Capitals junior prospects update

By Jon Shecket

The Washington Capitals have 13 prospects playing junior hockey this season. The players are spread throughout North America with three each in the QMJHL and USHL, four in the OHL and three in the WHL.

WHL

In Calgary, two Capitals prospects form a defensive pair for the Hitmen.

Karl Alzner, D – Calgary Hitmen, WHL

1st round, 5th overall, 2007

The most highly-touted defenseman going into the 2007 draft and the Capitals’ first pick, Karl Alzner (6’2, 209 lbs.) has been named to the Canadian WJC team for the second year in a row. He could be named team captain, a role he also has with the Hitmen.

Alzner is known as a stay-at-home defenseman with good skating ability and a strong shot from the point. Through 33 games, he has scored 4 goals and 15 assists and has a plus-10 rating. He recorded a point for Calgary in six out of eight games between Nov. 4 and Nov. 20. Under his leadership, through 35 games, the Hitmen have the fifth-best overall record in the WHL, 21-11-3.

Keith Seabrook, D – Calgary Hitmen, WHL

2nd round, 52nd overall, 2006

After playing his freshman year for the Denver Pioneers (WCHA), Caps prospect Keith Seabrook (6’, 200 lbs.) opted to return to Canada and play in the WHL. As is often the case, the adjustment from U.S. college hockey to major juniors has been a great challenge.

First, Seabrook suffered a shoulder injury during training camp, causing him to miss the first 10 games of the season. Then, on Oct. 10, he took a minus-3 in his WHL debut, a 5-0 road loss to the Kelowna Rockets. He has the team’s worst total plus/minus rating with minus-10 and his injury has caused him to shy away from the physical game.

On the bright side, Seabrook recorded his first goal on Dec. 12, albeit in a losing effort, 5-1 at Lethbridge.

Brett Leffler, RW – Regina Pats, WHL
5th round, 125th overall, 2007

In a Dec. 4 feature article in the Regina Leader-Post, the 6’1, 197 lbs Leffler is described as a “garbage man” who has managed to make a “cameo on the highlight reel”. He recently broke a 16-game scoreless streak by scoring three quality goals in two nights.

Even in the new NHL, there is still a need for a garbage man, one who can charge the net, screen in the goaltender and pounce on the rebounds. Unfortunately for Leffler, the numbers he has put up in the WHL do not stack up to what would be expected from a future NHL forward.

Last season marked Leffler’s best year with 13 goals and 13 assists. This year, Leffler is on a line with Kirt Hill and rookie Todd Kennedy (2008).

OHL


Josh Godfrey, D – Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, OHL

2nd round, 34th overall, 2007

Godfrey (6’1, 210 lbs.) is an offensive defenseman with a slapshot that was clocked at 99.3 mph in the skills competition at last year’s OHL All-Star Game. So far, in juniors, he has put it to good use. Godfrey has 11 goals and 15 assists so far this season. He has scored a team-leading nine goals on the power play.

Godfrey went unselected in 2006, his first year of draft eligibility. He was then invited to the Capitals’ summer development camp but could not attend due to a knee injury. He put himself back on the map with a stellar 2006-07 campaign. In addition to the 24 goals and 33 assists he scored in the regular season, Godfrey had a stellar playoff effort with five multi-point games in the Greyhounds’ opening-round series against Saginaw.

Godfrey took part in the ADT Canada-Russia Challenge with Alzner.

Michal Neuvirth, G – Windsor Spitfires, OHL
2nd round, 34th overall, 2006

As mentioned in November’s Capitals goalie pipeline update, Neuvirth (6’1, 198 lbs.) missed out on a spot in Hershey and was sent back to the OHL for one more season. He was traded from the Plymouth Whalers to the Windsor Spitfires on Nov. 12 as Plymouth was faced with the league’s Nov. 14 deadline to reduce their slate of overage players to four or fewer.

The change of scenery has been good to Neuvirth. Through eight starts with the Spits he is 6-1-1 with a 2.11 goals against average and a .918 save percentage.

Neuvirth is presently with the Czech Republic junior team and is expected to be their No. 1 goaltender. He did not participate on the team last year as he declined the invitation to serve as a backup for Ondrej Pavelec (ATL).

Luke Lynes, LW – Brampton Battalion, OHL

4th round, 122nd overall, 2006

Originally a fighting center, Lynes (6’1, 189 lbs.) has transformed into a scoring left winger.

This year, through 31 games, Lynes has 9 goals and 17 assists.  As of Dec. 13, he has an active point-scoring streak of five games dating back to Dec. 1.

Lynes is just off the pace he set for himself in his previous two seasons, 62 points in 65 games in 2005-06 and 65 points in 68 games last year.

Lynes is playing on a line centered by rookie Matt Duchene (2009) with Jason Dale at right wing. Duchene and Dale have scored 17 points apiece.

Lynes’ specialty has been scoring goals on the power play. Of his first 79 OHL goals, 36 were scored with a man-advantage. He led the Battalion last season in power-play goals with 20.

