New Rankings for Caps Prospects, 1-10

By Rick Davis
Rating prospects is an extraordinarily difficult thing to do. Both John Blankenship (Battleship) and myself each reorganized the prospects and the following list is basically a compromise between what we each had. I had an extremely hard time choosing a #1, and at times I felt that prospects were so close together in terms of development and potential that it would probably be more accurate to tier them as opposed to rank them in order. There are comments from both John and myself as well as from Jeff Charlesworth after each prospect, and I apologize in advance for my bad jokes.
If you disagree with us on some prospects that’s fine, in fact we welcome it. We didn’t agree on everything ourselves, as you will see. This is not an exact science, so feel free to post any thoughts, comments or questions you may have.
I think I can speak for John, Jeff, and myself when I say that we all worked hard on this, and hope you enjoy it.

1. Charlie Stephens C, Guelph (OHL), Capitals’ third choice, 31st overall in 1999


John’s comments:
After nearly two years of playing with a broken bone in his wrist, Charlie had surgery and is finally starting to live up to all the hype. He’s huge. He can skate, handle puck, pass and shoot really well. He’s a goal scoring threat shooting the puck or driving to the net. He loves to hit and will fight if he has to. He plays in all situations, including penalty kills. He’s a Co-captain of his team. He’s an NHL star in the making. He could make the Caps next year, depending on the Caps free agents decisions. NHL all-star potential.


Rick’s comments:
Both John and I had Charlie rated at #1. In the Guelph games I have listened to, Charlie has dominated. He was the #1 overall pick in the OHL draft a few years ago, and now we know why. While I wouldn’t be surprised to see him make the Caps next year, I think that the Caps are going to take their time with him and send him to Portland. A lot depends on camp, which I expect to be extremely competitive.


Jeff’s comments:
Charlie has really stepped up his production after being somewhat overlooked last season. He is playing as well as he ever has, and is showing glimpses of the dominance scouts predicted when he first came into the OHL. Bringing him directly to the NHL next season may be a mistake, as I feel he still has a few things to learn. Expect him to play next season in Portland with the possibility of some call-ups to DC.

2. Kris Beech C, Calgary (WHL), Capitals’ first choice, 7th overall in 1999


John’s comments:
The most talented player in the Caps system. Kris is a great skater and puck handler. He has incredible vision and also has been shooting the puck more lately. Plays the point on the powerplay and is captain for the Hitmen. The Hitmen were terrible before he got there and have been dominant since he arrived. Coach Dean Clark constantly praises Kris as a leader and a player. He needs to bulk up before playing in the NHL. I have no questions on his work ethic. He hustled and back checked well in Caps camp. He was cut from the Canadian national team, many say because of an attitude problem. He missed two previous World Junior tournaments because of injuries. He missed his WHL all-star commitment because of an elbow injury. His character and commitment are in question right now and this summer will tell us how serious he is about being an NHLer. If he trains hard, he’ll be a huge success in the NHL. Likely to start in Portland next season. NHL all-star potential.


Rick’s comments:
I had Kris at #2 and John had him at #3. He has already played in a few NHL games, and was impressive when I saw him in a pre-season game playing on a line with Jan Bulis and Richard Zednik. I think this may give him an advantage going into camp next year over some of the other forwards, but he absolutely has to bulk up before camp. I honestly don’t believe he was given much of a chance at the WJC camp last year because the OHL coach had essentially pencilled in his starting lineup in which some of the other young Canadian talent (such as Jason Spezza) filled the top two lines, and role players filled the third and fourth lines. Kris was pigeonholed as finesse forward. With the overabundance of skilled forwards (many of whom were from the OHL – guys the OHL coach knew from playing for him or playing against him) , Kris was let go. Bad press made him seem like a whiner, but it’s easy to understand why he would complain when there were clearly less skilled players on the Canadian roster. In any case, it is over now, and I think Kris will be in Washington next year. Whether he is or not will depend on how strong he is on and off the puck in training camp.


Jeff’s comments:
Kris has had a bit of a rough year after failing to make the Caps and then later the Canadian WJC team. After years of being the number one player on the ice, he is being challenged to raise his game. He is putting up good numbers and once again, his Calgary Hitmen are Memorial Cup contenders. Unless the Capitals make some changes, there isn’t any space for him next season either – and may spend a year in Portland.

