The 2009-10 season was a banner year for the Washington Capitals in terms of their regular season performance. With a 54-15-13 record, the Capitals not only claimed the Southeast Division crown for themselves, but also their first-ever President’s Trophy for most points in the league.
Individually, it was another fine year for superstar Alexander Ovechkin. His 50 goals and 109 points put him in second in the league for each category, while Nicklas Backstrom enjoyed his best season as a pro with 68 assists and 101 points.
The Capitals also had a feel-good story in net. Jose Theodore took over the starting reigns in net, starting 47 of the team’s games and posting a 30-7-7 record. His comeback efforts were enough to earn him the Bill Masterson Trophy for perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.
Unfortunately, the feel-good story would not last into the playoffs. By this time, they had begun to develop a reputation for being underachievers come playoff time, and their performance in 2010 did nothing to help that reputation. Facing the eighth-seeded Montreal Canadiens, the Capitals jumped out to a 3-1 series lead only to see it evaporate into a seven-game loss. The defeat remains one of the biggest upsets in recent memory.
Heading into the 2010 NHL Draft, the Capitals knew they’d be selecting late and had no strategy other than to select the best player available when their time at the podium came.
Evgeny Kuznetsov, C, Traktor Chelyabinsk (KHL), 1st round, 26th overall
Status: NHL Player
NHL Games Played: 97
During this time period, the Capitals had a penchant for finding highly-skilled offensive players. Kuznetsov, with a 6’0 frame, wasn’t going to help address the questions about grit and determination that were plaguing the Capitals. There also were no goaltenders realistically available at that pick, and the club had Semyon Varlamov and Michal Neuvrith already knocking on the NHL door with Braden Holtby waiting in the wings.
Kuznetsov’s road to the NHL was definitely not a quick one. During his four seasons with Traktor Chelyabinsk, he displayed incredible offensive ability as a kid among men, racking up 138 points in 175 games before making his NHL debut in a 17-game stint during the 2013-14 season.
After years of hype and a cup of coffee in the bigs, he made 2014-15 his official NHL rookie season by appearing in 80 games with the Capitals. His performance, as is the case with most rookies, was up and down. He posted 11 goals and 37 points on the year, leading the team’s rookies in both categories and finished ninth among the NHL’s rookie in scoring.
At 22 years old, his best days are still very much ahead of him and he’ll be given every opportunity to grow and develop into the top-six forward the Capitals envisioned when they selected him.
Stanislav Galiev, LW, Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL) – 3rd round, 86th overall
NHL Games Played: 2
Heading into the 2010 NHL Draft, Galiev was an interesting prospect. He wasn’t a dominant offensive presence for the Saint John Sea Dogs of the QMJHL during his lone season there, but he was solid and showed promise while scoring 15 goals and 60 points in 67 games as a rookie.
After the Capitals selected him in the third round, it looked as though they’d found a diamond in the rough. His 37 tallies in 64 games the following year for Saint John made it appear as if they’d found a 6’1 scoring winger with untapped potential.
An injury-plagued 2011-12 (where he still scored 13 goals in 20 games) and a few productive years with the Reading Royals of the ECHL has led everyone back to the same question: Can he do it at higher levels of competition?
Galiev showed flashes of talent with Hershey of the AHL in 2014-15, scoring 25 goals and 45 points in 67 games, though he still lacked consistency. At 23 years old, he’s getting to the end of the prospect timeline, but his performance this season will earn him a longer look in Hershey in the hope that he can continue to develop his offensive game.
Watch this 2010 NHL Draft Look Back video featuring Capitals’ draft picks Evgeny Kuznetsov (in Russian) and Stanislav Galiev.
Philipp Grubauer, G, Windsor Spitfires (OHL) – 4th round, 112th overall
NHL Games Played: 20
Not much was thought of the 6’1 German goaltender when he was selected in the fourth round of the 2010 NHL Draft. In two seasons with the Belleville Bulls, his numbers were mediocre and it didn’t look like the NHL was in his future. But a mid-season trade to the Windsor Spitfires seemed to ignite him, and his performance was enough to earn a draft spot.
He would have another subpar junior season with the Kingston Frontenacs before moving on to the ECHL. There, he bounced between South Carolina and Reading, putting up numbers strong enough to earn him a roster spot with Hershey of the AHL.
Grubauer has been quietly solid during his time in Hershey. Though he has shared starting duties with various netminders over the last few seasons, he had 49 starts this season—nearly twice what he’d had in his previous two combined.
Grubauer is ready to be a backup NHL netminder, though the question about whether that will be in Washington remains to be seen. There is a glut of talented prospects in the system and the team will clearly be riding Braden Holtby for the foreseeable future.
Caleb Herbert, C, Bloomington Jefferson H.S. (MN) – 5th round, 142nd overall
NHL Games Played: 0
The Capitals took a chance on an undersized kid out of the Minnesota High School hockey scene in the fifth round after a dominant performance during his senior season. Sure, it was high school hockey, but 26 goals and 54 points in 25 games is nothing to sneeze at.
Since then, he has had a fairly successful three seasons at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, compiling 89 points in his 112 career games on the collegiate scene. He would graduate to Hershey to start the 2014-15 season, though an uneventful 12 games would eventually lead to a move to the ECHL with the South Carolina Stingrays. His 19 goals and 28 points in 42 games were not outstanding, but they showed his potential.
Heading into 2015-16, the 23-year-old center will likely get one more shot at Hershey to continue his development. He is a smaller center with good speed and offensive instincts, but he may not get many more opportunities after this.
Samuel Carrier, D, Lewiston MAINEiacs (QMJHL) – 6th round, 176th overall
Status: Out of the system
NHL Games Played: 0
The Capitals have always had a thing for smaller, quicker defensemen with strong puck skills and Carrier fits that description to a tee. 2009-10 was his first full season in the QMJHL and he’d had an impressive 42 points in 66 games.
After his selection, he bounced around the QMJHL over the next three seasons with three teams, never really building on his initial performance. His growth wasn’t enough to warrant sending him to either the ECHL or the AHL, and he played for McGill University of the Ontario University Athletic Association before landing in the Ligue Nord-Americaine de Hockey, a low-level professional league in Quebec, for 2014-15.
Notable Playoff Performances
There weren’t many prospects still playing well into April, but there are two worth mentioning. Jakub Vrana made his North American debut with Hersey of the AHL and has not disappointed. He made just three regular-season appearances, but racked up five assists in those three games.
In the playoffs, he also played well. In ten games with Hershey, he had a pair of goals and four assists, though his Bears lost their second round matchup in the Calder Cup Playoffs.
Speaking of the Bears, a pair of defensive prospects led the team offensively through two rounds. Cameron Schilling was a surprise offensive presence, popping in a trio of goals and five assists while leading the team with a plus-six rating. Fellow defenseman Nate Schmidt led the team in goals (4) and points (9).
Prospect of the Month: Madison Bowey
Madison Bowey is the best prospect in the Capitals’ system and he shows why seemingly every month. The WHL kicked off their playoffs during the month of April and Bowey has been nothing short of spectacular.
The Kelowna Rockets cruised through to the Western Conference final, winning eight of their first nine playoff games. But in the conference final, they ran into a little trouble with the Portland Winterhawks. They fell behind frequently, but Bowey helped bail them out each and every time.
After leading the team to the WHL Championship, Bowey helped the rockets advance to the Memorial Cup Finals, where they lost to the OHL’s Oshawa Generals. He finished the tournament with six points in five games.
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