Capitals Top 20 prospects

By Sandor Roberts

The Washington Capitals entered the 2004 NHL Entry Draft armed with three first round selections and a total of seven picks in the first three rounds. Five members of that draft class now appear on the latest Capitals Top 20 Prospects list. Left wing Alexander Semin and defenseman Steve Eminger have been re-included as Hockey’s Future adjusts its prospect criteria (see forthcoming article). Combined with the many prospects picked up in trades over the past year, the Capitals prospect stable has been completely overhauled heading into the 2004-05 campaign.

Capitals Top 20 Quick Glance
1. Alexander Ovechkin, Left Wing
2. Alexander Semin, Left Wing
3. Maxime Ouellet, Goaltender
4. Steve Eminger, Defense
5. Eric Fehr, Right Wing
6. Jared Aulin, Center
7. Tomas Fleischmann, Left Wing
8. Shaone Morrisonn, Defense
9. Jakub Klepis, Center
10. Maxime Daigneault, Goaltender
11. Jonas Johansson, Right Wing
12. Rastislav Stana, Goaltender
13. Jeff Schultz, Defense
14. Mike Green, Defense
15. Boyd Gordon, Right Wing
16. Nolan Yonkman, Defense
17. Owen Fussey, Right Wing
18. Chris Bourque, Center
19. Johnny Oduya, Defense
20. Oscar Hedman, Defense

1. Alexander Ovechkin, LW, Dynamo Moscow (Rus.)
Drafted: 2004 #1 (1st overall)
2003-04 Stats: Moscow Dynamo 53-13-10-23-42

As a teenager playing for Dynamo Moscow in 2003-04, Ovechkin more than held his own. He has played for Russia at the WJC and the World Championship, and soon will be the youngest member of their squad at the World Cup of Hockey. Ovechkin is an incredible talent who will play top line minutes immediately with the Capitals upon his arrival in North America.

When he will arrive in North America is the question. In tandem with the impending NHL labor unrest, the NHL’s transfer agreement with the IIHF has expired. Dynamo Moscow has reportedly asked the Capitals to pay a release fee of $2 million for Ovechkin. Because of this, the World Cup of Hockey and the 2005 WJC in Grand Forks, N.D. may be the only opportunities to see this future superstar play in North America this year.

2. Alexander Semin, LW, Washington (NHL)
Drafted: 2002 #1 (13th overall)
2003-04 Stats: Washington 52-10-12-22-36, Portland 4-3-1-4-6

In his first season in the NHL in 2003-04, Semin displayed the good, the bad, and the ugly. Some nights, his skills were electrifying, and his skating was marvelous. Other nights, he didn’t look like he belonged in the lineup. Adjusting to the North American game and bouncing between lines both played a part. Upon returning from the WJC in Finland, Semin played with enthusiasm and confidence, and saw increased ice time as the Capitals turned over their roster through numerous trades.

Semin was sent down to AHL affiliate Portland for the playoffs, and, if there is an NHL lockout, would be better served honing his craft again in the minors than returning to Russia. Semin is still very raw, but will be given plenty of time to develop into a dependable scoring forward.

3. Maxime Ouellet, G, Portland (AHL)
Acquired: Trade 3/19/02 from Philadelphia
2003-04 Stats: Washington 6-2-3-1-3.12, Portland 52-15-29-8-1.99

Ouellet is slowly evolving into the enigma of the Capitals organization. He had another splendid season with the Portland Pirates in 2003-04, though his record doesn’t reflect it. On the flip side, Ouellet didn’t show a whole lot in a brief call-up to Washington. The same issue dogged him when he played in Philadelphia’s farm system. The Capitals didn’t have a consistent back-up goaltender this past season, and if Ouellet can’t take control of the reins soon, he may be moved. The NHL labor dispute could cost him a shot at being on the Capitals roster, meaning yet another year playing in the minors.

4. Steve Eminger, D, Portland (AHL)
Drafted: 2002 #1 (12th overall)
2003-04 Stats: Washington 41-0-4-4-45, Portland 41-0-4-4-40

The Capitals had anticipated that Eminger would be a solid presence on their blue line by now, but for the second straight season, he earned a one-way ticket to Portland. Defensemen develop slowly in pro hockey, and this 2002 first-rounder has certainly benefited by receiving a lot of ice time in the minors. Eminger is progressing nicely and will become a stalwart defenseman in the near future.

