The Capitals have been in rebuild mode for several years now, so many of their draft picks are now coming to fruition.
It’s a season of rookiehood for many Flyers prospects, as they move up into the NCAA or into the pro ranks.
Left wing is the thinnest position in the Capitals system.
Oskar Osala was selected by the Capitals in the fourth round, 97th overall, in the 2006 draft. At 6’4 and 225 pounds, Osala has the size to be a physically dominant forward and he has a scoring touch as well. Osala finished with 44 points in 54 games for the Mississauga IceDogs in 2006-07. He recorded eight points in six games for Finland in the 2007 World Junior Championships. Osala spent 2007-08 in Finland with the Espoo Blues where he registered 35 points in 53 games. Osala’s production continued into the playoffs as he recorded 10 points in 17 games as the Blues reached the league finals. He is now a rookie with Hershey, with 12 goals and just two assists in 17 games.
Chris Bourque was taken in the second round of the 2004 entry draft, 33rd overall. Bourque recorded 23 points in 35 games as a freshman at Boston University and earned Hockey East All-Rookie Team honors. Bourque has spent the majority of the last three years in the organization with the Hershey Bears and his point totals have increased in all three seasons. Bourque had his best season with Hershey last season, recording 63 points in 73 games. He also made his NHL debut on Nov 6, 2007. Bourque came close to cracking the Capitals 2008 opening night roster as he was among the team’s final cuts. He has 18 points in 15 games so far with Hershey.
Greg Burke is a rookie with the Ceder Rapids RoughRiders of the USHL, and has just one goal in six games. Andrew Glass is a freshman at Boston University, but has played only three games so far. Stefan Della Rovere has 14 goals in 21 games with the OHL Barrie Colts.
The Capitals top prospect at center is Anton Gustafsson, selected in the first round last June. Gustafsson remains in Sweden this year, playing for Bogors of the second-tier Allsvenskan, where he has two goals in seven games. He is a two-way center with good size at 6’2, 192 and likes to play the body. He will take some time to develop.
Mathieu Perreault is in his first year with the Bears after spending the last three seasons with Acadie-Bathurst of the QMJHL. Perreault was drafted by the Capitals in the sixth round in 2006. Perreault finished 2006-07 with 119 points and followed that with a 114-point performance in 2007-08. Perreault has 13 points in 15 games as a rookie with Hershey.
Kyle Wilson had a solid college career at Colgate before being taken by the Minnesota Wild in the ninth round of the 2004 Draft. Wilson is coming off a solid performance in 2007-08. He played in all 80 games, finishing with 61 points which ranked third on the team. Wilson had eight game-winning goals to go along with his five multi-point games. He had three assists in the Bears five playoff games. He’s tied for sixth in scoring currently with 13 points in 17 games.
After being drafted by the Capitals in the eighth round in 2003, Andrew Joudrey spent the next four years at the University of Wisconsin. Joudrey captained Wisconsin as a senior as he recorded a team-high 29 points in 40 games, and even skated in the Hershey Bears 10 playoff games. In his first full season with the Bears last season, Joudrey tallied 25 points in 61 games with three multi-point games. Joudrey recorded his first game winning goal on Nov, 23 at Philadelphia. Joudrey had one assist in the team’s five playoff games.
Jay Beagle is in his first full season with the Capitals organization and is looking to continue his strong play after a productive first season. In 64 games with Hershey last season, Beagle recorded 37 points in 64 games, and one assist in five playoff games. At 6’3 and 208 pounds, the 23-year-old has the size to a productive second or third-line center. Beagle spent the previous two seasons with the University of Alaska-Anchorage in the WCHA. Beagle has three points in 14 games this year.
Eric Fehr is just 10 games from graduating from prospecthood, but hasn’t quite established himself as an NHL regular. The 23-year-old has played under half of the team’s outings, with three points in seven games.
Francois Bouchard is in his first season with the Bears this season and is making an immediate impact afer a stellar junior career. Taken by the Capitals in the second round of the 2006 draft, Bouchard scored 33 or more goals in each of the last three seasons. He has 11 points in 13 games.
Andrew Gordon was selected in the seventh round of the 2004 Draft. Gordon spent the next three seasons at St. Cloud State. In his first season with the Bears in 2007-08, Gordon made an immediate impact recording 51 points in 58 games. Gordon also spent 11 games with South Carolina, scoring 14 points in 11 games. This season he has 13 points in 17 games.
This is the group that has the most potential and depth and it starts with 2007 first-round choice Karl Alzner. Alzner is in his first year with the Bears, but is already being considered the next great defenseman in Capitals history. At 6’2 205 pounds, Alzner has the size to match up with any forward. He has eight points in 17 games in Hershey. Despite not having played in the NHL yet, Alzner does have an established international career, having won back-to-back World Junior Championship medals with Canada in 2007 and 2008. Alzner also captained team Canada in 2008.
