Capitals Rookie Class of 2000

By Jeff Charlesworth
With training camp less than a month away, the Capitals’ roster is falling into place. It looks like Coach Ron Wilson is bringing back the same team as last season – with a couple of veteran additions. However, the opportunity is there for some rookies to gain a spot in the lineup, just as Jeff Halpern and Glen Metropolit did last year. So with that in mind, I present the five Caps rookies that could be playing in the NHL in 2000-01.

Kris Beech – centre (age 19) 98-99: Calgary Hitmen (WHL)

Kris is hoping to follow the lead set by Jeff Halpern a year ago. Last season, Halpern won the fourth-line centre position during training camp and was eased into full-time duties. Beech is being projected as the Caps star forward for the future, and he is ready to play now. Another season in junior would not help him at this stage, and the Capitals expect him to make the team. Kris is currently skating at the Canadian WJC team tryout camp and is a good bet to make the final roster. The Caps would most likely let him play in the tournament, as the big game experience would help his development. His vision and speed make him an excellent set-up man, but he would not be paired with linemates who have a lot of scoring ability at first.

Alexei Tezikov – defense (age 22) 98-99: Portland Pirates (AHL)

The Capitals would like Tezikov to claim a spot on the blueline this year, and he has proved that he is ready for the challenge. The main roadblock right now is that Washington has nine defensemen with extensive NHL experience. Cote, Johansson, Klee, Mironov, Reekie and Witt are all assured jobs in DC, and Tezikov is probably ahead of Jamie Huscroft and Rob Zettler on the depth chart. Unless there is a trade clearing space for Alexei, his only hope of making the team is if Sergei Gonchar holds out. Coach Ron Wilson desperately wants to establish some new blood on the Caps blueline – and Tezikov is the player most ready to step up. He is technically no longer a rookie, but he has never had a full-time position in the NHL so he would be a first-year starter.

Stephen Peat – defense (age 20) 98-99: Calgary Hitmen (WHL)

Capitals GM George McPhee made it his number one priority in the off-season to acquire more toughness. His first move of the summer was to trade for Peat, who was described by Kris Beech as “the toughest guy I’ve ever seen”. Stephen’s natural position is defense, but he would only have a shot at the roster if he successfully converted to forward. He is the future enforcer of the Capitals and could be ready to play in the NHL now. The Capitals already brought in Craig Berube to fill that role for this season, which makes Peat a longshot at best.

Bjorn Nord – defense (age 28) 98-99: Djurgarden IF (SEL)

Nord’s Capitals career may be over before it starts. When Washington drafted the 28-year old Swedish All-Star in June – it was with the intent of having him step right into the NHL right away. However, NHL rules regarding European draft picks are very strict, and it may not be possible to get Bjorn over to North America this season. If he manages to make it to training camp, he would be in competition for the seventh spot on the Caps blueline with the potential to earn his way into the regular rotation. If he adapts to the North American style and he is able to play as well as he did in Sweden, he may force the Capitals to deal away one of their regulars.

Michal Sivek – centre (age 19) 98-99: Prince Albert Raiders (WHL)

Sivek is a real longshot to make the roster this season, but big things are expected of him in the future. He may not be ready for the NHL yet, but the Caps are desperate for offense. Michal’s status is up in the air at the moment, and he could end up playing in any number of places this season. He has signed a pro contract, so he is eligible to play in the NHL and AHL. He has also been linked to Sparta Praha in the Czech League – and it seems certain he will once again play for the Czech WJC team in December. Also in the picture, but at this point rather unlikely, is the possibility of him returning to the junior Prince Albert Raiders. If he can show the coaching staff he is willing to put forth a consistent effort, they may give him a chance. He would be brought along slowly – similar to Beech – and would earn his way into full-time minutes.