Capitals AHL/ECHL prospects update

By David Rathbun

Eric Fehr, RW – Hershey Bears (AHL)
Height: 6’3, Weight: 205 lbs, DOB: Sept 7, 1985

After two back to back 50-goal campaigns in the WHL, Fehr (2003 Draft, 18th overall) made the jump to professional hockey this fall, and has been impressive. Fehr had a very productive training camp with the Capitals. He started the season in Hershey, and quickly became the premier offensive threat for the team. He currently leads Hershey in points with 28 (13 goals, 15 assists) in 29 games, and he is tied for 17th in the AHL in scoring. In addition, he is tied for third in scoring among league rookies.

Fehr made his NHL debut with Washington on December 18th and played a decent game, finishing with 2 shots and 2 PIMs. He even got some playing time on the top line with Danius Zubrus and top prospect, Alexander Ovechkin. Despite a sound performance, Fehr was quickly reassigned to Hershey for further conditioning. However, it is anticipated that Fehr will see more time with the big club as the season progresses.

Fehr is easily the best prospect in the Caps’ system not named Semin or Ovechkin. He is a terrific sniper, and possesses a strong, accurate wrist shot. Although he could stand to gain a few more pounds, Fehr does use his size well, and is very difficult to knock off the puck when he is cycling in the corners. Like many players his size, he is not a great skater. However, he does make up for it with superb on-ice awareness and sound defensive play. He has added about 15 lbs to his frame over the last year, and it appears that he may still be filling out his 6’3 frame. With some good conditioning and strength training at the professional level, Fehr may very mold into a nice, first line power forward for the Caps.

Jakub Klepis, C – Hershey Bears (AHL)
Height: 6’1 Weight: 207 lbs, DOB: Jun 5, 1985

Add Klepis to the long list of prospects that have made their NHL debuts this season for the Capitals. After a few short weeks in Hershey, Klepis (2002 Draft, 16th overall – Ottawa) was called up to the big club to help fill some voids left vacant by injured regulars. In his NHL debut, Klepis did not disappoint as he tallied a highlight reel goal midway through the second period. In addition, he added an assist the following game, and helped propel Washington to back to back victories for the first time this season.

Although quick out off the gate, Klepis did struggle with the speed of the NHL level, and had a very difficult time adjusting to Coach Glenn Hanlon’s defensive system. After 13 games with the Caps, Klepis was sent back down to Hershey for conditioning. He did finish his brief NHL stint with 1 goal, 2 assists, and 8 PIMs, but also finished with a disappointing plus/minus rating of -8.

Klepis definitely has the size, shot, and skating ability to play in the NHL level, but like most European forwards, his physical game and defensive awareness will need some fine tuning if he is going to be a successful NHL player. The addition of a playmaking linemate could also help Klepis to develop even further, as he has the finishing touches of a pure scorer, and he likes to crash the net and look for rebounds.

This season in Hershey, Klepis has 11 points in just 17 games (3 goals, 8 assists), but still carries a plus/minus rating of -5. He is expected to finish the season there where he can work on his defensive game. Look for Klepis to possibly become a Caps regular next fall as he competes for a full-time roster spot at next season’s training camp.

Tomas Fleischmann, LW – Hershey Bears (AHL)
Height: 6’0 Weight: 190 lbs, DOB: May 16, 1984

Tomas Fleischmann also made his NHL debut this season, and played mainly on the same line as fellow countryman, Jakub Klepis. They had good chemistry together, but like Klepis, Fleischmann (2002 Draft, 63rd overall – Detroit) also struggled with the speed of the NHL level, and was accustomed to some significant defensive lapses. He also struggled along the boards, and was not used to the strength of the much larger NHL defensemen. In 13 games with Washington this season, Fleischmann recorded 2 assists, but finished with a plus/minus rating of -6.

Fleischmann has been terrific so far this season with Hershey. He has rebounded from an injury shortened 2004-05 season in Portland, and despite missing several weeks of action when he was with the top club, is currently raked third on the team in scoring. In only 19 games with Hershey this season, Fleischmann has already tallied 23 points (8 goals, 11 assists), and has a respectable plus/minus rating of +6. Fleischmann has the tools to succeed in the NHL, but he will have to make significant improvements in his physical game. He has added some 20 lbs in the last two seasons, and may add more weight in time. In any event, he will need to become stronger in order to compete for loose pucks in the corners, but he does possess the skating and stickhandling ability in order for him to one day become a solid second line winger if he meets his full potential.

