Offensive forwards highlight of CHL prospect pool for Washington Capitals

By Patrick Harbolick
Photo: After several spectacular seasons in the WHL, Cody Eakin will likely join the AHL next season. (Photo courtesy of Holly Gunning/HF)

A number one seed going into the playoffs and in the second round of the playoffs, the Washington Capitals certainly have much to smile about this season. But several promising junior prospects will also help replenish the pipeline and give Capitals fans plenty to look forward to in the coming years. Two-way stud Cody Eakin, slick sniper Stanislav Galiev, and a couple of other prospects have had great seasons in junior, and will look to make a splash with the Capitals in the near future.

WHL

Cody Eakin, C, Kootenay Ice
Acquired: 3rd round, 85th overall, 2009

After a strong showing at the World Junior Championship for Team Canada, Eakin was traded from Swift Current to Kootenay for several players and a handful of draft picks. In 26 games with the Ice, he potted 18 goals, added 26 assists, and posted a plus-16. In 56 regular season games split between Swift Current and Kootenay, he registered a stellar 83 points, a new career high. He missed some time due to groin and hand injuries, but altogether had a strong campaign. In the playoffs, he has really shined. In 14 games, he’s posted 18 points, leading Kootenay to a sweep of the Medicine Hat Tigers in the semifinals of the WHL Playoffs. They’ll face either the Portland Winterhawks or the Spokane Chiefs in the WHL final for a berth in the Memorial Cup.

For now, Eakin is an integral piece in Kootenay’s run to the Memorial Cup. Next season, look for him to compete for a roster spot in training camp but probably start the year with the Hershey Bears (AHL). His all-around game continues to develop, and with his speed, he could become an effective checking line player with offensive upside in the near future. He’s proving to be an impact player in the Washington Capitals‘ prospect pool.

Garrett Mitchell, RW, Regina Pats
Acquired: 6th round, 175th overall, 2009

Captaining the woeful Regina Pats in his fourth and final junior season, Mitchell posted career highs in goals (18), assists (34), and points (52). Additionally, he matched his career high in penalty minutes with 140, including 10 fights. Regina finished the regular season with a measly 23 wins in 72 games and missed the playoffs. After his junior season ended, he joined the Bears for a couple of contests, which included a fight.

Going forward, look for Mitchell to spend next season with the Bears, honing his defensive game and continuing to agitate opponents. If he’s going to make the NHL, it will be as a bottom-six grinder, but he’ll need a few more years to adjust to the pro game before he’s ready to crack an NHL lineup.


OHL

Philipp Grubauer, G, Kingston Frontenacs
Acquired: 4th round, 112th overall, 2010

In 38 games tending the net for Kingston, Grubauer posted a decent record of 22-13-3, but his goals against average (3.62) and save percentage (.903) were less than ideal. He also played for Germany in the World Junior Championship, but he performed below average and was pulled twice in the four games he started. The Frontenacs were bounced four games to one in the first round of the OHL playoffs by the Oshawa Generals. However, he wasn’t there to help his team in the playoffs, as he returned to Germany because of a bout of mononucleosis.

Grubauer needs much more seasoning at the AHL level before he’s ready to play in the NHL. He plays big in net, but he’s struggled with bouts of inconsistency. Mononucleosis has taken some development time from him, and he’ll need to get into more games next season to continue his development. Down the line, he could prove to be a reliable NHL backup.


Brett Flemming, D, Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors
Acquired: 5th round, 145th overall, 2009

Mississauga had a season to remember in 2010-11, leading the entire OHL in wins, points percentage, goals for, and goals against. And Flemming rode the wave, with career highs in goals (4), assists (39), points (43), and plus-minus (plus-60). He finished 11th in point scoring by defenseman and led the league in plus-minus. But he wasn’t just a passenger on a great team; many have commented on his improved abilities on both sides of the ice. In fact, he was named Hardest Worker and Best Defensive Defenseman in the OHL Eastern Conference Coaches Poll for 2010-11. In that same poll, he also finished second in votes for Most Underrated Player and Best Body Checker and finished third in voting for Best Penalty Killer. In 13 playoff games, he’s posted five assists as the Majors will face the Owen Sound Attack in the OHL final, though as host city they’re guaranteed a spot in the Memorial Cup.

