The Capitals currently have 15 prospects playing for the AHL‘s Hershey Bears, including two outstanding goaltending prospects with bright futures.
Andrew Gordon, RW
Drafted 2004, 7th Round, 197th Overall
After putting up solid numbers in his first two seasons with the Hershey Bears, Gordon could eclipse his statistical marks this season. Showing a solid start with 17 goals and 37 points in 37 games, Gordon is on pace to be a point-per-game producer at the AHL level. Thought of as a potential third liner in the NHL, Gordon remains strong in the defensive zone and is a mainstay on the penalty kill. With above-average hands around the net, Gordon is able to scoop up loose pucks and bury them with ease. The second half of this season will be crucial in Gordon’s development if he hopes to make it to the NHL in a full-time role.
Steve Pinizzotto, RW
Signed as a Free Agent in March, 2007
The feisty winger has had a great start to his season in Hershey, registering six goals in 33 games played. While this number may not seem too impressive, the Mississauga native is not known for his goal-scoring ability, but has already registered three short -handed goals, a league best. Often playing the role of a pest on the fourth line, Pinizzotto has seen his role increase dramatically this season, as he is now playing in all situations.
Francois Bouchard, RW
Drafted 2006, 2nd Round, 35th Overall
Last season was Bouchard’s first with the Hershey Bears. Playing on the vaunted "Rookie Line" with Mathieu Perreault and Oskar Osala, Bouchard had an up and down year that was filled with spectacular nights followed by inconsistent efforts. This year, Bouchard has 18 assists and 28 points in 37 games played. While he started the season on fire, scoring nearly a goal a game for almost two weeks, Bouchard has cooled off slightly while still putting up respectable numbers. To make it to the NHL, Bouchard needs to continue working on his consistency. It has improved this season somewhat, but if he wants the big paycheck that the NHL can offer, he better find a way to give a night in, night out effort.
Chris Bourque, LW
Drafted 2004, 2nd Round, 33rd Overall
There have been few players in the Capitals organization who have experienced more drama than Bourque this season. After making the team out of training camp and being told he would play the first game of the season, Bourque was put on waivers and claimed by the Pittsburgh Penguins. He did not fit in in Pittsburgh, however, and was placed on waivers again, only to be claimed back by the Capitals and promptly sent to Hershey. Since returning to the AHL, the Boston native has been on fire, recording eight goals and 16 points in only 14 games played. Bourque has little left to prove at the AHL level and is looking forward to his next call-up to the big leagues. If he can’t impress during that stint, his career in the Capitals’ organization is more than likely over.
Oskar Osala, LW
Drafted 2006, 4th Round, 97th Overall
Osala was leading the league in goals at the beginning of last season. Now, the hulking power forward from Finland is struggling to put up points in his second year. With only 16 points in 32 games, the Bears probably expect more offense from the 220-pound second-year North American pro. Much like other members of the "Rookie Line," Osala struggles with consistency and will go multiple games without recording a point. Once thought to be a safe pick to make the Capitals due to his size, Osala must prove that he is still a legitimate prospect in the second half of the Bears season.
Kyle Wilson, C
Signed as a Free Agent in July. 2007
Wilson has certainly taken a long road to become a professional hockey player. Drafted out of Colgate by the Minnesota Wild, Wilson was not signed and ended up playing for the South Carolina Stingrays, the Hershey Bears ECHL affiliate. After a few games, Wilson was recalled and has torn up the AHL ever since. Now in his fourth year with the team, Wilson has recorded 10 goals and 22 points in 35 games played. While this number is right on par with his career point-per-game totals, Wilson was recalled to Washington shortly before Christmas, and racked up two assists in his first NHL game against the Colorado Avalanche. The second half of this AHL season will be crucial for Wilson as he looks to prove that he deserves a full-time shot at the NHL.