David Steckel, C – Hershey Bears (AHL)
Height: 6’5 Weight: 215 lbs, DOB: Mar 15, 1982

Former Ohio State standout David Steckel (2001 Draft, 30th overall – Los Angeles), was one of Washington’s many surprise free agent acquisitions this past offseason. He did see a drop off in his scoring over his last few seasons, but he had a respectable first year as a pro in 2004-05, recording 17 points (10 goals, 7 assists) in 63 games with Manchester of the AHL. In addition, he also played nine games for Reading of the ECHL, and recorded nine points (3 goals, 6 assists).

So far this season, Steckel is off to a very good start, and is currently ranked fourth on the Bears in scoring with 22 points (8 goals, 14 assists) in just 30 games. For someone who plays as big as his size, he is rarely penalized, and has only 20 PIMs so far this season and carries a plus/minus rating of +4.

Steckel brings a much-needed physical presence to the Washington organization. He is a towing 6’5, and he is not afraid to use his body in the corners and in high traffic areas. He is a sound faceoff specialist and is a good two-way player. He is a good skater for his size – although he does lack speed — and he played very well in the preseason for Washington. His long reach and solid positioning make him a common fixture on the Bears’ penalty kill, and he is a decent playmaker as well. Steckel has the ability to play in the NHL, and the desire is certainly there. He could one day be a very dominant checking line center, a position that every team can find a place for, if he reaches his full potential. The good news for Steckel is that Washington has time and time again made it clear that the Caps will be a team built on toughness, heart, and determination. Steckel brings all three to the table, and may find his way up to the Caps this season barring any injuries to their current roster.

Joey Tenute, C – Hershey Bears (AHL)
Height: 5’9 Weight: 180 lbs, DOB: Apr 2, 1983

Joey Tenute (2003 Draft, 261st overall – New Jersey) was one of the best players in the OHL in 2002-03, scoring a remarkable 112 points (41 goals, 71 assists) in just 68 games for the Sarnia Sting. In his second season at Sarnia, Tenute recorded 78 points (22 goals, 56 assists) in only 58 games, and added another 4 points (2 goals, 2 assists) in only 3 playoff appearances. He then made the jump to professional hockey in 2004-05, skating for Washington’s ECHL affiliate, the South Carolina Stingrays. In South Carolina, Tenute had a marvelous season, posting 75 points (34 goals, 41 assists) in just 68 games. He was also named the ECHL Rookie of the Year, and finished fifth overall in the league in scoring.

Washington rewarded his remarkable efforts with a multi-year contract this fall, and Tenute is currently playing in Hershey. In just 22 games this season, Tenute has already recorded 19 points (7 goals, 12 assists), and is currently +2.

Washington fans hope that Tenute can be the Caps’ Martin St. Louis, and that size really doesn’t matter. Despite his 5’9 frame, Tenute is no stranger to physical play, and his elusive speed assists him when battling along the boards and in front of the net. He is also not afraid to mix it up too, as he perennially has just about as many PIMs as he does points.

What he lacks in size, Tenute makes up for with determination and hard work. He is pretty tough to knock off the puck for someone his size – similar to Caps’ prospect, Chris Bourque. In any event, Tenute’s size was likely a major factor as to why he was such a late pick in the 2003 NHL draft. Tenute is a talented player, and there are very few holes in his game. However, if he is going to make it to the NHL, he will most likely be converted to the wing position if he is going to be effective.

Chris Bourque, LW – Hershey Bears (AHL)
Height: 5’8 Weight: 178 lbs DOB: Jan 29, 1986

Chris Bourque saw his pro career get off to a rocky start this fall when he missed eight games due to a concussion after he was blindsided by a vicious hit during a game against Hamilton in October. At the time, he was averaging about a point per game, but he has since returned to action and has put up some respectable numbers for a first year pro: 5 goals 10 assists in 20 games. However, he has had some difficulty adjusting to the speed of the AHL, and he does need to improve on his defensive play as he currently carries a plus/minus rating of -9, the worst on the team.

Last season, Bourque (2004 Draft, 33rd overall) played in 35 games with Boston University, recording 10 goals and 13 assists with 50 penalty minutes, and earned Hockey East All-Rookie Team honors. Similar to Joey Tenute, Bourque does not have the size coveted by NHL scouts. However, Bourque is a pure talent. Bourque was recently named to the U.S. National Junior team, and will compete in the World Junior Championships in British Columbia later this month.