Another first-round pick was used on a defenseman this past June, in John Carlson. He moved from the USHL to the OHL London Knights this fall, and has posted 12 points in 12 games there. He has good size for an offensive defenseman at 6’3.
Keith Seabrook is of the same vein as Carlson, and is in his last year of junior hockey with the WHL Calgary Hitmen. He has 12 points in 16 games there. Seabrook is old enough that he could have played pro hockey this year if there was room for him in the system.
On the more defensive side are pillars Eric Mestery and Joe Finley. Mestery, 6’5, was a second-round pick in 2008 who is in his third year in the WHL. He was recently traded from the Tri-City Americans to the Lethbridge Hurricanes. He has seven point in 17 games on the season. Finley, 6’7, is a senior at the University of North Dakota. He has only played two games so far this year due to a concussion.
Sami Lepisto spent his first season with the Hershey Bears in 2007-08, appearing in 55 games. Lepisto recorded 45 points with 11 multi-point games. Lepisto had one assist in the team’s five playoff games. Lepisto is a two-way defender.
Josh Godfrey was taken by the Capitals 34th overall in the 2007 Draft, with a big slapshot his calling card. Godfrey spent the last four seasons in the OHL, recording 133 points. His best season was 2006-07, in which he had 57 points. Godfrey had five assists and won the gold medal with Team Canada at the 2008 World Junior Championships. He spent some time assigned to the ECHL Stingrays this year, but was called up to Hershey yesterday.
At 6’5 and 215 pounds, Sasha Pokulok is an imposing figure. Pokulok spent most of 2007-08 with Hershey; recording 7 points in 44 games. However, with some ongoing injury trouble, Pokulok was assigned to South Carolina on Mar. 27 where he spent the remainder of the season. He is back with the Stingrays this season, and must work for a call-up.
Patrick McNeill spent his first season with the Bears in 2007-08 and turned in a solid performance. He finished with 14 points in 48 games and added 16 more in 19 games with South Carolina of the ECHL. He’s back up with Hershey this season. McNeill was taken by the Capitals in the seventh round of the 2005 Draft.
Sean Collins signed with the Capitals as a free agent in March of 2007 after a stellar four-year career at Ohio State. Collins spent most of last year with South Carolina. He has played in just nine of the Bears games this season.
Viktor Dovgan was selected by the Capitals in the seventh round of the 2005 draft and so far has had minimal impact. Dovgan spent 2005-06 in Russia before moving in 2006-07 to South Carolina of the ECHL. He recorded 11 points in 56 games with South Carolina and also had 95 penalty minutes. He skated in one game for Hershey in 2006-07 before returning to Russia to play in the Russian Super League last season. He has returned to South Carolina this season.
This is an area the Capitals hope will pay dividends for them in the very near future. They have several talented netminders from which to develop a starter.
Daren Machesney is the likely candidate as he has been in the Capitals organization since being drafted in the fifth round in 2005. Machesney spent his first full season with the Bears last season and played well going 22-10-2 in 38 games played. He finished with a .916 save percentage which ranked him third among rookie AHL goaltenders, and had a solid 2.55 goals against average. He remains in Hershey this season, but has struggled, with a .856 save percentage.
Simeon Varlamov was drafted by the Capitals in the first round in 2006. He spent the last two seasons playing for Yaroslavl in the Russian Super League. Varlamov went 15-7-6 in 31 games played in 2006-07 with a 2.12 GAA. He followed that with three shutouts and a 2.45 GAA in 2007-08 while leading Yaroslavl to the championship round. Varlamov recorded five shutouts in Yaroslavl’s 16 playoff games. He’s now a rookie with Hershey this year, and has a 2.68 GAA and .882 save percentage.
Michal Neuvirth is the other young goaltender the Capitals are grooming, though slowly to not risk hurting his development. Neuvirth was selected in the second round of the 2006 draft after several productive seasons in the OHL with Plymouth, Windsor and Oshawa. His best season was 2006-07 with Plymouth as he went 26-8-4 with a 2.32 GAA and four shutouts. Neuvirth is currently assigned to the Stingrays, after an attempt to play at home in the Czech Republic.
The Capitals have made solid choices with their draft picks the last four years and it shows on the ice. With players like Alex Ovechkin, Alex Semin, Mike Green, Boyd Gordon and Jeff Schultz making up the core of the team, the Capitals are in good position to be a consistent playoff team for the next 10 years. Also, with players like Chris Bourque, Francois Bouchard, Karl Alzner and Quintin Laing in the AHL, the Capitals have the depth they need should any of their star players get injured.
The Capitals decision to rebuild the entire franchise five years ago has proven to be a wise one. They have set themselves up to compete for a Stanley Cup now, but also have the depth in the minors to stay a Stanley Cup contender for the next 7-10 years. Developing a franchise goaltender will be important.