Washington Capitals Depth Analysis, Fall 2011

By Patrick Harbolick
Photo: Stanislav Galiev is one of several immensely talented Russians to be recently drafted by the Washington Capitals. He is currently playing with the St. John Sea Dogs of the QMJHL. (Photo courtesy of Aaron Bell/CHL Images)

With the graduations of Michal Neuvirth, Marcus Johansson, Mathieu Perreault, and Jay Beagle, the Washington Capitals are short on NHL-ready prospects within the organization. They have some high-potential prospects, including KHL star Evgeny Kuznetsov, but have a serious lack of depth behind the top prospects at each position.

Left Wing

The Capitals boast a legitimate top-six prospect in the silky Russian winger Stanislav Galiev of the 2011 Memorial Cup winner, the St. John Sea Dogs of the QMJHL. After a hot start with six points in five games, he was forced out of action due to a broken wrist he sustained during the Capitals’ training camp. Still a few weeks away from returning to action, hopefully he can hit his stride quickly and keep putting up points for the Sea Dogs.

Through nine games with the University of Calgary, Taylor Stefishen has notched 11 points. It’s been a long and winding junior career from Stefishen, going from the BCHL to Ohio State to Prince George to Calgary. He’s found a solid role in the Dinos’ line-up. It remains to be seen where he fits in the Capitals’ long-term plans though.

Another player who’s bounced around is Andrew Glass, who’s entering his first season with the Carleton University after being dismissed from Boston University last season. He’s yet to see any action with the Ravens and his future with the Capitals is in question.

Greg Burke has struggled to find his groove in his junior season at the University of New Hampshire, notching a lone assist in eight games. He’s going to need to put his game together before he’s ready to make it in the pros.


Center

Cody Eakin has had an interesting first professional season so far, acquitting himself well and even being called-up to the Capitals. In his first eight NHL games, he has registered four points, including the first goal of his young NHL career. In 10 games with the Hershey Bears (AHL), he’s potted three goals and added five assists. A steal in the third round in the 2009 NHL draft, Eakin has shown flashes of his potential as a top-nine forward, though he is still a little raw.

Behind him, Mattias Sjogren is also jockeying for playing time in the NHL. In his first professional season with Hershey, he’s posted five points in 16 games, adding physicality to the forward corps. He’s still adjusting to the North American game, but he’ll be in the NHL as a physical grinder sooner rather than later.

Christian Hanson is also battling Eakin and Sjogren for a spot on the lower lines in Washington, and he’s got more professional experience in North America than both combined. There’s still hope he can contribute as an injury call-up and perhaps parlay that into a full-time role on the lower lines of the Capitals.

More of long-term project, Caleb Herbert is off to a great start in his freshmen campaign with the University of Minnesota-Duluth with 14 points in 14 games. He’s an offensive catalyst, and it’s good to see he’s contributing already. He’s still a few years away from going pro and the Capitals have plenty of time to decide on his future with the organization.

Recent draftee Travis Boyd is off to a solid start in his freshman season with the University of Minnesota, adding five assists in 12 games. Boyd excelled in the Capitals’ development camp and has been lauded for his smart, two-way game. He still needs to develop and add strength, but he projects well with his sound overall game.

Nick Larson is off to a decent start with two points in 11 games at the University of Minnesota, but he’s expected to contribute more as a senior. He doesn’t appear to be in the Capitals’ plans.


Right Wing

The gem of the Capitals’ prospect pool, Evgeny Kuznetsov is having a dynamite season with Traktor, with the offense flowing through his slick hands. He’s proven to be a true star in the young KHL campaign and is only getting better. Hopefully he’s put nagging shoulder injuries behind him, because he’s got the talent and the will to be the next Russian superstar in the NHL, alongside Alexander Ovechkin. In 23 KHL games, he’s potted 10 goals and added five assists. The hope is that he’ll join the Capitals next season and could contribute right away.

The Capitals also boast a pair of agitators on the right wing in Garrett Mitchell and Danick Paquette. Mitchell was sent down to South Carolina of the ECHL to begin his professional career, where he was held pointless in two games. He’s since been called up to Hershey, where’s he’s scored two goals and added eight penalty minutes in 10 games. He’s been contributing as a grinder, and with some seasoning could be a valuable fourth liner in the NHL in a few years.

Paquette is still with South Carolina, where he’s gotten into three scraps and registered 53 penalty minutes in 16 games. He’s also chipped in eight points, showing he’s got a bit of skill. The Capitals don’t typically use enforcers, so Paquette’s future in Washington is probably limited. Much like the left side, the Capitals lack depth on right wing.

