Capitals junior prospects 2009-10 review

By Josh Deitell

The Washington Capitals had a balanced group of eight prospects who suited up for junior teams this year: two centers, two left wingers, two right wingers, and two defensemen. Of those, four played in the WHL, two in the OHL, and two in the QMJHL.

WHL

Cody Eakin, C – Swift Current Broncos
5’11", 179 lbs
Acquired: 3rd round (85th overall), 2009
b. May 25, 1991

Just four months after Eakin’s draft date, he was awarded an entry-level contract by the Capitals. Eakin responded to their show of confidence with a breakout year for Swift Current, posting 47 goals and 91 points in 70 games on the season, numbers which rank him top-10 among all WHL players in both categories and dwarf his previous career highs of 24 goals and 48 points in 54 games in 2008-09.

Though it’s hard to project what role Eakin will play for an NHL team, his versatility makes him a safe prospect who is, at the very least, quick and responsible defensively. However, his offensive skills are tantalizing signs of a possible top-six future. He’ll have to return to Swift Current next year, and he’ll look to maintain his high level of play and parlay that into a solid professional debut.

Joel Broda, C – Calgary Hitmen

6’0", 203 lbs
Acquired: 5th round (144th overall), 2008
b. November 24, 1989

A gifted offensive forward whose skills as a goal scorer have blossomed over the past few seasons, Broda had a solid year in his first full campaign for Calgary, who traded for him midway through the 2008-09 season. He finished the year with 39 goals, 34 assists, and 73 points in 66 games, a drop from his 53 goals and 34 assists for 87 points in 67 games split with Calgary and Moose Jaw in 2008-09. Despite his quick release and laser-like accuracy, Broda is very much a hit-or-miss prospect. He could end up a second-line sniper at the NHL level if he works on his skating and two-way play, but could just as easily never crack an NHL roster.

With the glut of multifaceted prospects already ahead of him on the Capitals depth chart, the team may not have the space to sign him or the patience to see if he develops, but he’ll likely find an opportunity somewhere when he tries to turn pro this fall.

Eric Mestery, D – Lethbridge Hurricanes/Tri-City Americans

6’5", 195 lbs
Acquired: 2nd round (57th overall), 2008
b. May 28, 1990

Drafted as a project pick with an impressive mix of size and skating ability, Mestery is still very raw and has not progressed much since his second-round selection in 2008. Despite his large frame, Mestery is still more lanky than intimidating, and has shied away from playing a physical brand of hockey, instead trying to mold himself into a positionally sound two-way defender. He split this year with Lethbridge and Tri-City, and in a combined 68 games, he put up three goals and 10 assists for 13 points. If he were a defensive anchor, his numbers would be justifiable, but he hasn’t illustrated enough defensive awareness to compensate for a lack of offensive production.

Though there’s still some potential in his build and mobility, his time in junior hockey is coming to a close and it’s uncertain whether the Caps, or any team for that matter, will be willing to risk a contract on him.

Garrett Mitchell, RW – Regina Pats

5’10", 180 lbs
Acquired: 6th round (175th overall), 2009
b. September 2, 1991

A scrappy forward known for his hits and willingness to drop the gloves, Mitchell’s commitment to improving his conditioning led to his being named the top athlete at Regina’s training camp to start the season. He followed up his solid camp by having a breakout year for Regina, contributing at both ends of the rink. After posting 28 points in 133 total WHL games in the two seasons from 2007-09, Mitchell potted 15 goals and added 16 assists for 31 points in 57 games in 2009-10. He also maintained his high-energy physical play, finishing the year with 110 penalty minutes to his name, 40 of which were from fighting majors.

Though he hasn’t been signed to a contract, he was given a brief tryout with Hershey to close out the season. He’ll likely return to juniors for another year, but could fill a valuable grinding role for them someday.


OHL

Stefan Della Rovere, LW – Barrie Colts
5’11", 196 lbs
Acquired: 7th round (204th overall), 2008

In 2008-09, Della Rovere finished second in points on the Colts with 51, posting 27 goals and 24 assists in 57 games, and his feistiness was apparent in the 146 penalty minutes he accumulated over the season. This year, though Della Rovere maintained his gritty, intense style of play, he was no longer depended on to be an integral part of the Colts offense. In the same number of games this year, he put up 18 goals, 23 assists, and 41 points, going from second in scoring among Barrie forwards in 2008-09 to eighth this year.

However, there is much more to Della Rovere’s game than offense. His leadership skills and intensity led to his appointment as Barrie’s captain, and he’s a fan favorite because of his hitting ability and fearlessness. He also suited up for Team Canada at the WJCs, and put up a respectable six points in six games. It still remains to be seen whether Della Rovere will be more than a supporting player at the NHL level, but he looks like a valuable piece nonetheless.

Brett Flemming, D – Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors
6’0", 172 lbs
Acquired: 5th round (145th overall), 2009
b. February 26, 1991

Flemming had a respectable season in a supporting role as an offensive defenseman for Mississauga, posting 24 points in 68 games. Slightly concerning is the fact that he only potted one goal, but the versatile defenseman attempted to make contributions in other ways. With 90 penalty minutes on the year and six fighting majors, Flemming illustrated a scrappy side to his game and also showed a propensity to come to the aid of his teammates.

Though he’s tall enough to be an offensive defenseman in the NHL, he still needs to put on a lot of weight to be able to handle bigger opponents. He’s still very raw, but there’s some potential there. He’ll likely spend at least another year in juniors; if he bulks up and steps up his game, he could become a decent two-way defensive prospect.


QMJHL

Dmitri Kugryshev, RW – Quebec Remparts
5’11", 193 lbs   
Acquired: 2nd round (58th overall), 2008
b. January 18, 1990

A shifty winger with good skills along the boards, Kugryshev moved to the QMJHL from the Russian junior system for the 2008-09 season, and impressed with 34 goals, 40 assists, and 74 points in 57 games last year, earning himself the title of Offensive Rookie of the Year. This season, Kugryshev quashed any concerns about his ability to maintain his high level of play, putting up 87 points in 66 games, good for first on his team and sixth overall in the QMJHL. Kugryshev also had 10 points in nine playoff games for Quebec before the team was eliminated.

Kugryshev handled his transition to North American hockey so well that the Capitals decided to ink him to a three-year, entry-level contract this March. Though it’s uncertain whether Kugryshev will play professional hockey next year or return to junior for another season, the two quality QMJHL seasons in his back pocket are a promising indication of his readiness to move on to a higher level of play.

Benjamin Casavant, LW – PEI Rocket
6’1", 213 lbs
Acquired 7th round (205th overall), 2009

Taken with one of the last picks in the 2009 draft after leading P.E.I. in scoring with 39 goals, 41 assists, and 80 points in 68 games during the 2008-09 season, Casavant had a difficult time maintaining his high offensive output from last season, as in 60 games, he posted totals of 32 goals, 24 assists, and 56 points, dropping in every category from the previous year. Part of the reason for his decline may have been because he was playing on a less talented squad, but he did not illustrate an ability to carry his team. His sub-par skating and puck-handling ability limits his ability to dictate the play, but his willingness to crash to the net makes him a valuable supporting player, at the junior level at least.

As it stands, Casavant’s still a long way from being offered a contract. He’ll return to the Q next year, and could potentially become a marquee player for PEI should he round out his game.

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