The injuries of two top-four blueliners, Nii Noi Tetteh and, seven days later, Ben Verrall, had left a blank space on the Capitals back end.
This week the Caps addressed that by acquiring 18-year-old Marshall Skapski from the Merritt Centennials. He’s from Abbotsford, BC, and has two goals, 10 points and 61 penalty minutes in 75 career BCHL games. There’s some Island Division familiarity here as well, as Skapski played 47 games as a rookie with the Alberni Valley Bulldogs, before being dealt to the Cents in the offseason. He also played in five playoff games, in the team’s first round loss to the Nanaimo Clippers.
He’s the youngest of three Skapski brothers: 20-year-old forward Mitch Skapski is the captain of the Salmon Arm Silverbacks, and the eldest, 22-year-old Mackenzie, is a netminder in the New York Rangers system.
Mackenzie was a sixth round, 170th overall pick to the Rangers in 2013; he notably made his NHL debut during the 2014-15 season, and casually allowed one goal in two games. He won his first start on Feb 20, 2015, and earned a 20-save shutout in his next outing on Mar 14 (both against the Buffalo Sabres). So his career NHL stats are pretty good, and it was an awesome story of getting his feet wet in the NHL, then as a 20-year-old. There’s a great article by Kevin Woodley of nhl.com who told the tale of Skapski overcoming a serious head injury at age 15 after his hockey team’s bus crashed in rural BC. You can find it here.
Anyway, the youngest brother, Marshall, now will get his kicks in with his third BCHL team. At 5’10”, 170 lbs, he plays a strong defensive-minded game. He can chip in on offense when needed (and he’s bound to get some powerplay time this month with the Caps), and he also brings a solid toughness to his game.
Before he debuted in Jr. A, Skapski had 130 penalty minutes in 39 games in the BC Major Midget League (BCMML) with the Fraser Valley Thunderbirds. He also had six goals and 26 assists with the T-Birds. In eight Jr. B games that year as well, he posted a goal and six points, as well as 18 penalty minutes as an AP with the Ridge Meadows Flames (PJHL). That was where I first saw Skapski, when I was doing color commentary with Ridge Meadows back then. I can recall one game where he scored the game-winner late in a 4-3 home win for the Flames against the Port Moody Panthers. Skapski had three points that night, two on the powerplay, and was named the game’s first star.
It was a small sample size of viewing, but from what I saw I can’t say I’m surprised that Skapski made the jump from Major Midget to Jr. A, and fit in on the Bulldogs blue line as an average-sized 17-year-old last year. He actually didn’t debut with Alberni until October last year, as he started the 2015-16 season in camp with the WHL’s Medicine Hat Tigers before being released on Oct 13, 2015. You could compare that to Ben Verrall’s situation with the WHL’s Prince Albert Raiders, when he started his 18-year-old season on the Raiders roster before being released on October 7, 2014, and debuted with the Capitals three days later. Verrall has been a steady presence ever since on the Caps blue line.
The best part about this acquisition for the Capitals might be that Skapski is eligible to play in the BCHL for two more seasons. He joins Nii Noi Tetteh, Sean Driscoll and Jake Keremidschieff as 1998-born defensemen on the Caps roster. Picking up Skapski is a short-term fix for the Caps with the injuries sustained on defense, but it also has the potential to be a longer-term gain, depending on the fit in the lineup.
He’ll wear #6 and debut for the team tonight in Nanaimo.