Capitals Top 20 prospects

By Sandor Roberts

The Washington Capitals, rated No. 1 by Hockey’s Future in its Organizational Rankings, have seen some great performances from some players and maturation of others this season who hope to graduate to the NHL if, and when, the lockout is resolved.

Top 20 at a Glance

1. Alexander Ovechkin, LW
2. Alexander Semin, LW
3. Maxime Ouellet, G
4. Eric Fehr, RW
5. Steve Eminger, D
6. Shaone Morrisonn, D
7. Tomas Fleischmann, LW
8. Mike Green, D
9. Jakub Klepis, C
10. Jared Aulin, C
11. Maxime Daigneault, G
12. Jonas Johansson, RW
13. Boyd Gordon, RW
14. Chris Bourque, C
15. Jeff Schultz, D
16. Owen Fussey, RW
17. Nolan Yonkman, D
18. Sami Lepisto, D
19. Stephen Werner, RW
20. Johnny Oduya, D

1. Alexander Ovechkin, LW

The consensus first selection of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, Alexander Ovechkin was simply sensational at the 2005 WJC where he was named Best Forward and was selected to the All-Star Team. With his combination of size, speed, skill and attitude, Ovechkin is NHL-ready at the ripe old age of 19. He has been playing extremely well for Moscow Dynamo (22 points in 31 games played). Ovechkin is the cornerstone of the Capitals foundation for the future.

2. Alexander Semin, LW

Though Alexander Semin was suspended by the Capitals for failing to honor his entry-level contract which allowed the team to assign him to their AHL affiliate, the Portland Pirates, this speedy left wing hasn’t slowed down with Lada Togliatti in Russia. While Semin would have provided a much-needed boost to the Pirates attack, as well as allowed him the opportunity to develop chemistry for the future, it is a moot point at this stage of the season. In 41 games, Semin has scored 19 goals and added 8 assists for 27 points and has picked up 44 penalty minutes.

3. Maxime Ouellet, G

On a Pirates team that has struggled mightily in the offensive end this season, goaltender Maxime Ouellet has been vitally important. His record thus far is 15-20-3, but his GAA is 2.89 and he has a save percentage of .911. Those numbers are good, but they pale in comparison to a lot of other AHL netminders in what has been the year of the goalie as over 20 goalies have sub-2.50 GAAs. Once the NHL returns to action, Ouellet will be the backup to Olag Kolzig in Washington.

4. Eric Fehr, RW

With only a few weeks remaining in the WHL regular season, Eric Fehr is both the leading scorer of the circuit (80 points), and the goal scoring leader (45). Fehr is well on his way to having back-to-back 50 goal seasons. The only thing that hasn’t gone his way this season was the fact that he was not selected to Canada’s WJC team. Fehr has tremendous offensive upside.

5. Steve Eminger, D

Defenseman Steve Eminger was the Pirates lone representative at the recently played AHL All-Star Game. It’s safe to say that Eminger has progressed a lot in his third pro season, and he is finally starting to look more comfortable on the ice in all situations, but his overall game is still developing. Considering the horrid plus/minus totals for the Pirates, -7 is not that bad, and he leads the defense with 17 points.

6. Shaone Morrisonn, D

In sharp contrast to Eminger, Shaone Morrisonn has a low -16. Granted, the number is a reflection on being on such a low-scoring team. What this season represents for Morrisonn is the opportunity to gain even more experience and get a lot of ice time so that when he moves up to the Capitals, he can be a dependable defenseman for many years to come.

7. Tomas Fleischmann, LW

Tomas Fleischmann has experienced some growing pains in his first year of pro hockey. As a result, he hasn’t been able to establish consistency, not only in his play, but with his effort level as well. Fleischmann is a skilled player, but his path on the depth chart at left wing is blocked by Ovechkin and Semin. The 20-year-old has 19 points in 49 games with the Pirates.

8. Mike Green, D

Mike Green’s season has been stunning. His meteoric rise in his play this season, makes him the biggest riser of any player in the Capitals rankings. Green leads all WHL defensemen in scoring (56 points in 57 games), and has been instrumental in guiding the Saskatoon Blades to the top spot in the East Division. Green is a feisty player who has great vision, and he showed his fortitude and dedication after the Blades endured one of the worst seasons in WHL history last year. Green was not chosen for Canada’s WJC team, but that has been the only discernable negative this season. It’s too soon to say that Green was a late first-round steal, but if he keeps improving at a rapid rate, then the Capitals made a very wise choice.