3. Brian Sutherby C, Moose Jaw (WHL), Capitals’ first choice, 26th overall in 2000


John’s comments:
Brian was very impressive in Caps camp and it has carried over to his junior play. He’s an outstanding defensive center who’s started to put up points too. A great skater with and without the puck. He sets up his teammates well. He’s started to shoot the puck more and is scoring some goals because of it. He can hit and is a great fighter for someone who doesn’t fight often. He needs to gain weight, although he’s very strong for his size. A strong candidate to make the Caps next season, although another junior season is more likely because of the Caps depth at center. Outstanding two-way NHL player potential.


Rick’s comments:
John had Sutherby at #2, and I had Sutherby at #4. With or without his appendix, Brian has been one of the hardest working, most consistent Capitals prospects. He will make life hell for the Caps forwards in training camp, and should push them for their jobs. However with the Caps’ history of not rushing their prospects, I agree with John that he will probably go back to junior next year. But if he gets stronger, he might be ready next summer. We’ll see.


Jeff’s comments:
Brian is showing this season why the Capitals are so high on him. He has all the tools necessary to be an excellent two-way player in the NHL, and should arrive in DC soon. His appendicitis kept him away from the WJC and deprived him of a chance to prove himself on the world stage. He will probably spend another season in junior, although he would do well if given the chance in the NHL.

4. Michal Sivek C, Sparta Praha (Czech), Capitals’ second choice, 29th overall in 1999


John’s comments:
Michal is a very talented player that can play center or wing. had a very impressive Caps camp as a left wing. Like Sutherby is an outstanding defensive player who can improve offensively. He has a great slapshot. He skates really well and if he can get that slapshot off a little faster, he’ll be a scoring threat. Needs to get a little stronger. Could be a Cap, a Pirate or back in the Czech Republic next season. NHL two-way forward.


Rick’s comments:
I had Michal at #3, and John had him at #7. He was good in camp last year, but my main concern was that he wasn’t strong enough. I would have liked to see more of him in preseason games, but oh well. The fact that he captained the Czech team to victory at the WJC’s has me high on him, but he didn’t put up any eye-popping numbers there, and he hasn’t really been producing much in the Czech Republic this year although he is playing on the third and fourth lines. He was probably farther along than Beech was last summer (although Beech really didn’t have an especially good camp), and he has an especially good chance to make the Caps if Beech is not in shape. I think he’ll play for the Pirates next year.


Jeff’s comments:
The Capitals have to have been disappointed that Sivek went home to the Czech Republic to play this season. However, They should be very pleased that he played extremely well for the second straight World Junior Championship. He isn’t putting up huge numbers overseas, but he has battled injuries. Michal could be in the NHL right now, and is a good bet to push for a spot next season.

5. Matt Pettinger LW, Portland (AHL), Capitals’ second choice, overall in 2000


John’s comments:
Matt’s an incredibly hard worker, who’s developing a scoring touch. He’s a tremendous body checker and a works hard in the corners. He’s a better than average puckhandler and goes hard to the net. He’d be in the NHL right now in most systems. His scoring pace has improved. He’ll be in the NHL as soon as the Caps can make room for him. NHL power forward potential.


Rick’s comments:
I had Matt at 6 and John had him at 5. I liked what I’ve seen of Matt at the NHL level, and I like his numbers in the AHL. If I ran the Caps, I would probably have him in Washington, and I imagine he will be in the NHL full time next year.


Jeff’s comments:
Matt has proved he wasn’t a one-season wonder by playing exceedingly well this year. His work ethic and smart play earned him a couple of call-ups to DC. He is certainly capable of playing full-time in the NHL if the Caps were able to clear a spot for him. There is no reason to think that Matt won’t be wearing a Caps uniform in 2001-02.

6. Jakub Cutta D, Swift Current (WHL), Capitals’ third choice, overall in 2000


John’s comments:
A big defenseman who skates well and likes to hit. Not intimidated by tough players and has a nice mean streak. Has very good size and will improve with gained weight and strength. Has shown infrequent flashes of offense. He has a good shot and should use it more. Could be a Cap, a Pirate, in juniors, or possibly in the Czech republic next season. NHL top four Dman.


Rick’s comments:
I had Jakub at 5, John had him at 6. He won’t score 50 goals, but he is solid defensively and fast on his skates. If he comes to camp next season and shows that he can knock NHL players down in front of the net, I think he will be knocking people down in front of Kolzig next season. If the logjam at D prevents him from being in Washington, I think he’ll be back in juniors.


Jeff’s comments:
There are a lot of people who feel that Jakub should have stayed with the Capitals this season. Particularly now that there are a few problems on the DC blueline. He hasn’t looked back however, and his solid play in the WJC only seemed to add to his credentials. There is a very good chance Jakub will be given an opportunity to win a job with Washington next year.

