Montreal Canadiens: Zach Fucale Looking for Second Chance With Capitals

LAVAL, QC - FEBRUARY 14: Zachary Fucale (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
LAVAL, QC - FEBRUARY 14: Zachary Fucale (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images) /

At this point in time, Zach Fucale is a name mostly long forgotten in the annals of Canadiens history. Funny, considering how, at one point, Fucale was seen as one of the top goaltending prospects in the world, and a true-blue chip prospect for the Canadiens coming out of the QMJHL.

A Laval native, Fucale got his start in junior with the Halifax Mooseheads, immediately earning the starting job whilst posting career highs to the tune of a 36-9-3 record with a 2.36 GAA and 6 shutouts in 2013-14. Going into 2013 NHL Draft, Fucale was seen as a can’t miss prospect with high upside and a host of accolades at the junior level, from a Memorial Cup Title to World Juniors gold.

With the Canadiens possessing two of the earliest picks in the second round, the team opted to take Fucale 36th overall, and Swedish forward Jacob De La Rose 34th. With Carey Price slowly coming into his own as the team’s franchise goalie, Fucale was hoped to be a solid second option and rookie presence for Price down the line. However, after struggling early on in the 2014-15 season, it became apparent he needed some more seasoning. Even after continued struggles after a trade to the Quebec Remparts, in spite of subsequently leading them to a finals appearance, Fucale joined the professional ranks come the 2015-16 season, with the AHL’s St. John’s IceCaps.

Having been lacking a true starting option after Dustin Tokarski briefly earned the backup job behind Price, Fucale was given the keys to Laval’s crease, only to subsequently drop them down a drain. In spite of some solid performances here and there, Fucale didn’t have the experience to support the Rocket’s solid offense and depth-filled roster. Ultimately, AHL-contracted goalie Edward Pasquale had to step in in to split the starting role, ultimately revitalizing his career in the process.

As fate would have it, this would be the closest Fucale has come to a full-time role in the AHL, having slowly but surely developed a reputation quite a ways away from his NHL potential. After losing the starting and backup job to former Canadiens prospect Charlie Lindgren and Yann Danis in 2016-17, Fucale was sent down to the ECHL’s Brampton Beast, where his reputation has ultimately laid since then.

In spite of continuing to play on NHL contracts for a brief period, and seeing the occasional AHL start here and there, Fucale has mainly been an ECHL starter since his professional debut with the IceCaps, having managed mostly solid numbers in the process. Come 2020-21 however, Fucale would ultimately earn his second AHL shot, and didn’t disappoint.

A former top prospect and 36th overall pick by Canadiens in 2013, Zach Fucale is now looking for another NHL shot with the Washington Capitals.

After struggling to earn an AHL contract during the 2019-20 season, Fucale briefly signed in the DEL before injuries led to him never making his debut. Drifting in the remnants of free agency heading into 2020-21 (something I had written about previously), the Washington Capitals made a brief blip on news radars, inking Fucale to a surprise one-year deal. In spite of limited action and a mostly unproven roster behind him, Fucale flourished wit a 9-2-0 record and 1.80 GAA, splitting time with Pheonix Copley for the Hershey Bears, earning a subsequent two-year NHL extension.

Having come off his first truly successful professional season in an organization skirting the edges of a goaltending crisis, there’s been speculation that Fucale could see a most improbable NHL debut sooner than later, especially with the rocky situation involving apparent heir and wildly inconsistent keeper Ilya Samsonov. So, with that being said, could Fucale make his NHL debut in 2021-22? Well, I would say its 50/50 for the most part.

After failing to prove much off a one-year deal with a young and budding Vegas Golden Knights organization, Fucale mostly disappeared off my radar before earning consistent minutes with Hershey. Considering the amount of hype and accolades surrounding Fucale’s junior career, there’s always been a certain tagline associated with him, even with him being a second-round pick. In the modern day, it’s rare to see a prospect taking that highly struggle to crack the AHL, let alone the NHL, but Fucale finally seems to have turned that corner towards some NHL-worthy potential.

At his core, Fucale is a solid goaltender, having been quite the hot commodity in the ECHL as one of the league’s only consistent starting options. However, in that same sense, consistency is something Fucale has seen little, if any of over the course of his career, which is likely to change come 2021-22, though it remains to be seen how he handles the increased role. With the AHL season set to have fan attendance and a more normalized schedule once more, Fucale will likely continue to split minutes with Copley and see his first full season in the AHL since 2015-16.

With that, however, comes the same adjustment Fucale underwent in his rookie season, and it will be interesting to see how he performs, a performance which will ultimately make or break his NHL chances. Fucale definitely did his NHL future a favor over the course of 2020-21 and was one of many AHL castoffs who found themselves with opportunities to produce. With a long-awaited NHL debut now potentially knocking on the door, Fucale should be given every opportunity to fulfill it in Hershey, and I have reason to believe he could do just that.

While there’s still a few weeks to go till the start of the 2021-22 pre-season, Fucale should fixture into Washington’s camp and showcase the potential many thought had long went unrealized. With many questions left to answer for both the Canadiens and Capitals going into next season, Zach Fucale looks to be one such, once forgotten name, who could look to make his long awaited, NHL debut.

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