Semyon Varlamov still top prospect for Washington Capitals

By HF Staff

Photo: Semyon Varlamov will start the 2010-11 season as the Caps number one goaltender. (Photo Courtesy of

Semyon Varlamov remains the Washington Capitals’ top prospect, with American-born defender John Carlson hot on his heels. There’s been some movement in the top 20, with Andrew Gordon and Steve Pinizzotto graduating and Oskar Osala, Stefan Della Rovere, Chris Bourque, and Joel Broda joining other teams. Some new faces join the top 20, in the form of selections from the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, including Evgeny Kuznetsov (26th overall), Stanislav Galiev (85th overall), Philipp Grubauer (112th overall). Look for some of the higher-ranked prospects to get some playing time this year in Washington, due to solid training camp performances or injuries during the season.

Top 20 at a glance:

1. (1) Semyon Varlamov, G, 8.5B
2. (2) John Carlson, D, 8.5B
3. (3) Karl Alzner, D, 7.5B
4. (4) Michal Neuvirth, G, 7.5C
5. (6) Marcus Johansson, C, 7.5C
6. (NR) Evgeny Kuznetsov, C, 7.5C
7. (5) Mathieu Perreault, C, 7.5C
8. (10) Dmitri Orlov, D, 7.0C
9. (12) Cody Eakin, C, 6.5B
10. (9) Francois Bouchard, RW, 7.0C
11. (11) Dmitri Kugryshev, RW, 7.0C
12. (NR) Stanislav Galiev, RW, 7.0C
13. (14) Braden Holtby, G, 6.5C
14. (17) Jay Beagle, C, 6.0C
15. (NR) Philipp Grubauer, G, 6.0C
16. (18) Anton Gustafsson, C, 7.0D
17. (NR) Patrick Wey, D, 6.0D
18. (20) Zach Miskovic, D, 6.0D
19. (NR) Patrick McNeill, D, 6.0D
20. (NR) Phil DeSimone, C, 6.0D

1. (1) Semyon Varlamov, G, 22
Drafted 1st Round, 23rd overall, 2006

Varlamov had an up-and-down season in 2009-10, making the team after goaltender Jose Theodore was selected as the team’s starter out of camp. Varlamov won 12 of his first 15 starts, posting a 2.44 goals against average and .920 save percentage on the way. He was an early pick to compete for the Calder Trophy, awarded to the rookie of the year, before he faced injury issues. He missed almost two months of the season, recovering from a sore groin and several knee ailments. Upon his return, he looked rusty but managed to finish the season strong, posting an overall record of 15-4-6, a 2.55 goals against average and a .909 save percentage.

In the playoffs, he took over for Theodore lost Game 1 against Montreal and surrendered two quick goals to the Canadiens in Game 2. Varlamov started the rest of the series for the Capitals, posting a lackluster 3-3 record, a 2.41 goals against average and a .908 save percentage en route to a shocking series loss at the hands of the eighth-seeded Montreal Canadiens.

Varlamov is a big, athletic goalie who makes acrobatic saves on a nightly basis and also comes far out of the net to challenge shooters and cut down angles. He positions himself well and remains very calm and composed in the net. However, he does show flashes of his young age, often letting goals in quick succession and losing focus. But he’s expected to iron those issues out with more and more game experience. He needs to prove his durability, having never played more than 60 combined regular and post-season games in a season. If he can stay healthy and continue to show signs of improvement, he has the talent to be a bona-fide NHL starter.

Varlamov is expected to win the starting job over fellow youngster Michal Neuvirth and get the larger portion of the starts throughout the 2010-11 NHL season. However, if Varlamov is injured or struggles, it’s conceivable that Neuvirth can take over and get more of the starts.

2. (2) John Carlson, D, 20
Drafted 1st round, 27th overall, 2008

Carlson had a rollercoaster 2009-10 season, starting the season with the Hershey Bears of the AHL, playing on Team USA at the U-20 World Junior Championship (WJC), and being called up to the Capitals five times, including playing in all seven NHL playoff games. Carlson posted an impressive 39 points and plus-37 in 48 AHL games. His most thrilling moment may have come in the WJC championship game against Canada, in which he scored the overtime game-winner for Team USA, ending Canada’s four-year win streak at the WJC. In the WJC, he posted four goals, three assists, and a plus-eight in seven games, also serving as an alternate captain for the Americans. Carlson scored his first career NHL goal on March 25th, in a 3-2 shootout loss to the Carolina Hurricanes. He finished the NHL season with one goal, five assists, and a plus-11 in 22 games. In the playoffs he really shined, scoring the game-tying goal late in Game two against the Canadiens and finishing with one goal, three assists, and a plus-six in seven games. At the conclusion of t
he series, Carlson was sent down to the AHL and helped lead the Hershey Bears to a second-straight Calder Cup title, notching two goals, five assists, and a plus-eight in 13 games.

