Caps Woes Prove Opportunity For Prospects

By Josh Land

During the Washington Capitals’ recent woes, the team has been able to take a glimpse at
what their future may bring. The recent acquisitions of young forwards Ivan Ciernik from Ottawa and Colin Forbes from the AHL, as well as the recall of defensemen Todd Rohloff and J.F. Fortin from Portland have helped the Caps to bulk up and improve their
team speed in recent weeks.

Through four games in Washington, Ivan Ciernik, 24, has no goals and one assist with a
+1 defensive rating and 0 PIMs in the limited minutes provided by coach Ron Wilson. Standing at 6-1, 220 pounds, Ciernik helps to provide the Caps with the big left wing they have lacked.
The most impressive things Ciernik has shown thus far are his effort and power. The big winger has drawn a number of penalties since his arrival in D.C. by keeping his feet moving at all times. He is not the type of player who effortlessly coasts through the defensive zone as he is always
skating at full stride, trying to keep the opposition in the corners and out from in front of the net.
Ciernik has shown the ability to deliver big hits, but he does not use his body enough. In his first
four games, Ciernik has received spot duty as the left wing on Jaromir Jagr’s line and he may be able to stay there if he plays a more physical role. The negative side of
Ciernik’s game has been
his lack of an offensive presence. So far, he has shown very little
offensive potential, but he has
still managed one good scoring chance per game.

In his first twelve games in Washington, Colin Forbes, 25, has two goals
(including the
Caps’ 1st shorthanded goal of the season against St. Louis on January 30th)
and one assist with a
-1 defensive rating and 2 PIMs. Forbes has been an impressive addition to
the Caps 3rd and 4th
line combinations. Like Ciernik, Forbes is a big left wing (6-3, 205) and
has also shown the
ability to be a physical player, but he does not use his size enough. Forbes
is less talented
defensively than Ciernik, but he has shown a much greater offensive upside.
Forbes has
displayed very good speed for a forward of his size and is very good at
driving the puck to the
front of the net. He has not shown Caps management an outstanding shot or
superior passing
capabilities, but he has shown them his soft hands and potent strength on his
skates. Forbes is a
decent role player who could be much better if he played a more physical
brand of hockey, but
he has been a welcome addition to the Caps’ depleted forward corps.

22-year-old defenseman, J.F. Fortin has been a very nice surprise and a
terrific addition
to the wounded Capitals’ blueline. Through ten games, Fortin has no points
accompanied by a
-3 defensive rating and 4 PIMs. His defensive statistics are deceptive as he
done an impressive
job orchestrating the transition game and has been an effective two-way
defenseman. J.F. has
provided the Caps’ blueline with some additional speed and size (6-2, 205).
Fortin had some
bad luck in his first game with the Caps (vs Columbus, January 9th) as the
puck deflected into the
net off his foot in the middle of the first period. Since that error, Fortin
has been excellent
defensively for the Caps. Jean-Francois missed two games with a strained
muscle, but he has returned to full speed since his return. Todd Rohloff, 28, has also been a nice addition to the Capitals’
defensive corps as well.

Rohloff’s arrival to the Caps’ backline forced 36 year old defenseman Joe
Reekie out of the
defensive rotation. Rohloff is a very similar defenseman to Reekie. Rohloff is a big stay-at-home defenseman who plays mistake-free in the defensive end. He has been paired with all-star Sergei Gonchar and he plays the same role Reekie had before he was dealt to Chicago.

In recent days, General Manager George McPhee told the Washington press that he is so impressed with Rohloff and Fortin that they will remain with the big club for the remainder of the season if they continue to play at the high level that has helped return the Caps’ defense to respectability.