Defense

What a surprise, another high-end Russian talent leads the charge on the defensive side of the Capitals’ prospect pool. Dmitri Orlov is off to a solid start in his first full professional season in North America with the Bears, with nine points in 15 games. With great offensive ability and a defensive game that is coming together, he should be in the NHL full-time within the next few seasons. He’ll likely see some action with Capitals due to injuries, but he’s still got to hone his overall game.

Patrick Wey, another mobile two-way defenseman, is off to a slow start in his junior year with Boston College. He’s still a little raw and needs some work in all three zones, but the Capitals have got to be pleased with his development so far. He’s still a few years away from going pro, but could contribute in a depth role with the Capitals in a few years.

Coming off a stellar junior career, Brett Flemming is off to a decent start to his professional career, with two points and 23 penalty minutes in 10 games. He’s still raw, but plays a smart, physical game. He needs to develop a little more and add strength, but he might be too small to succeed as a physical, NHL-caliber defenseman.

The Capitals shook up their minor league roster a bit this season, swapping Francois Bouchard (RW) for Tomas Kundratek, a young defenseman from the Rangers. Kundratek is a steady, all-around defender with a bit of offensive ability. He’s slowly acclimating himself to the Bears’ line-up and could be useful as a depth NHLer down the line.

Samuel Carrier is off to a great start in his third season in the QMJHL, his first with Baie-Comeau. He’s notched 15 points in 20 games, good for first among Baie-Comeau’s rearguards. His game is built around his offensive ability, and he certainly isn’t disappointing so far. There’s hope he’ll develop his all-around game and be able to play in all three zones effectively at the professional level.

Patrick McNeill, one of Hershey’s older defenseman, is currently tied for the lead in scoring among Bears defensemen with nine assists in 16 games. He appears to be one of the first potential call-ups should the Capitals face injuries on the blue line, but he’s had a tough time cracking the NHL roster so far. With continued development, he could become a serviceable depth defenseman at the NHL level.

Zach Miskovic is a steady, stay-at-home defenseman who’s not really noticeable on the statsheet. He may have topped out as an AHL-level defenseman, but he’s a valuable part of Hershey’s line-up.

Dustin Stevenson is a hulking bruiser on the back end, plying his trade with South Carolina this season. He seems to have maxed out his potential and will likely only make it to the AHL, if that.

2011 draftee Garrett Haar had a tumultuous offseason after de-committing from Northeastern (NCAA), but he landed at Western Michigan University and is off to a solid start with five points in 13 games. General Manager George McPhee was impressed with his play at development camp and he projects well as a defensive-minded defenseman who can chip in a bit on offense.

Patrick Koudys is also having a good year at the NCAA level, currently in his sophomore season with RPI. He hasn’t put up many points, but he plays a smart game and has a large frame. Like Haar, he needs more seasoning in the NCAA, but he could be contributing with the Bears in a few years.

Goaltending

One of the Capitals’ best prospects, Braden Holtby is off to a disappointing start with Hershey so far, posting a record of 4-4-1, a goals against average of 2.78 and a .888 save percentage in 10 games. He was hoping to start the year with Washington, but wasn’t going to beat out Tomas Vokoun and Michal Neuvirth. Should injuries strike, he could see some NHL duty like he did last season, but is still a year away from a backing-up Neuvirth.

Steffen Soberg looked like a potential late-round steal in the 2011 draft, but he’s yet to suit up for action this season after deciding against playing for Swift Current. He’s got a lot of potential, but he’s still raw and needs playing time to develop.

Philipp Grubauer has been dominant thus far, lighting up the ECHL with South Carolina, posting a record of 7-1-1, a goals against average of 1.65 and a .941 save percentage. He’s still got a ways to go, but so far he’s shown excellent play and will continue to improve. Long-term, he could make it as an NHL backup.

Brandon Anderson was off to a bad start in his fourth junior season and was traded from Lethbridge (WHL) to Brandon, where he hasn’t fared much better. With Lethbridge, he posted a record of 2-3-1, a 3.78 goals against average, and a .894 save percentage. Thus far with Bradon, he’s 4-4-1, with a 4.35 goals against average and a .877 save percentage. He impressed the Capitals’ brass last year and parlayed that into an entry-level deal, but he’s yet to truly excel in the Dub and his future with the team is in doubt.