Washington Capitals: The Next Generation

By Jeff Charlesworth
Last week we looked at the rookies that might be in Washington this season. This week, I would like to show you all the first-year pros in the Capitals organization, and where they fit in.

Most of these players will be assigned to the Capitals top farm club: the AHL Portland Pirates. All of them have the potential to be NHLers someday, and the Caps will be watching their development very closely.

Matt Pettinger

Pettinger is one of three 2000 draftees that are expected to turn pro immediately for the Caps. The scouting staff thought so highly of him that they traded up to select him. Although he is considered more of a defensive player, he does have some offensive ability. Due to the Capitals lack of depth on the wings at the minor-league level, he should be Portland’s first or second-line left winger. Depending on who he gets paired with, he could put up some decent offensive numbers.

Krys Barch

Barch truly impressed the coaches in his brief tryout at the end of last season. He had not played up to his full potential during his junior career, and was in danger of falling down the depth chart. He will be in tough to earn one of the top line positions, but the opportunity is there. The Capitals have always felt that Krys has enormous potential, and now is his chance to show it. The organization’s weakest position is left wing, and he can rise quickly if he plays well.

Stephen Peat

Peat will spend most of the season moving back and forth between forward and defense. Portland’s blueline is loaded right now, and his best chance to play full-time is as a forward. The Pirates already have an enforcer in Jason Shmyr, but since both Peat and Shmyr also contribute to the team in other ways – there is no reason why they both shouldn’t see extensive duties. Stephen is a potential recall by the Capitals at some point this season.

Michal Sivek

Sivek is a bit difficult to peg at the moment, due to the uncertainty of where he will be playing this season. If he ends up in Portland, he would have a chance to put up some big numbers. He may be a centre in the minors, but his best chance to make it to the NHL is as a winger. Michal only has one season of North American hockey to his credit, but is making a quick climb. He will be participating in the WJC tournament in December, and should play his best hockey of the season when he returns.

Ryan VanBuskirk

VanBuskirk got into a few AHL games at the end of last season with the Springfield Falcons. He is a hard hitter with some offensive skill, and fits in perfectly with the new Capitals philosophy. He is another defenseman who has experimented at forward, but expect him to remain on the blueline. Ryan will have something to prove after leaving the Phoenix organization three months ago. He will be paired with one of Portland’s veteran defensemen as he is brought along slowly.

Michael Farrell

After splitting time during his college career between forward and defense, Farrell joined the Pirates for their stretch run late last season and played forward exclusively. Training camp and the early part of the season will be crucial for Michael as he tries to find a place in the lineup. It is possible he will fill a “tweener” role – as the seventh defenseman and role playing forward at the same time. He is not a flashy player, and will not be counted on for any offensive production.

Nathan Forster

Forster will be in tough to carve out a spot on the incredibly deep Portland blueline. If he is able to regain the level of play he was at early last season, he should be in the AHL. If he struggles during training camp, he may have to start the season with the ECHL Richmond Renegades. Nathan is a good player with a ton of potential, and the Caps don’t want to hinder his progression by having him sit in the press box. If he ends up in Richmond, he will get all the ice time he needs.

Rastislav Stana

Stana is in a bit of a tough situation – as he had an outstanding season last year, but won’t have a chance to win a spot in training camp. The organizational goaltending situation is pretty much set in stone. The Caps will want him to be a starter somewhere, and that place is ECHL Richmond. With Sebastien Charpentier and Curtis Cruickshank splitting the duties in Portland, there is no room for Stana. Being a backup at this stage of his career will do him no good, so playing with the Renegades is the best thing for him right now.