7. Nolan Yonkman D, Brandon (WHL), Capitals’ fifth choice, 37th overall in 1999


John’s comments:
A huge D-man. He’s a big hitter and uses his size well in fights. He has improved his offensive production this season. He has a very good shot. He has the size and talent to jump up the prospect chart very fast. Big men sometimes take longer to develop. Should play in Portland next season if he signs with Washington. Top 4 NHL d-man.


Rick’s comments:
John and I both had Nolan at #8, which is kind of weird when you consider that Nolan wears #8. Also when he hits you, 8 is the number of minutes you lay on the ice before you realize where you are. I would agree that Nolan will probably play in Portland next year, and in a few years he and Jakub Cutta should be mopping up the front of the net in Washington. The Caps will be patient with him and won’t bring him up before they think he is ready. Hopefully he signs.


Jeff’s comments:
Nolan has improved greatly from last season – when he seemed to be struggling defensively. His play this year has been a pleasant surprise, and he has jumped up the depth chart as a result. He is still a long-term project however, and it could be 2-3 years until he surfaces in DC. There is a possibility that he could return to junior next season, but if signed, would more likely end up in ECHL Richmond.

8. Ross Lupaschuk D, Red Deer (WHL), Capitals’ fourth choice, 34th overall in 1999


John’s comments:
Ross has a rocket slapshot. He creates most of his offense from that shot. Ross works hard and plays in all situations. He was outstanding in a game earlier this season where he was the lone defenseman in a 5 on 3 penalty kill on three separate occasions and didn’t allow a goal. He’s a very good fighter, but has cut down on that lately. He needs to cut down on bad penalties (which he has to an extent). Will probably play in Portland next season if he signs with Washington. Top 6 NHL defenseman.


Rick’s comments:
I had Ross at #7, John had him at #10. He could be paired with Yonkman in Portland next year, as the offensive d-man. Hopefully he signs, too. He’ll get a lot of power play time wherever he plays, and his size and strength will be an asset to his team.


Jeff’s comments:
Ross’ numbers have excited a lot of people over the past two seasons, and many feel he has top-four defenseman potential. His size, speed and offensive instincts are indeed an attractive package, and it seems only a matter of time before he gets his chance in the NHL. The Capitals’ defensive depth may allow him to spend a year in the AHL as he improves.

9. Alexei Tezikov D, Portland (AHL), acquired by Capitals from Buffalo, 1998


John’s comments:
A great talent who skates and shoots the puck very well. He can hit when he wants to and is a pretty good fighter on the very rare occasions that he actually fights. He has improved this season after a terrible camp. He needs improve his decision making with the puck and improve his overall consistency. Very similar player to the Caps Sergei Gonchar. NHL all-star potential.


Rick’s comments:
While John had Alexei at #4, I put him at #14. The Caps expected him to be in the lineup on opening night 2000, but he was outplayed by rookies Jakub Cutta and Mike Farrell. Great shot, could run a power play. He has been impressive lately in Portland, and was an AHL all star this year. The Caps want him to free up his own spot in Washington by outplaying a veteran. They will be patient with him and he will come up when they feel he is ready.


Jeff’s comments:
Alexei seems to have dropped off some people’s radar after he was unable to secure an NHL job in training camp. He has continued his strong play in Portland however, and is still the Caps top pro defensive prospect. His point totals are down slightly, but was rewarded with a spot in the AHL All-Star Game due to his all-around play. Alexei is still on course to be an NHL player, possibly as soon as next year.

10. Glen Metropolit C, Portland (AHL), signed as a free agent, 1999


John’s comments:
Glen is an overachiever. He’s not very big or very fast. He’s a great puckhandler and passer. He’s deadly on the powerplay as a set up guy. He doesn’t play 5 on 5 very well though. He needs to improve his skating so he can cover the point on defense. Will probably be more successful in another organization.


Rick’s comments:
You can’t help but root for the guy when he is brought up to Washington. Last year he was impressive, even throwing his body around when he needed to, and ended up staying for a while. He is so good offensively in Portland that he doesn’t need to play defense, and that may work against him in the big picture. I was surprised when he cleared waivers. He has loads of quickness and puckhandling talent, but lack of size and speed work against him. At his age, skating is hard to improve, but you can’t question the guy’s heart.


Jeff’s comments:
What more can be said about Glen that you haven’t already heard? He dominates the AHL at times, and has become the most valuable player on the Portland roster. He has also proved himself capable during his brief NHL stints as well. Glen deserves to be in the NHL right now, and may need to move to another organization this summer to get his chance.