Capitals European prospects 2009-10 review

By Dan Watkins

Two Swedes and a Russian make up the Capitals European prospect pool. All players are recently drafted, and none were taken before the 2008 NHL Entry Draft.

Marcus Johansson, C — Farjestad (SEL)
Acquired: 1st round, 24th overall, 2009
October 6th, 1990
5’11, 189 lbs

The latest first-round Capitals pick made plenty of strides in his game this season. Playing on the second, third, or fourth line, he was able to double his numbers from the previous season, potting 10 goals and 10 assists in 42 games. In five playoff games to date, Johansson registered three assists while mainly playing on the top two lines.

Johansson was able to build on an injury-riddled 2008-09 campaign and put forth a solid effort in his second full season in the Swedish Elite League. Playing in all situations, Johansson often displayed slick passing abilities and a solid work effort, game in and game out. The Swede is positioning himself very nicely to possibly become the Capitals second line center of the future. Johansson will most likely spend next season in Sweden as well, but should be in North America by the 2011-12 season.

Dmitri Orlov, D — Metallurg Novokuznetsk (KHL)

Acquired: 2nd round, 55th overall, 2009
July 23rd, 1991
6’0, 196 lbs

With an impressive first training camp in North America and an above average season in the KHL, Orlov looks to have solidified himself as one of the top prospects in the Capitals organization. Orlov’s strengths lie in his skating ability, shot, and ability to line up opposing players for big hits.

In a regular season that saw Orlov net four goals and seven points in 41 games, the Novokuznetsk native saw playing time in all situations, including the center position for a short stint. When his KHL team’s season was over, Orlov was sent down to the lower league where he exploded in the first round of the playoffs, registering two goals and two assists in a four-game sweep that saw his team advance to the second round. While size and positioning are an issue for Orlov, he is on an NHL track.

Anton Gustafsson, C — Boras (Sweden Allsvenskan)

Acquired: 1st round, 21st overall, 2008
February 25th, 1990
6’2, 201 lbs

The other Swedish forward in the Capitals prospect pool is not further along in his development, despite being taken a year earlier. Gustafsson returned to Sweden to play in the second league at the beginning of the year after not being able to make a deep Hershey Bears roster out of training camp. The center responded by putting up 12 assists and 18 points in 34 games.

Now that his Swedish season is over, Gustafsson has reported to the Bears and is waiting to get in a game or two before their record-breaking regular season comes to a close. Gustafsson has no real weaknesses in his game; it’s just that he doesn’t stand out as a first-round talent. While he makes good decisions with the puck and is defensively responsible, his finishing ability is just about average, as he often misses lay-up goals or easier shots. Look for Gustafsson to get a game or two in with the Bears this season and then compete for third or fourth-line duties next season.

Oscar Hedman, D — Vastra Frolunda HC Goteborg (SEL)
Acquired: 5th round, 132nd overall, 2004
April 21, 1986
6’0", 207 lbs

The older brother of Victor Hedman, Oscar played in the Swedish Elite League this past season, garnering five assists and seven points in 52 games. These numbers are his lowest totals since 2005-06, when he put up five points in 44 games.

Not seen in North America since the Capitals 2007 developmental camp, Hedman is most likely not in the Capitals’ plans anymore. When the last transfer agreement expired between the NHL and Sweden, Hedman fell into a gray category where his rights remained with the Capitals until a new agreement was reached. A new deal between the NHL and Sweden in the past month means that Hedman’s rights expire with the Capitals this summer if they do not sign him. All indications are that he will not make the jump to North America.