Washington Capitals boast depth and talent CHL level

By Patrick Harbolick
Photo: Cody Eakin will look to try and help Team Canada at the 2010 WJCs. (Photo courtesy of Holly Gunning/HF)

Many of the Washington Capitals’ prospects are currently plying their trade with the Hershey Bears of the AHL, but they have a healthy number of prospects playing quality minutes in junior. Two are playing in the WHL, two in the OHL, two in the QMJHL, and one in the USHL. Three are from the 2009 draft class and four are from the 2010 draft class.

WHL

Cody Eakin, C, Swift Current Broncos
Acquired: 3rd round (85th overall) in 2009
May 24th, 1991. Ht: 6’0 Wt: 189 lbs.

The captain of the Broncos had a strong showing at the Capitals’ training camp but was ultimately sent back to the WHL, where he has been dominant. He’s posted 29 points in 25 games and is sparking the offense for Swift Current. He was also named captain of Team WHL for the 2010 Subway Series against the Russians. The offensive dynamo centered the top line for Team WHL in the Game 6 loss and series clincher for the Russians. He had a decent showing, and was named to Team Canada’s World Junior selection camp recently. He’ll be expected to contribute on the international stage for his country, putting the puck in the net and adding speed to the lineup.

Eakin continues to showing his scoring prowess as expected, but his defensive game is lacking right now, as evidenced by his minus-six. He’s missed a few games resting a groin injury as well. Swift Current has had balanced scoring this season and Eakin’s point totals have suffered as a result but he’s providing good leadership and looks to be a factor in the Capitals’ prospect pool for the years to come.

Garrett Mitchell, RW, Regina Pats
Acquired: 6th round (175th overall) in 2009
February 9th, 1991. Ht: 5’11 Wt: 185 lbs.

The captain of the Regina Pats is having another solid season, posting 14 points in 27 games thus far. It’s on another part of the score sheet that he’s showing his true talents: his penalty minutes total. He’s registered 51 penalty minutes so far and has been involved in four fights. If he ever hopes to make the Capitals, it’ll be a as a bottom-six agitator and he’s been strutting his stuff so far in this very young junior season.

Look for him to make a splash at the Capitals’ training camp within a few years with his great work ethic and phenomenal leadership skills.


OHL

Philipp Grubauer, G, Kingston Frontenacs
Acquired: 4th round (112th overall) in 2010
November 25th, 1991. Ht: 6’0 Wt: 170 lbs.

Tending the net for the Kingston Frontenacs, Grubauer has acquitted himself well as the starter thus far, posting 13 of the team’s 15 wins. He sports a solid .909 save percentage, but also has a bloated 3.37 goals against average. The Frontenacs are having a decent season thus far, but they’ve barely scored more goals than they’ve given up, showing that Grubauer is keeping them in games and proving to be a difference maker. While his numbers aren’t ideal, he’s certainly doing well for himself based on the fact that Kingston is a middling team.
Look for Grubauer to lead Germany at the World Junior Championships and prove he’s an elite amateur talent. A couple more years of seasoning are to be expected, but don’t be surprised if the Capitals’ announcers are calling his name in the not too distant future.

Brett Flemming, D, Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors
Acquired: 5th round (145th overall) in 2009
February 26th, 1991. Ht: 5’11 Wt: 184 lbs.

Flemming is having a breakout season for Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors, as he’s on pace for a career high in points and is at the top of the OHL in terms of plus-minus, with a plus-25 rating in 25 games. St. Michael’s has been dominant thus far, winning 22 out of 25 games, leading the entire OHL in points and winning percentage. Much of the credit goes to their spectacular offense, but the defense and goaltending has been outstanding as well, with the lowest goals against so far. Flemming has been an integral part of the backline, providing a steady mix of offensive skill and defensive dependability, as evidenced by his gaudy plus-minus numbers.

However, seeing as this is his fourth season in the OHL, Flemming’s improved statistics are to be expected because he has so much experience. While he’s progressing nicely, he’s still a long shot to make the NHL seeing as he’s relatively small for a defenseman and might not be able to handle the rigors of the ultra-physical NHL.

QMJHL

Stanislav Galiev, LW, St. John Sea Dogs
Acquired: 3rd round (86th overall) in 2010
January 17th, 1992. Ht: 6’1 Wt: 188 lbs.

Galiev, the slick-skating Russian playing for St. John, is following up his impressive rookie year with a point-per-game campaign so far, with 22 points in 23 games. St. John is off to a torrid pace this season, with a 22-3-2 record and they have scored almost 60 more goals than they have given up. Galiev is the sixth-leading scorer on this strong St. John squad, although his plus-six is well off the pace of most of his teammates. This season, he’s showing that his rookie scoring numbers weren’t a fluke, but he hasn’t made as big a leap this season as some were expecting. Some of the younger players on the team have really stepped up and are leading the way offensively, while Galiev is playing more of a complementary role. Galiev also played in one game in the 2010 Subway Series, in which he registered a shot but was otherwise not very noticeable.

All things considered, he’s still very young and still adjusting to the North American playing style. With a few more years to develop at the junior and pro level, he could prove to be a diamond in the rough after being selected in the third round.

Samuel Carrier, D, Lewiston MAINEiacs
Acquired: 6th round (176th overall) in 2010
April 28th, 1992 Ht: 6’0 Wt: 186 lbs.

Carrier is having a strong season for Lewiston, with 18 points and a plus-11 in 28 games, second in scoring by defensemen for the MAINEiacs. Lewiston is having a great season, currently second in the TELUS East Division and fourth overall in the QMJHL. Carrier has been excellent on the power play, tied for the team lead in power play goals with three. There’s where he’s expected to contribute, with his booming shot and offensive instincts. He’s still relatively small when compared to NHL defenseman but his offensive flair is well-respected around the QMJHL.

Carrier still needs several more years of seasoning level before he’s ready to play at the NHL, but in time he could prove to be a valuable power play specialist.

USHL

Caleb Herbert, C, Sioux City Musketeers
Acquired: 5th round (142nd overall) in 2010
October 12th, 1991 Ht: 5’11 Wt: 185 lbs.

Herbert got off to a fast start in the USHL with Sioux City, and was named CCM’s Offensive Player of the Week in late October. He also represented Team USA in the World Junior A Challenge, where he notched three points in four official games en route to a tournament victory for Team USA. He’s posted 12 points in 13 USHL games, but he’s far off the points leaders after spending the beginning of the season as a top-three scorer. He may have hit a wall, but if he can dominate like he did in the first handful of games, he’ll find his way back to the scoring leader board.

Herbert will play for the University of Minnesota-Duluth in 2011-12, where he’ll hone his game for at least a few years. So far he’s shown that the offensive wizardry he displayed in high school wasn’t a fluke and if he can translate his high-skill game to the college level, he has a chance to make an impact with the Capitals down the line.