5. Eric Fehr, RW, Brandon (WHL)
Drafted: 2003 #1 (18th overall)
2003-04 Stats: Brandon 71-50-34-84-129

A first round draft choice in 2003, Fehr lit up the WHL with 50 goals this past season for Brandon. If Fehr continues improving, he could be a valuable commodity as a goal scorer. Fehr’s all-around game needs work, however. He still has another year of junior eligibility remaining and will return to Brandon. The Capitals want to mold Fehr into a power forward, which is a huge need for this team.

6. Jared Aulin, C, Portland (AHL)
Acquired: Trade 3/8/04 from Los Angeles
2003-04 Stats: Portland 10-2-1-3-4

Aulin had bad luck in 2003-04, constantly injured and missing the majority of last season due to a separated shoulder. A gifted forward, Aulin skated extremely well in the Capitals Development Camp this summer, and showed some leadership qualities. Acquired from the LA Kings, Aulin needs to make it through a full season in the minors unscathed. Aulin should receive plenty of playing time in Portland in 2004-05 to show that he can become a consistent point producer.

7. Tomas Fleischmann, LW, Moose Jaw (WHL)
Acquired: Trade 2/27/04 from Detroit
2003-04 Stats: Moose Jaw 60-33-42-75-32

Obtained in a trade from the Detroit Red Wings, Fleischmann has spent the past two seasons adjusting to the North American style of play in the rugged WHL. A skilled left wing from Koprivnice, Czech Republic, Fleischmann will need some time in the AHL, but he worked well in the Capitals Development Camp when teamed on a line with Jakub Klepis and Jonas Johansson. Fleischmann will play for Portland this season, and could also see some time with Washington.

8. Shaone Morrisonn, D, Providence/Portland (AHL)
Acquired: Trade 3/3/04 from Boston
2003-04 Stats: Washington 3-0-0-0-0, Boston 30-1-7-8-10, Portland 13-1-4-5-10, Providence 18-0-2-2-16

Morrisonn, who has had a rough time since being a surprising first round draft choice by the Boston Bruins in 2001, got his first taste of the NHL this past season with both Boston and Washington. He showed some skills with the Bruins, but was handed a quick demotion to the minors after a three-game stint with the Capitals. It’s hard to ascertain what affect that may eventually have on his confidence, since the Capitals had a lot of minor leaguers on their defense at the end of last season. Morrisonn is No. 2 on the Capitals defense depth chart, and should be given every chance to make the opening night roster in Training Camp.

9. Jakub Klepis, C, Slavia Praha HC (Cze.)
Acquired: Trade 3/9/04 from Buffalo
2003-04 Stats: Slavia Praha HC 44-4-9-13-43

Another skilled European-trained forward, Klepis was brought onboard in a late-season deal with Buffalo. He has spent the past two seasons playing in Europe after one season of major junior. Klepis performed well in the Capitals Development Camp, but may need at least a year of seasoning in Portland.

10. Maxime Daigneault, G, Val-d’Or (QMJHL)
Acquired: Drafted 2002 #2 (59th overall)
2003-04 Stats: Val d’Or 57-23-22-9-2.92

Daigneault’s play in Val-d’Or was extremely inconsistent in 2003-04, but he was still signed to a three-year contract with the Capitals this summer. The Capitals can afford to send Daigneault to their new ECHL affiliate, the South Carolina Stingrays, this season so that he can receive a lot of playing time and shots. With the logjam in the crease, it may be a while until he gets a shot at the NHL.

11. Jonas Johansson, RW, Kamloops (WHL)
Acquired: Trade 10/22/03 from Colorado
2003-04 Stats: Kamloops 72-18-19-37-70

Johansson has been a real disappointment while playing for Kamloops the past two years, but he was an unexpected surprise in the Capitals Development Camp, displaying above-average passing ability and great agility. Johansson came to Washington in a trade from Colorado in the fall of 2003.

