Vanecek and Boyd best among Washington Capitals collegiate and European prospects

By Ryan Womeldorf
Photo: Vitek Vanacek enhanced his already considerable international resume when he played for the Czech Republic at the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championships. (Courtesy of Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

Photo: Vitek Vanecek enhanced his already considerable international resume when represented the Czech Republic at the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championships. (Courtesy of Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

 

The Washington Capitals entered the 2014-15 season with a plethora of prospects at the collegiate level, while some of their high-end prospects are playing overseas in Europe.

Upperclassmen Riley Barber, Thomas DiPauli, Patrick Koudys, Travis Boyd and Austin Wuthrich were all looking to lead their respective clubs, while freshmen Zach Sanford and Brian Pinho were looking to make a name for themselves.

Meanwhile, Vitek Vanecek, Christian Djoos and Jakub Vrana are all seeing significant time with their home clubs in European leagues.

NCAA

Riley Barber, RW, Miami (Ohio) (NCHC)
Drafted 6th round, 167th overall, 2012 

Barber returned to Miami for his junior season, looking to build on his outstanding sophomore campaign. Though his offense is not quite up to the explosive level it was the year before, he has still played very well with 17 goals and 33 points in 33 games for the Redhawks this season.

With the Redhawks second in the NCHC and poised to make another tournament run, Barber will have a tough decision going forward: return for his senior season, or go pro. He has enjoyed a great deal of success on the collegiate level and has a two-way game that translates to the pros, but he might not be in a hurry to leave behind a Miami club where he plays an integral role.

Austin Wuthrich, RW, Notre Dame (Hockey East)
Drafted 4th round, 107th overall, 2012

Wuthrich decided to return to Notre Dame for his senior year, and it has not gone as swimmingly as he had hoped.  The Fighting Irish are just fifth in the Hockey East standings at 10-7-5 and Wuthrich has managed 16 points in 34 games—though he has netted a career-high 10 goals.

Time may be running out for him in the Capitals’ system. He will be an unrestricted free agent this summer unless the team comes to terms with him. With so many talented forwards, especially at the collegiate level, it remains unclear whether or not they will make him an offer.

Zach Sanford, LW, Boston College (Hockey East)
Drafted 2nd round, 61st overall, 2013

After a strong showing in 2013-14 for the Waterloo Black Hawks of the USHL, Sanford debuted as a freshman for the Boston College Eagles this season. Sanford has shown promising playmaking skills for the Eagles, with 16 assists and 21 points through 34 games. As he continues to grow into his large frame and gets used to playing the collegiate game, Sanford should continue to grow into his game and become a force. Expect him to return to Boston College in 2015-16 for a potentially big sophomore campaign.

Thomas DiPauli, C, Notre Dame (Hockey East)
Drafted 4th round, 100th overall, 2012

DiPauli has enjoyed a breakout season in his third year with Notre Dame. Considered a high-energy player, he has played on the top line for the Irish at both wing and center, notching 21 assists and 29 points in 38 games (he had picked up 17 points in his previous 67 games for the Irish). DiPauli will have an interesting choice to make in 2015-16 when he decide between returning for his senior campaign or riding the momentum and turning pro.

Brian Pinho, C, Providence College (Hockey East)
Drafted 6th round, 174th overall, 2013

Pinho has quietly had a successful freshman debut with the Friars of Providence College. His 11 assists put him near the top of the team and his 16 points in 32 games show that with a little development, there is definitely more on the horizon. At 6’1, he has decent size but his real assets are his skating and passing. He is still very raw, but he will likely use up most of his college eligibility developing his game and leading the Friars to the top of Hockey East.

Travis Boyd, C, Minnesota (Big Ten)
Drafted 6th round, 177th overall, 2011

For the second year in a row, Boyd has quietly been one of the most consistent scorers on the Golden Gophers. Injuries have limited him to just 27 games this season, but Boyd has made the most of it with 16 goals and 34 points in that span as the Gophers clawed their way into a tie for second in the newly-formed Big Ten.

Like Wuthrich, Boyd enters the summer of 2015 as an unrestricted free agent. Though he has played well on the collegiate level, there are still questions about whether or not his scoring ability will translate to higher levels. The consensus seems to be that he will be a valuable two-way forward, so he will likely get a long look from the Capitals before a decision is made.

Patrick Koudys, D, Penn State (Big Ten)
Drafted 5th round, 147th overall, 2011

Koudys and the Nittany Lions have developed into a competitive bunch. Sure, they are fourth in the conference, but their 10-7-1 record puts them right behind traditional powers Michigan and Minnesota. Not known for his scoring ability, Koudys has chipped in on the scoreboard but has made a name for himself in the defensive end. He has good size (6’3) and plays a smart, physical game while captaining the Nittany Lions. Like Wuthrich and Boyd, he is set to become an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2015.

EUROPE

Vitek Vanecek, G, HC Benatky nad Jizerou (Czech)
Drafted 2nd round, 39th overall, 2014

One of the youngest prospects in the Capitals’ system, Vanacek might also have some of the biggest potential. After a rough World Junior Championship back in February, he returned to the Czech league where he has posted very solid stats, featuring a 2.24 goals against average and .925 save percentage. At just 19 years old, Vanecek is very raw and has a lot of development ahead of him. He will likely remain in the Czech Republic for the next few seasons until he is ready for the rigors of the North American game.

Jakub Vrana, RW, Linkoping (SHL)
Drafted 1st round, 13th overall, 2014

Like Vanecek, Vrana had a forgettable World Junior Championships, netting two goals and three points in five games for the disappointing Czechs. At 19, Vrana still needs to put on a bit of weight but he has more than held his own among men in the SHL. His 12 goals and 24 points in 44 games might not jump off the page, but at his age it is fairly impressive.

Like Vanecek, he too will likely stay on the other side of the pond for at least the next year or two. There is only so much weight he can add to his 5’11 frame, but adding strength and consistency will be a key for one of the top prospects in the Capitals’ system.

Christian Djoos, D, Brynas (SHL)
Drafted 7th round, 195th overall, 2012

Djoos continues to slowly rise up Washington’s depth chart thanks to his solid and somewhat underrated offensive play. In 50 games for Brynas in 2014-15, he has notched 17 points and shown improvement on the defensive end. He is still woefully undersized at 6’0 and 161 pounds, but he has room to build on that.

Djoos is further along than his European counterparts and if he adds enough weight, could see the AHL as soon as 2015-16. If he does not, he will likely be sent back to Brynas to pack on the pounds and round out his game before making the jump across the pond.

PROSPECT OF THE MONTH

Travis Boyd - University of MinnesotaTravis Boyd has quietly been one of the best players in the country for the Minnesota Golden Gophers of the NCAA this season. On the season, he has 16 goals and 34 points in 27 games, with many of those since the start of February. In a dozen games since February 6th, Boyd failed to register a point just once. In the other 11 games, he’s notched a whopping seven goals and seven assists over that stretch, even earning first star of the week for the week of February 10th.

With the Big Ten tournament and the NCAA tournament to follow, Boyd will get a chance to put his stamp on an excellent senior season with Minnesota.

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