Bourque was probably one of the best skaters available in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. He is very hard to knock off the puck, and he also possesses tremendous puck handling and playmaking ability. Bourque is a prime example of the type of player that can benefit from the “new rules” NHL. Look for Bourque to make his NHL debut at some point this season, and also look for him seriously challenge for a roster spot at next fall’s training camp.

Jakub Cutta, D – Hershey Bears (AHL)
Height: 6’3 Weight: 217 lbs DOB: Dec 29, 1981

Washington is still waiting for the big breakout year for this young man. Cutta (2000 Draft, 61st overall) has not progressed much since turning pro back in 2000-01. He has adapted to North American hockey well, and is clearly a stay at home defender. However, he is still prone to mistakes in his own end, and he is still prone to taking bad penalties due to poor positional play, and also to outright frustration as well. He has bumped up his physical play though, and he still remains a decent fourth or fifth minor league defenseman. He could one day become a decent sixth or seventh defender in the NHL, but he really needs to develop more puckhandling ability if he is going to make the jump to the next level. So far this season, Cutta has 1 assist, 45 PIMs and is +1 in 27 games with Hershey.

Mike Green, D – Hershey Bears (AHL)
Height: 6’1 Weight: 198 lbs DOB: Oct 12, 1985

After two stellar seasons in the WHL, Green made the jump to professional hockey this summer. Green (2004 Draft, 29th overall) was coming off his most productive junior season to date, helping lead Saskatoon to a playoff birth after a horrid 2003-04 season.

Green had a good training camp this past fall, and he made his NHL debut with Washington on October 12th. He played 11 games with Washington before being sent back to Hershey, and he looked very good at times. He did not seem to get rattled, and played with a lot of confidence for a 20-year-old player. Although he did not register a point in his time with the Caps, and although his plus/minus rating was a somber -8, Green did not look out of place. He did struggle with the speed of the game and made some rookie mistakes in his own end. However, Green showed a lot of toughness and grit, and was also one of Washington’s best puck-moving defensemen.

He has more than demonstrated his ability to wind up on the scoring sheet, but Green likes to play a physical game. Although he is not a towering defenseman, he can deliver the big open-ice hit, and is good at using his positional play to diffuse one-on-ones as well. He also has a great outlet pass, sound offensive instincts and good leadership qualities. Green is likely two seasons removed from being a solid contributor at the NHL level, but he is expected to become a permanent fixture on the Caps’ blue line for many years to come. So far this season, Green has registered 11 points (2 goals, 9 assists) in just 19 games with Bears. He also carries a respectable plus/minus rating of +4, and has registered 38 PIMs as well.

Boyd Gordon, C – Hershey Bears (AHL)
Height: 6’0 Weight: 198 lbs DOB: Oct 19, 1983

For two straight seasons, Gordon (2002 Draft, 17th overall) made Washington’s opening night line-up, and impressed at yet another competitive training camp. However, Gordon played just nine NHL contests this season for the Caps, and finished with no points and a plus/minus rating of -3. Despite his lack of offensive production, Gordon did fit in quite nicely on the Caps’ fourth line, and was a prominent fixture on the Washington penalty kill.

The Caps were hoping that the 2004-05 NHL work stoppage would benefit a player like Gordon, as he would have the chance to play a full season in the AHL. Despite the fact that last year’s Portland team struggled as a whole, Gordon had a very productive season as he recorded 39 points (17 goals, 22 assists) in 80 regular season contests. However, he had a woeful plus/minus rating of -20, and went through long scoring droughts as well.

Gordon does play a tight defensive game and is rarely out of position. He picks up his defensive assignments well, and he does play the body very well for someone of his size. He could one day blossom into a nice checking line center, and would most likely be utilized as a penalty kill specialist. He has had a good season thus far with the Bears totaling 14 points (7 goals, 7 assists) in just 23 AHL contests.

With Gordon, what you see is what you get. It is not likely that he will ever become a perennial 20-goal scorer at the NHL level, but what the Caps can expect from Gordon is a solid effort night in and night out. Since this season is pretty much an evaluation season for the Caps, Gordon will likely remain in Hershey and polish his skills until next fall. Expect to see him on the third or fourth line in Washington next September.

