A look ahead for next season; who has a shot of making the team–who does not–and, what has to be done in the meantime.
Top Five–Listed in order of “odds of making the big-team”
Trent Whitfield – Center – 5′ 11″ – 204 lbs
Trent was the better of the checking centers in this year’s first round exit. Jeff Halpern was Jeff Halpern, but Trent Whitfield was TRENT WHITFIELD! Trent led all Capitals in faceoff percentage (61.8%), he was +1 in his six games played, and he averaged 11:01 of ice time during the playoffs. Though he did not score, he had several opportunities parked near the perimeter of the net. Whitfield did spend most of this season in AHL Portland, but had a career year having also been selected to the AHL All-Star team. He has proven he is ready to make the jump from the minors to the NHL; lets hope his scoring touch can jump with him.
Style similar to: Ron Petrovicky.
Nolan Yonkman – Defense – 6’ 6” – 236 lbs
Nolan was hampered by injury after injury last season. If not for that, he very easily could have been replacing Jason Doig or Joel Kwiatkowski on the Caps blue line. Nolan is a big, strong, aggressive defenseman and he always punishes the opposition in front of the net. Forwards are afraid to approach when he is there as he never backs down and sticks up for his teammates. His final return towards the end of the season for Portland, he arrived just in time for the playoffs. Although his team was similarly bounced in the first round, the pairing of Nolan Yonkman and Jakub Cutta was the best defensive paring for the Pirates. Nolan was a +1 in four games for the Capitals during the 2002-03 preseason.
Style similar to: “poor man’s” Zdeno Chara.
Boyd Gordon – Center/Wing – 6’ 0” – 191 lbs
Still competing in the WHL playoffs, Boyd Gordon continues to lead his team in assists and is literally tied for first in team scoring. He is also in a three-way tie for third in the WHL playoffs (15 points), following only Jesse Schultz (19 points). Although Gordon isn’t a particularly big or physical player, he has above-average passing and shooting skills. A deceptively quick skater, Gordon has good on-ice vision and has exhibited good hockey habits over the years. Gordon has shown that he is willing to go to the net and play along the boards. He also made a brief appearance for the Capitals during the 2002-03 preseason. Boyd is still looking for a contract from Washington if he plans on playing for the Caps in 2003-04.
Style similar to: “poor man’s” Patrick Marleau.
Steve Eminger – Defense – 6’ 2” – 200 lbs
Slick with the stick and smooth on the skates, Steve was by far the safest pick in the 2002 June entry draft when it came to defenseman. Steve was given an opportunity to play for the Caps blueline during the first half of this season, but was returned to his OHL team. He has 2 assists in 17 games for the Caps and was a –3. He was very impressive in his first stint with his clean and smart puck handling skills-however, he will need to continue to bulk up this off season to break into the line-up over Yonkman, Doig, Berry, etc…
Style similar to: Scott Niedermyer.
Graham Mink – Right Wing – 6’ 3” – 210 lbs
Mink continues to impress many with his determination in front of the net. There were some signs of inconsistency in his game, but his numbers have not reflected that over the last couple of seasons. Mink had 17 goals and 17 assists last season for AHL Portland after being recalled from ECHL Richmond and had 22 goals and 15 assists this past season. Time and time again, he has proven he can score points at every level, and there is no reason why he cannot be given an opportunity for next season in Washington. He is a big, tough natural winger (can play center position). He is also considered to have good puck handling skills for his size. Mink plays with a mean streak and will stick up for his teammates, a perfect fit for an otherwise soft Washington team. Mink still has one year left on his contract with the Capitals.
Style similar to: Chad Kilger.
Seth Keggins — email@example.com