Jeff Schultz, D – Calgary Hitmen (WHL)
Height: 6’6, Weight: 212 lbs, DOB: Feb 25, 1986
After a strong performance in the Washington Capitals training camp, Schultz was re-assigned to the Calgary Hitmen for the remainder of the 2005-06 season. Coming off of two solid seasons in Calgary, Shultz (2004 Draft, 27th overall) has displayed remarkable improvement, and is easily one of Washington’s brighter prospects along the blue line. Although his goal production has dropped since his first season in the WHL, Shultz has steadily improved, and has been as solid as ever in every other facet of his game. So much so that the Capitals wasted no time by signing him to a three-year entry level contract this past August – almost a year before he would become a free agent.
Schultz is currently ranked 11th in the WHL in scoring by a defenseman, and has registered 1 goal and 14 assists in 24 games. He has a good, low shot from the point, and is a prominent fixture on the point on Calgary’s power play. He is very good in his own end, and has a terrific outlet pass. His -1 rating is about average on the team. Although he shies away from physical play, he possesses a strong poke check and he displays sound positional play in his own end. He is still very light for his 6’6 frame, and will likely bulk up some this year as he looks to challenge for a roster spot in Washington next season.
Clayton Barthel, D – Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL)
Height: 6’2, Weight: 205 lbs, DOB: Apr 2, 1986
Barthel is the prototypical stay at home defenseman. He plays a tight physical game, and is rarely caught out of position. That said, the 2005-06 WHL season has been Barthel’s most productive offensive campaign to date. He as already registered 1 goal and 6 assists in only 19 games, and is easily on pace to eclipse his 2004-05 totals of 5 goals and 13 assists in 68 games. Barthel has seen a modest decline in his plus/minus, which can be partially attributed to him playing alongside less established defensive partners. He is -3 on a generally even team. In any event, Barthel plays hard every shift, and could one day blossom into a fourth or fifth defenseman in the NHL. Expect to see Barthel continue to hone his skills in Hershey (AHL) next fall.
Patrick McNeill, D – Saginaw Spirit (OHL)
Height: 6’0, Weight: 195 lbs, DOB: Mar 17, 1987
There are many who think that a 6’0 defenseman does not possess the necessary size to dominate at the professional level, but Washington thinks that they may have found their future power play quarter back in Saginaw’s Patrick McNeill (2005 Draft, 118th overall). McNeill had only medicre totals last season with 33 points in 66 games. The fact that he was -29 and playing for a bad team may have hurt his draft day positioning, similar to defenseman Mike Green.
So far this season, McNeill is doing all that he can to prove his critics wrong. He is already ranked third in OHL scoring by a defenseman, and has registered 7 goals and 19 assists, and is a respectable +16 through 21 contests. McNeill is not the most physical player on the ice, and will need to round out some of the more defensive aspects of his game if he is to be successful at the next level. Strength may be a concern too since McNeill is still under 200 lbs.
Daren Machesney, G – Brampton Battalion (OHL)
Height: 6’0, Weight: 173 lbs, DOB: December 13, 1986
Over the recent months, the Capitals have been experiencing shortfalls in their goaltending ranks. One-time top prospect Maxime Ouellet was the front runner to backstop veteran Olaf Kolzig this season, and favorite to assume the starting job once Kolzig moves on. However, Ouellet has played very poorly over the last year, and it appears that he has lost his game completely.
The Capitals selected Machesney with the 143rd overall pick in the 2005 draft, and hope that he can continue to develop. In 2004-05, Machesney played 38 games, and finished with a record of 16-13-6 (one shutout), with a save percentage of .917 and a GAA of 2.74.
In 17 games this season, Machesney has seen a rise in his GAA. (3.24) and a modest decline in his save percentage (.909). However he does have a winning record at 9-8, and already has two shutouts on the year. If he can play more consistently and build upon last season’s performance, he can earn himself a contract with an organization short on goaltending.
Copyright 2005 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.