has coached around a dozen players who still remain in the system, including Connor McMichael, Martin Fehervary, Alex Alexeyev, and Joe Snively.
During his initial press conference with Capitals media, Carbery spoke about wanting to bring good communication to the organization. He also wanted to instill broader ides of “pace” and “connectivity” to the team.
But without being in the room or on the bench as a player, understanding Carbery’s value or top prospect status as a coach is more difficult to understand. So I asked two previously Carbery-coached players, Aliaksei Protas and Beck Malenstyn, to explain what it was like playing under him. There are qualities that Spencer has that become immediately clear when reading their answers.
Protas, a Capitals’ third-round pick in the 2019 Draft, briefly played under Carbery during the 2020-21 season – his first as a professional. Protas, 22, spent the first part of the pandemic year with the KHL’s Dinamo Minsk on loan before being assigned to Hershey at the end of the season. Protas played 16 games for the Bears, posting two goals, five points, and seven points. Carbery left at the end of the season for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Protas will likely spend all next season with the Capitals.
What did you think of Spencer Carbery getting hired by the Capitals and what was it like playing under him a few years ago as a rookie in Hershey?
Aliaksei Protas: “I think he deserved the chance with his like work in Toronto and even in Hershey. I think he deserved that chance. I’m so happy for him. The work ethic he has he can be really successful coach I believe. I am actually so happy for him so I think that’s a great choice for the Caps.”
Can you explain the strengths that he brings to a team as a coach? I know he did power play in Toronto, was that something you experienced when you were here? Was he creative offensively?
Aliaksei Protas: “I think when I was here, Scotty Allen was the power play coach. Probably, his energy just on the bench. Everywhere he just really competitive, he always wants to win. It’s never enough for him. I remember when I played here, I played only like 16 games, but you see when we lose it’s like big thing for him. When we lose, he wants to get it back right away. He works hard. Sometimes when he was here with me, with us in Hershey, I think he was breaking a sweat sometimes more than the players did. Probably because he was also wearing the mask and everything, but even without it he was breaking a sweat. Seriously, he was working hard.”
Since he was a former player, does that translate to his coaching style? (Carbery played three seasons professionally before joining the bench as an assistant coach on the South Carolina Stingrays.)
Aliaksei Protas: “Probably, yes. Yeah. And, I hope when his career go through, I believe he gonna be the great coach because there’s many examples when the players also good coaches. Sometimes it goes the other way. I follow it more in soccer. I see when the great players are not a good coach. There’s like so many examples, even like really smart players. So, I hope he’s going to be the really successful coach and I think he will be with his work ethic. I’m so happy for him.”
Beck Malenstyn spent the 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons playing under Carbery in Hershey – his first two seasons professionally. The 25-year-old checking-line forward is a player that will likely graduate from Hershey after this season and join Carbery in Washington next year.
What was it like playing under Spencer when he was here in Hershey? And what does it mean for you to see him get hired? Can you run me through your emotions?
Beck Malenstyn: “I’m obviously super happy for him. That’s the coach that I actually came into pro hockey with. I have a lot of respect for him and his work ethic, don’t think it could go to a more deserving candidate. So I’m really happy for him.
“I had nothing but great things to say about him in the two years that I played under him. Did an amazing job with young players on bringing you in, going through video, positive, negative, constructive, just little things every day to make you a better player. He really cared about us that way. I think he’s an amazing coach.”
For fans kind of looking outside in, what are his strengths that he brings behind the bench? I know he did the power play in Toronto. Was he a brilliant offensive mind when you experienced him? What was your impression?
Beck Malenstyn: “As our head coach, he wasn’t taking over any of the special teams at that time. But I think his biggest attribute is his competitiveness. He’s somebody that, you know, there’s argumentatively, there’s probably times he wants to play worse than we do. He’d be hopping in drills in practice and his energy behind the bench; it’s phenomenal.
“His attention to detail, his work ethic — it’s next level. He finds ways to get in the rink all the time. He’s always on the computer, cutting video, finding ways to better himself as a coach and better us as a team. So I think his attention to detail and willingness to find those little things has moved him up the ladder pretty quickly.”
Headline photo: Kyle Mace
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