Jonas Johansson, RW – Hershey Bears (AHL), South Carolina Stingrays (ECHL)
Height: 6’2 Weight: 190 DOB: Mar 18, 1984

Although he is touted as on the most creative playmakers in Washington’s farm system, Jonas Johansson has yet to put forth any reliable offensive production as a professional player. For the past two seasons, Johansson (2002 Draft, 28th overall – Colorado) has bounced back and forth between the Caps’ minor league affiliates in Portland/Hershey (AHL), and South Carolina (ECHL). So far this season, Johansson has only registered three points (1 goal, 2 assists) in 12 games with Hershey, recording 8 PIMs along the way. He has played well in South Carolina though, recording 3 goals and 1 assist in just three games with the Stingrays.

The knock on Johansson is that he is a timid player, and can get easily rattled during intense physical play. He is also fairly light for his 6’2 frame, and will need to increase his size in order to be an effective winger in the NHL. If he is able to do so, he could very well blossom into a solid second line winger. The crackdown on obstruction calls in the new NHL could also help Johansson find his scoring touch in the big league.

Jared Aulin, C – Hershey Bears (AHL)
Height: 6’0 Weight: 192 lbs DOB: Mar 15, 1982

Jared Aulin (2000 Draft, 47th overall – Colorado) has progressed nicely over the course of his two seasons as a member of the Washington organization. Last season, as a member of the Portland Pirates, Aulin played very well on an underachieving squad, and registered 39 points (11 goals, 28 assists) in 65 games. He has become one of the more consistent playmakers in Washington’s minor league system.

Aulin has average speed and size for the center position, but he does see the ice very well, and can stickhandle in high traffic areas. He is a good finisher, and he is crafty at making plays down low. So far this season, Aulin has played pretty well. He has already scored 17 points (5 goals, 12 assists) in just 24 games, and is easily on pace to eclipse last year’s totals.

All in all, Aulin plays a pretty solid game. His biggest drawback is that he is still prone to defensive lapses, and he currently holds the second worst plus/minus rating on the team (Hershey) at -8. If he can stay healthy, Aulin could possibly become a second or third line scorer in the NHL one day. However, he may need to move to the wing position in order to graduate to the NHL ranks.

Owen Fussey, LW – Hershey Bears (AHL)
Height: 6’1 Weight: 190 lbs DOB: Apr 2, 1983

Owen Fussey’s (2001 Draft, 90th overall) determination when on the ice is best suited for a player twice his size. Fussey has average ability, speed, and size, but he is an aggressive player, forechecks hard, and plays the body regularly. He is also a good locker room presence, and he is a high-energy guy on the bench and on the ice. Last season in Portland, Fussey was the lone Pirate forward with a positive plus/minus rating, and he finished the season at +6. He also had a fairly productive offensive season in 2004-2005, registering 26 points (14 goals, 12 assists), and appearing in all 71 games.

It is unclear if Fussey will make it to the NHL anything soon, as Washington has a plethora of third and fourth line players already in their system. However, Fussey’s work ethic and determination may earn him some time with the Caps this season, especially if they have injury problems. So far this season, Fussey has registered 8 points (1 goal, 7 assists) in 22 games with the Bears, and has a plus/minus rating of +4.

Maxime Daigneault, G – South Carolina Stingrays (ECHL)
Height: 6’3 Weight: 202 DOB: Jan 23, 1984

Daigneault’s stock within the Washington organization rose recently, as the Capitals traded struggling 24-year-old goaltender Maxime Ouellet to the Vancouver Canucks. With disgruntled goalie Rastislav Stana playing overseas, Daigneault (2002 Draft, 59th overall) is now the lone Washington goaltending prospect playing professional hockey.

Daigneault split time between Portland (AHL) and South Carolina (ECHL) last season. In three games with the Pirates last season, Daigneault finished with a record of 3 wins, 2 losses, and 1 tie, and posted a GAA of 2.91, and a save percentage of .906. He also appeared in 21 games with the Stingrays, winning 11 games with only 6 losses and 1 tie, with a slightly higher GAA of 3.02 and a save percentage of .904. This season he has played 21 games again with the Stingrays, with a 3.09 GAA, 9-8-4 record and .907 save percentage.

Daigneault is a big, strong goaltender a good glove hand. His lateral movements have improved since coming into the pro ranks last year, and although he is not the greatest puckhandler, can assist the defense with quick moves behind the cage to stop end-around dump in passes. Generally goalies take much longer to develop than skaters, and Washington is in no hurry to rush him to the NHL level. Look for Daigneault to possibly make the jump to the NHL within the next two seasons, especially if Olaf Kolzig retires within the next few years.

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