With the Capitals early elimination from the 2003-04 playoff
picture and mass exodus of high profile players (and their contracts), there
was ample time for the team to get a look at many young prospects this season.
The table below shows the 14 rookies’ stats, in order of
points per game. Further below is a
Statistical Summary 2003-04
Alexander Semin ( Age 20) LW – Semin started the
season with very few minutes under then coach Bruce Cassidy. As the season wore on, more ice time was
granted to the winger under strict watch for defensive responsibilities and how
he handled the North American game.
Semin led all Caps rookies this season in points scored per game and now
resides on the power play as well as the top scoring line. He has shown that his passing was
underrated, however his overall body strength will need to be addressed this
Josef Boumedienne (Age 26) D – Boumedienne started the
season in Portland of the AHL, before being recalled midway through the
year. He played 5th/6th
defenseman minutes until losing Brendan Witt and fellow rookie Steve Eminger to
injury. Boumedienne had shown he is
capable of making clean crisp outlet passes as well as being creative on the
offensive side of the puck. However,
there are still some struggles when pressured by strong forechecking and he is
prone to occasional turnovers in the defensive zone.
Owen Fussey (Age 21) RW – Fussey was called up briefly after the trade deadline to help fill the gaps left behind after the big trade
exodus in Washington. He played as
advertised, with sound forechecking and a poise for the puck. Though he did not score a goal while up with
the NHL club, he did record his first point (an assist on March 12th
against the Chicago Blackhawks).
Shaone Morrisonn (Age 21) D – Morrisonn broke out
during the early to mid-season with the Boston organization, after being
recalled from Providence. He began
racking up respectable minutes as well as a few points. Morrisonn is not afraid of the rough going
and was a +10 with the Bruins before being traded to the Capital
organization. He is a smooth skating
defenseman who is also good with distributing the puck, although he was demoted
to the Capitals minor league team to gain valuable experience and also help
reach the AHL playoffs.
Brooks Laich (Age 20) C/W – Laich struggled after being
traded from the Ottawa organization.
His bout with mononucleosis was the only thing holding him back from
perhaps being the top-scoring rookie in the AHL this season. However, he also struggled in his first few
games in the Washington minor league affiliate. He was called up (along with Owen Fussey) despite this and he was
able to crack the score sheet. Laich
was awarded the primary assist on a goal scored against the Chicago Blackhawks
on March 12th. He showed
good playmaking ability, but will need to continue to work some on the
defensive side of his game.
Boyd Gordon (Age 20) RW – Boyd Gordon made an immediate
impact scoring his first NHL points in his first two games with
Washington. He scored 1 goal and 2
assists in his first two games this season, though conveniently he was on the
top line with Jaromir Jagr. After the
first 7 games of the season, his ice time decreased reaching a season low (6:37
minutes of ice time) on November 8th against San Jose. Gordon was later demoted to the Capitals
minor league affiliate to gain valuable ice time and possible playoff
Roman Tvrdon (Age 23) RW – Probably the nicest surprise at
the end of this season was the play of Roman Tvrdon. Once pegged as a sound two-way forward, injuries have plagued
him over the last two years. Though
he had not scored a goal in his 9 games with the Capitals, he did come close on
several occasions. He also tallied his
first NHL assist on March 27th against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Tvrdon’s ice time also steadily increased
over last several games, starting at 5:00 minutes of total ice time and ending
at 16:00 minutes of total ice time.
Steve Eminger (Age 20) D – Eminger made the big squad for the second time in as many years and after 41 games (sandwiched in between an
injury sustained by a hit from Donald Brashear) he was sent down to the
Capitals minor league affiliate Portland.
Though he has yet to register his first NHL goal, Eminger does have 6
assists under his belt. Typically known
for his great passing ability and good defensive coverage, Eminger struggled as
a rookie and is still struggling to produce points at the AHL level suggesting
he may be concentrating on his defense more.
Jakub Cutta (Age 22) D – Cutta began the season on the top defensive pairing on the Capitals AHL affiliate. Though after suffering a
concussion, he struggled getting back into the flow of the game once he
returned. He was farther set back when
teammate Garrett Stroshein mugged him in practice. However, with the make shift line-up in Washington Cutta was called
up to fill in for the injured Brendan Witt over the final few games of the season. Like Tvrdon, Cutta was a welcome surprise
with his poise on blueline as he remained up with Washington despite the return
of Brendan Witt from injury. He
finished a –1 defensively over a period of three games and averaged nearly 14:00
minutes of ice time.
Rounding out the rest
Defenseman Chris Hajt
(Age 25) was called up briefly at the mid-point of the season with an
injury to Sergei Gonchar. He looked slightly lost and overwhelmed at the
NHL level, thus was returned soon after. He was prone to turnovers and was
keenly out of position on many occasions. The same goes for center Andrej
Podkoniky (Age 25), who also
looked very lost on the ice. He
averaged only 3:34 minutes of ice time during his brief stay in
Washington. On the other hand, right
wing Graham Mink immediately showed chemistry with current Caps winger
Trent Whitfield, though he only played two games and could not find the net.
Finally, Garrett Stroshein battled in his first game in the NHL with
pugilist Doug Doull of the Boston Bruins.
His skating ability still need vast improvement, though his size and
toughness may be something to look forward to in the future.