Carlson is the complete package on the blue line, boasting solid size, slick skill, and smooth skating. He plays a smart game on the back end, moving the puck well and skating it out of zone when possible. He is known for his solid instincts, good positional play, and high compete level. He is solid in all facets of the game and was a good penalty-killer all season. With a late game-tying goal and an overtime-winner, he has a flair for the dramatic, willing himself and his team to victory on the highest stages. While young, he has NHL-level talent and is willing to listen to his coaches and work hard to improve every day.

Carlson is slated to start the season on the Capitals’ back end, likely playing a top-four role with the multitude of departures on the Capitals blue line this offseason.

3. (3) Karl Alzner, D, 22
Drafted 1st round, 5th overall, 2007

Alzner split time between the NHL and AHL for the second straight season, notching five assists and a minus-two in 21 games at the NHL level. In the AHL, Alnzer boasted solid numbers, scoring three goals, adding 18 assists, and finishing the AHL season with a plus-34. He also got into his first NHL postseason action, jumping into the lineup for game seven against Montreal and saw about 15 minutes of ice-time in that game. After the disappointing series loss, he returned to Hershey and posted three goals, seven assists, and a plus-seven in 20 games en route to the Calder Cup title.

Alzner is primarily a defense-first defenseman, who skates well and relies on solid positioning to thwart opponents. He isn’t overly physical, but he also rarely takes unnecessary penalties and can contribute to the offensive game occasionally. He makes solid passes and relies on strong instincts to both shut down the opposition and play a supporting offensive role.

Alzner will start the season in Washington and could possibly play with Carlson in a top-four role, although it’s believed he would start on the third pairing and have to work his way up to the top-two defensive lines.

4. (4) Michal Neuvirth, G, 22
Drafted 2nd round, 34th overall, 2006

Neuvirth had another strong showing in the AHL during the 2009-10 season and even earned a few NHL call-ups when Theodore and Varlamov couldn’t play on separate occasions. In 17 regular season games, Neuvirth posted a 9-4 record, a goals against average of 2.75, and a save percentage of .914, higher than both of the other Capitals starters, Theodore (.911) and Varlamov (.909). In perhaps his best NHL performance, he stopped a whopping 18 first period shots against Atlanta, en route to a 38-save, 8-1 blowout victory. At the AHL level, he improved both his goals against average and save percentage from the 2008-2009 season, finishing the 2009-2010 season with a record of 15-6, a goals against average of 2.24, and a save percentage of .919. He was dominant in the Calder Cup run, finishing with a record of 14-4 and posting a 2.07 goals against average and .920 save percentage, in addition to notching a shutout.

Neuvirth plays a solid butterfly-style game, positioning himself well and cutting down angles. Beyond that, he’s well known for his composure in net. Regardless of the circumstances, it seems tough to get him rattled and knock him off his game. He has had trouble early in some games and faced some leg injuries. However, if he can continue to demonstrate poise and increase his durability, he could be a really special talent in net for years to come.

Neuvirth is expected to be Varlamov’s backup this coming season, but if he plays exceptionally in camp or Varlamov struggles, Neuvirth could conceivably take the reins. If not, he’ll still get his fair share of starts, with the expectation that Varlamov will get a somewhat heavier workload.

5. (6) Marcus Johansson, C, 19
Drafted 1st round, 24th overall, 2009

Johansson had another solid season playing in the Swedish Elite League for Farjestads. In his second season with the team, he switched from playing wing to center and saw a modest increase in his ice time and point totals, scoring 10 goals and adding 10 assists in about 14 minutes of ice-time per game. He also added five assists in Farjestads first-round, seven-game loss to Skelleftea in the playoffs. Johansson captained Sweden at the WJC, notching one goal, five assists, and a plus-seven, even though he missed the majority of the third period in a game against Team USA and Sweden’s bronze medal-winning game against Switzerland as a result of receiving a game misconduct on an elbowing penalty.

Johansson is described as solid in all three zones, showing consistent effort in the defensive zone and displaying high hockey IQ in the offensive zone. He skates very well and doesn’t cower at the prospect of facing physical defensemen. He is an above average playmaker and possesses an accurate shot which he can get off quickly. With continued all-around improvement, he could very well become a reliable offensive and defensive contributor, either on the third or even second line center position.

After signing an entry-level contract in May, it is expected that Johansson will play for the Capitals next season. However, if he doesn’t make the team, his contract has an out clause so he may return for seasoning in Sweden rather than apprenticing in the AHL. He has a realistic shot to make the third line center position for the Capitals, but with Tomas Fleischmann expected to play the second center role, it’s uncertain how much ice-time Johansson will receive.