12. Rastislav Stana, G, Portland (AHL)
Drafted: 1998 #7 (193rd overall)
2003-04 Stats: Washington 6-1-2-0-3.13, Portland 24-14-5-4-1.68

Part of the goalie glut in Portland, Stana was given a chance to play a handful of games for the Capitals this past season. He has steadily worked his way up the ladder in the system, but he is still very suspect handling the puck. A goalie on Slovakia’s national team in various competitions, Stana is, at best, a capable NHL back-up. He will be one of Slovakia’s triumvirate in net for the World Cup of Hockey.

13. Jeff Schultz, D, Calgary (WHL)
Drafted: 2004 #1 (27th overall)
2003-04 Stats: Calgary 72-11-24-35-33

Schultz was one of the Capitals first round picks in 2004, and is best classified as a project at this stage of his career. Schultz was a solid choice at the end of the first round, and if he fills out his 6’6 frame and becomes more of a physical presence, he has a much higher upside than the majority of the other Capitals defensive prospects. He should show more offensive skills and play a bigger special teams role with the Calgary Hitmen next season.

14. Mike Green, D, Saskatoon (WHL)
Drafted: 2004 #1 (29th overall)
2003-04 Stats: Saskatoon 59-14-25-39-92

Green is a hard worker who showed a lot of heart and leadership with a bad team in Saskatoon. He brings plenty of intangibles to the table but needs to keep improving his skills in the WHL, and would benefit tremendously if he could make Canada’s 2005 WJC team.

15. Boyd Gordon, RW, Portland (AHL)
Drafted: 2002 #1 (17th overall)
2003-04 Stats: Washington 41-1-5-6-8, Portland 43-5-17-22-16

Gordon is a solid, if unspectacular, forward who fumbled his first NHL chance at the beginning of the 2003-04 season. He played well in Portland, but did nothing to warrant a permanent recall after the Capitals hit the skids. His slight frame may prove to be a hindrance in pro hockey. Gordon needs to become a factor offensively this season, but could receive every chance to make the Capitals roster as they have woefully little depth at right wing.

16. Nolan Yonkman, D, Portland (AHL)
Drafted: 1999 #2 (37th overall)
2003-04 Stats: Washington 1-0-0-0-0, Portland 4-0-0-0-11

Yonkman is another prospect whose season was lost to injury, which deprived him of a golden opportunity to showcase his abilities with the Capitals defense last season. He suffered another injury early in the Capitals Development Camp. 2004-05 is a make-or-break season for Yonkman.

17. Owen Fussey, RW, Portland (AHL)
Drafted: 2001 #3 (90th overall)
2003-04 Stats: Washington 4-0-1-1-0, Portland 69-6-7-13-23

Fussey finished his first season in pro hockey with Portland, and did not look very comfortable. He needs to improve in all facets of his game, and should give a much better accounting of himself in Portland this season. Fussey received a brief call-up to Washington last season.

18. Chris Bourque, C, Cushing (USHS)
Drafted: 2004 #2 (33rd overall)
2003-04 Stats: Cushing 31-37-53-90-96

In one of the surprise moves of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, the Capitals selected Chris Bourque with the third pick of the second round, far above most projections. An undersized center, Bourque is extremely competitive, skates well, and should develop nicely playing at Boston University. It’s too early to tell how he’ll turn out as a pro.

19. Johnny Oduya, D, Djurgardens (Swe.)
Drafted: 2001 #7 (221st overall)
2003-04 Stats: Djargardens 42-4-4-8-173

This Swedish rearguard is moving along slowly with Djurgardens of the Swedish Elite League. Oduya remains a year or two away from making the jump to pro hockey in North America. In a league not known for physical play, Oduya racked up 173 penalty minutes in just 42 games. His brother Fredrik played in the AHL and IHL during the mid to late 1990s.

20. Oscar Hedman, D, MoDo (Swe.)
Drafted: 2004 #5 (132nd overall)
2003-04 Stats: MoDo 24-1-2-3-6

Rounding out the Top 20 prospects is Hedman, the Capitals 2004 fifth-round pick from Sweden. An unknown quantity coming into the U-18 WJC, Hedman tied for the team lead in scoring with 4 points. Hedman played in the SEL as an 18-year-old. The Capitals will be content to let Hedman stay in Sweden for the next two to three years.

Copyright 2004 Hockey’s Future. Do not duplicate without written permission of the editorial staff.