Jay Beagle, C
Signed as a Free Agent in March, 2008
In his third season in the organization, Beagle has totaled a respectable 15 points in 31 games played. Thought of as a grinder who chips in the occasional point, Beagle was recalled to Washington earlier in the season and tallied his first NHL goal against the New York Rangers, and blistering wrist shot that was picked up in the slot. With Beagle’s size and decent skating ability, he has a chance to crack an NHL line-up as a bottom-six forward.
Mathieu Perreault, C
Drafted 2006, 6th Round, 177th Overall
One of the youngest players on the Bears roster, Perreault continues to impress with his speed, shiftiness, and passing abilities. The smallest center on the team, he has still been able to earn 13 assists and 17 points in only 21 games played. Perreault has such few games played because he got into his first 18 games of his NHL career earlier in the season with Washington. The former Jean Beliveau trophy winner in the QMJHL did not look out of place in the NHL at all, registering five assists and seven points. Look for Perreault to continue to work on playing a bigger game in his second half in Hershey, in hopes that he has an outside shot of making the Capitals next season.
Patrick McNeill, D
Drafted 2005, 4th Round, 118th Overall
Always being a huge plus player for the Bears, McNeill has started his third season with the team registering a +7 in 36 games played to go along with his 15 total points. Regarded as being a smaller defensemen, McNeill has seen his role with the team increase this season as he is capable of playing in all situations. With other highly drafted defensemen ahead of him though, he must use the second half of this season to stand out above the rest. His entry-level contract is up at the end of this year, and the Capitals must make an important decision on whether to re-sign him.
John Carlson, D
Drafted 2008, 1st Round, 27th Overall
The brightest spot of a young defensive core in Hershey is the play of Carlson. Already gaining valuable knowledge and experience in the Calder Cup run last season, Carlson has translated this into 24 points in 30 games to go along with a staggering +17 rating. With great size and skating ability, Carlson is an offensive defenseman with solid defensive awareness and hitting ability. Thus far, it seems as though the Capitals found a gem at the end of the first round in the 2008 draft.
Karl Alzner, D
Drafted 2007, 1st Round, 5th Overall
The other bright spot of a young defensive core comes in the package of an incredibly responsible young player. Alzner is in his second full year with the Bears and continues to impress with his spectacular defensive play. Alzner is rarely caught out of position, which is reflected in his measly six minutes of penalties in 22 games. As the season progresses, Alzner will continue to shuttle back and forth between Hershey and Washington, depending on injuries to the big club. Look for Alzner to be a lock to make the Capitals’ full-time roster next season.
Zach Miskovic, D
Signed as a Free Agent in March, 2009
Recently-signed Miskovic is having an incredible start to his first professional season after playing four years with St. Lawrence in the ECAC. An offensive defenseman, Miskovic has found the transition to the AHL easier than expected due to a stacked Hershey roster. Earning 14 points in 28 games to go with a +13 rating, the River Forest, IL native will continue to work on his defensive play the second half of the Bears season. With many younger and highly-touted defensemen on the Hershey roster, Miskovic has so far been able to stand out as a positive contributor to the team.
Braden Holtby, G
Drafted 2008, 4th Round, 93rd Overall
Currently one of the leaders in goals against average and save percentage in the AHL, it is hard to believe that Holtby is only in his first professional season. With a terrific 1.40 goals against average and .950 save percentage, Holtby has risen to the occasion in Hershey while starter Michal Neuvirth is on recall to Washington. The Bears and Capitals have great goaltending depth in their system as Holtby is starting to contest Neuvirth and Varlamov as a future starter for the Capitals.
Michal Neuvirth, G
Drafted 2006, 2nd Round, 34th Overall
After a stellar start to his Hershey Bears season, the 2009 Calder Cup MVP was recalled to Washington to fill in for an injured Varlamov. Neuvirth had earned the recall, going 10-5 with one shutout and a .929 save percentage. These numbers alone were enough to garner a nod for the AHL All-Star game. With Neuvirth playing well at all levels and Varlamov showing that he can handle the pressure of the Stanley Cup playoffs, there is little doubt upon the Capitals future in net.