Justin Taylor, C – London Knights, OHL

6th round, 180th overall, 2007

This year marks Justin Taylor’s first full season of major junior hockey. He arrived in London last year on a trade from Kingston, a team he refused to report to, and he spent half of the year playing for the Jr. A Wellington Dukes.

Taylor (6’0, 192 lbs.) is a tough-as-nails center who doesn’t mind taking a hit. Taylor leads his team in fights.  A November London Free Press story quoted Taylor as saying “I’ll sacrifice my face as long as we keep winning.”

Taylor is the Knights’ No. 3 scorer and top scoring center with 15 goals and 13 assists for 28 points.

Looking to fully adjust to the graduations of last year’s top three scorers, Knights head coach Dale Hunter has been trying different line combinations. In the past three games, he has tried combining Taylor with Adam Perry, Patrick Maroon (PHI), Akim Aliu (CHI) and Jadran Beljo.

QMJHL

The Capitals’ three Quebec prospects are all forwards.

Francois Bouchard, RW – Baie-Comeau Drakkar, QMJHL
2nd round, 35th overall, 2006

Following two straight 100+ point seasons for Baie-Comeau, defending QMJHL scoring champion Bouchard (6’1 188 lbs.) is off to a decent, albeit less prolific start in 2007-08 with a team-leading 41 points through 33 games. The younger brother of Minnesota Wild forward Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Francois earned the Jean Beliveau trophy last year after scoring 45 goals and 80 assists in 68 games.

Bouchard is known for being a strong playmaker with good vision and an excellent shooter. He is playing on Baie-Comeau’s top line with Mathieu Tousignant (2008) at center and Gabriel Bourque (2009) on the right wing.

Bouchard’s drop-off in production is mirrored by that of his team. Through 35 games, the Drakkar is averaging 3.2 goals per game compared to 4.3 goals per game last season.

Mathieu Perreault, C – Acadie-Bathurst Titan, QMJHL

6th round, 177th overall, 2006

Like Bouchard, Mathieu Perreault (5’9, 166 lbs.) is coming off a prolific year. With 41 goals and 78 assists for 119 points, Perrault finished third on the league scoring table just behind the 124 points scored by his now-graduated Titan teammate Thomas Beauregard.

This year, Perreault is leading Acadie-Bathurst in scoring with 21 goals and 28 assists in 29 games. He put together a nine-game point-scoring streak from Oct. 19 through Nov. 23 and was named QMJHL offensive player of the week for the first week of November.

Perreault participated in the evaluation camp for the Canadian junior team but did not make the cut. He recorded an assist in the Dec. 11 intra-squad scrimmage.

Maxime Lacroix, LW – Quebec Remparts, QMJHL
5th round, 127th overall, 2006

A year and a half removed from the Remparts’ Memorial Cup triumph, Maxime Lacroix (6’0, 191 lbs.) continues to display his speed and versatility on a balanced offensive attack. Though he does not score a tremendous number of goals, Lacroix has earned praise for his play away from the puck and on the penalty kill. So far this year he has scored 17 goals,16 assists through 34 games, or just under a point per game. This places him fourth on the team behind Felix Petit, Kelsey Tessier (2008) and Angelo Esposito (PIT).

On Dec. 9, Lacroix scored two goals and an assist as Quebec defeated Rimouski Oceanic 9-2.

USHL

Brett Bruneteau, C – Des Moines Buccaneers, USHL
4th round, 108th overall, 2007

Born in San Francisco, Brett Bruneteau (5’10, 183 lbs.) left the California sunshine behind in order to develop and grow his skills in the Midwest as he is in his third season in the USHL. Bruneteau played two full seasons for the Omaha Lancers where he scored a total of 19 goals, 40 assists in 109 regular-season games. He opened the 2007-08 season with the Indiana Ice, but was traded to Des Moines after 14 games. Through six games with the Lancers, he has scored two goals – one a game-winner – and one assist.

Bruneteau is the grandson of former Detroit Red Wing Ed Bruneteau. His great uncle Modere “Mud” Bruneteau won three Stanley Cups with the Wings.

Brett, who will turn 19 in January, has committed to play college hockey for the North Dakota Fighting Sioux (WCHA) beginning in 2008.

Brent Gwidt, C – Indiana Ice, USHL

6th round, 157th overall, 2006

Gwidt is in his second year with the Indiana Ice. Through 55 games he has scored 8 goals and 5 assists. Listed on the Ice roster as 6’3, 203 pounds, Gwidt continues to put weight on his large frame. He will turn 20 in February.

A graduate of Lakeland (WI) high school, Gwidt was recruited by several NCAA Division I programs but there have not been any published reports of him making any commitment.

Nick Larson, C – Waterloo Black Hawks, USHL
7th round, 185th overall, 2007

Larson is a 6’2, 177-pound native of Stillwater, Minnesota. He has committed to play for the Minnesota Golden Gophers (WCHA) starting in 2008. He now has a total of five points in 18 games.