9. Jakub Klepis, C

In his first season with the Pirates, Jakub Klepis has played well. He is tied for third on the team in scoring with 24 points. On the flip side, his -13 is the worst among all Pirates forwards. Klepis is solid on faceoffs and he skates well, but like most young forwards, the 20-year-old needs to work on his defensive responsibilities.

10. Jared Aulin, C

Jared Aulin takes the biggest tumble in the Capitals rankings, partially due to poor play this season. Aulin has displayed good leadership and is a very determined player, but he has shown some offensive shortcomings and he may not develop into quite as dependable a scorer as had been originally projected when he was drafted by the L.A. Kings out of Kamloops. Since he missed a lot of the 2003-04 season due to injury, he may simply need more time to regain his offensive game. He has 23 points in 42 games.

11. Maxime Daigneault, G

Maxime Daigneault, on recall to the Pirates, has been playing most of the year for the South Carolina Stingrays of the ECHL. At this stage, the most important aspect for Daigneault’s development is just to receive playing time. He has registered 11 wins and a 3.02 GAA in a backup role with the Stingrays. Daigneault seems to have made a smooth adjustment to pro hockey, and he should learn a lot in his stint with the Pirates.

12. Jonas Johansson, RW

Of all of the Capitals European-trained forwards, Jonas Johansson has had the least amount of success in his first season of pro hockey. In fact, Johansson was sent down to the Stingrays so that he could regain his confidence. He played very well in his abbreviated stint and was quickly recalled. Whether that serves as a springboard for the remainder of the season remains to be seen. The 20-year-old has eight points in 35 games with Portland.

13. Boyd Gordon, RW

Boyd Gordon is the second-leading scorer for the Pirates (28 points in 54 games). He has been solid in his second pro season, and has been one of the Pirates most effective forwards. Gordon’s game is still a little rough, but he has been getting time in all situations. Expect to see the 21-year-old increase his leadership role on and off the ice.

14. Chris Bourque, C

Last week, Chris Bourque showed his value in the clutch, scoring the overtime gamewinner to give the Boston University Terriers the Beanpot championship. Bourque has played quite well for the Terriers (20 points in 26 games played) and he also played for the U.S. squad at the 2005 WJC. Bourque suffered a knee injury against Belarus which sidelined him for the rest of the tournament. Bourque has been an offensive sparkplug for a surging Terriers team that will make some noise in the NCAA Tournament next month.

15. Jeff Schultz, D

After a slow start, Jeff Schultz has certainly picked up his play over the second half of the season and should once again be the top scoring defenseman for the Calgary Hitmen. While he has good size, he needs to work on his skating. Schultz is still very young, turning 19 this week, so once he fills out, he should become more of a physical presence on the ice.

16. Owen Fussey, RW

Incredibly, right wing Owen Fussey is the only Pirates forward with a positive plus/minus rating at +4. Fussey is having a good all-around season with the Pirates, his second as a pro. He doesn’t do anything flashy, but he is a hard worker and he should be able to carve out a nice career with the Capitals. The 21-year-old has 20 points in 51 games.

17. Nolan Yonkman, D

Once again, Nolan Yonkman has lost part of a season due to injury, playing in only 18 games. Yonkman has been average this season, but at this stage, unless he can prove that he can stay healthy, the 6’6 23-year-old’s future is cloudy.

18. Sami Lepisto, D

A late-blooming Finnish defenseman, Sami Lepisto was a third round draft choice this past summer and has played his way into the Capitals Top 20 rankings. Playing for Jokerit, he is adept at jumping into the rush, and has shown a fair amount of offensive ability this season (24 points in 48 games). Lepisto is a solid skater and works well on the power play.

19. Stephen Werner, RW

Another new addition to the list is Chevy Chase, Maryland’s own Stephen Werner. Werner is in his junior year with the UMass Minutemen and is tied for the team lead in points with 23. Coming off of a triple-overtime loss to Maine in last year’s Hockey East final, the Minutemen had high hopes entering the 2004-05 campaign. Instead, the team is mired in seventh place in the Hockey East standings. Werner has had a solid year, and has improved his all-around game. After playing for the gold medal winning U.S. squad in the 2004 WJC, Werner has displayed much more confidence on the ice.

20. Johnny Oduya, D

To round out the Capitals Top 20 rankings is 23-year-old Johnny Oduya, who spent two seasons in the QMJHL before moving to the Swedish Elite League. In 2004-05 he has five points and 135 penalty minutes in 46 games. The 6’0 defender was selected in the seventh round of the 2001 NHL Entry Draft.

Copyright 2005 Hockey’s Future. Do not duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.