Flemming has really stepped up his game this season, his fourth and final in the OHL. He’s provided offense, as expected, but his defensive game has been more impressive. He’s taken the next step in his development by rounding out his entire game and improved his stock in the Capitals’ prospect pool. Look for him to crack the Bears lineup next season, as he’ll need some seasoning in the AHL before he’s ready for the NHL.

QMJHL

Stanislav Galiev, LW, St. John Sea Dogs
Acquired: 3rd round, 86th overall, 2010

Like Mississauga, St. John is also having a spectacular campaign. In 68 games, the Sea Dogs posted a league-leading 58 wins and also led the league in points percentage, goals for, and goals against. In 64 games, Galiev shattered his previous career high in goals (15) by potting 37 and adding 28 assists for a career-high 65 points, to go along with a fantastic plus-36 rating. He finished third in goal scoring and fourth in point scoring for the Sea Dogs this season, improving on the impressive rookie year he had in 2009-10. He failed to make the roster for Team Russia for the World Junior Championship, obviously disappointing him but he’s still young and has plenty of time to strut his stuff on the world stage. In 13 playoff games, he’s posted 19 points, tied for fifth in playoff scoring. St. John swept Lewiston MAINEiacs in the QMJHL semifinals and will face either the Quebec Remparts or the Gatineau Olympiques in the QMHJL final for a shot at the Memorial Cup.

Galiev has taken a backseat to 2011 NHL draft hopefuls Jonathan Huberdeau and Zack Phillips, but he is still providing offense with his slick stick-handling skills and a shot that’s become more and more dangerous. Like most young players, he needs to work the defensive aspects of his game and get stronger. While he didn’t take as large of a step forward as many were hoping for this season, he’s shined in the playoffs and is proving he shouldn’t be an afterthought on a team loaded with offensive weapons. Down the road, he projects to be a solid second- or third-liner with offensive capabilities. Next season, he’ll likely join the Bears to continue his development in the hopes of making it to the NHL.


Samuel Carrier, D, Lewiston MAINEiacs
Acquired: 6th round, 176th overall, 2010

In his second season with Lewiston, Carrier posted impressive numbers, notching 11 goals and adding 39 assists to go along with a great plus-40 in 61 games. He progressed well in his second season with the MAINEiacs and finished fourth on the team in scoring. Lewiston was a middle of the pack team throughout the season, but made it all the way to the QMJHL semifinals before bowing out to St. John in four games. And Carrier was a large part of their postseason success, posting 16 points in 15 games, good for fourth in team scoring, and a plus-five.

An offensively minded defenseman, Carrier’s point totals certainly didn’t disappoint in the regular season and the postseason. He still needs time to bulk up and work on his defensive prowess, but the MAINEiacs and the Capitals have to be excited with his progress. He’ll spend next season with Lewiston, continuing to round out his game and helping the MAINEiacs build on their remarkable playoff run.


USHL

Caleb Herbert, C, Sioux City Musketeers
Acquired: 5th round, 142nd overall, 2010

Despite missing time due to injury and international competitions, Herbert led the Musketeers in scoring, with 51 points in 50 games. But in the first round of the playoffs, he went pointless and minus-one as Sioux City fell to Sioux Falls, two games to one. Altogether, he had a great rookie season in the USHL, finishing in the top-20 in scoring, despite his young age.

For 2011-12, he’ll join the NCAA Champions, the University of Minnesota-Duluth, to begin his collegiate career. His game is predicated on his offensive talents, and he’ll need some time to improve his all-around game. With a few years of seasoning, he could prove to be an effective player and may be an impact player for the Capitals down the road.