6. (NR) Evgeny Kuznetsov, C, 18
Drafted 1st Round, 26th overall, 2010

In what many expects consider a steal, the Capitals selected Kuznetsov twenty-sixth overall in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, even though many scouts pegged him as a top-15 talent. The so-called Russian Factor, the apprehension General Managers have for drafting Russian players that may pursue KHL rather than NHL careers, is the popular reason for Kuznetsov’s fall. With Russian talents Alexander Ovechkin, Alexander Semin, and Semyon Varlamov, the Capitals must have believed Kuznetsov would want to play with these popular players sooner rather than later and had no qualms about selecting Kuznetsov. In 35 KHL games with Traktor Chelyabinsk, he scored two goals and added six assists, playing against much older and stronger men at age 17. Against prospects his age at the U-18 WJC, he torched the competition, posting a team-high 12 points (five goals, seven assists) and captained his team to a fourth-place finish. He
was nominated to the U-18 WJC All-Star Team. He even competed at the U-20 WJC, scoring two goals despite being relatively young for the tournament.

Kuznetsov plays a well-rounded offensive game, noted for his incredible skating and stick work. He is also an adept passer and can finish plays in traffic. He competes hard for loose pucks and loves battling along the boards, seemingly willing his team to score every time he is near a puck in the offensive zone. He does need to improve his play in the defensive zone and add strength and weight, but he projects favorably to be a top-six forward.

He signed a two-year extension in May with Traktor and reportedly seeks to play out the duration of his contract with the team. More than likely, he will play the next two seasons in the KHL, honing his game and making the jump overseas to join the Capitals for the 2012-13 season.

7. (5) Mathieu Perreault, 22
Drafted 6th Round, 116th overall, 2006

Perreault had a solid season in 2009-10, playing much of the season in Hershey and getting a cup of coffee at the NHL level. In 56 AHL games, he put up 50 points (16 goals, 34 assists) and a plus-23. In his first tour of NHL duty, he scored four goals and added five assists to go along with a plus-four in 21 games. He sparked the third-line during his NHL stay, competing hard every shift and bringing energy to the line-up each night.

He is a quick skater with adept playmaking skills. Though relatively small, he battles hard for the puck on the forecheck and has superior on-ice vision. He does well in the defensive zone too, but it wouldn’t hurt for him to bulk up and improve his all-around play.

The center position on the Capitals appears to be a hard spot to crack and Perreault is likely better served honing his skills in Hershey for another year. However, if he has a lights-out camp and brings energy to the game every night, he has a chance to make the opening night roster for the Capitals. Down the road, Perreualt projects as a potential second line center with strong passing skills and defensive awareness. At the very least, he projects to be a solid third line center that brings energy to the team to go along with a good all-around game.

8. (10) Dmitri Orlov, D, 19
Drafted 2nd Round, 55th overall, 2009

Orlov played a career-high 41 games for Novokuznetsk Metallurg of the KHL, scoring four goals to go along with three assists in limited ice-time against older, stronger opponents. However, he really shined when demoted to the second tier league to play for the Kuznetsk Bears, posting 32 points (16 goals, 16 assists) in 24 combined regular and postseason games. Although the Bears lost in the finals to the Steel Foxes, Orlov was named MVP of the Kharlamov Cup after placing third in point-scoring (19) in 17 games.

Orlov is renowned for his on-ice vision and the offensive skills he brings to the blue line. He skates smoothly and is comfortable both passing and shooting the puck. He can be caught over-committing and needs to work on his defensive zone play, but he is known for playing with an edge on the back end. If he can bring his defensive game to at least a respectable level, he has a chance to make an impact as a top-four defenseman. If not, he’ll most likely become a consistent puck-mover used on the third defensive pairing and as a power play quarterback.

Orlov has two years remaining on his KHL deal with Novokuznetsk and is slated to return to Russia for at least the 2009-10 season and likely the following season.

9. (12) Cody Eakin, C, 19
Drafted 3rd round, 85th overall, 2009

Eakin enjoyed a spectacular year in his third season with the Swift Current Broncos of the WHL, finishing as the ninth-leading scorer in the league with an astounding 91 points (47 goals, 44 assists) in 70 games, nearly doubling all of his statistics from the prior season in just 16 more games. The Broncos suffered a disappointing four-game, first round sweep at the hands of the Brandon Wheat Kings, during which Eakin put up one goal and one assist. After his WHL season had ended, the 19-year-old joined the Bears for a combined nine regular and postseason games, potting two goals.

Eakin has shown dramatic improvement in each of his three junior seasons, posting point totals of 17, 48, and 91 respectively. He is fast and nimble on his skates and uses his speed effectively, beating defenders and playing hard on the penalty kill. He’s shown slick scoring touch and isn’t afraid to play the body in forechecking situations. However, he isn’t overly physical and does need to focus on his defensive awareness. If the slick forward continues to improve his all-around play, he has the talent for a top-six role or could be a solid third line contributor in a few years.

He will return to Swift Current for the 2010-11 season, likely his last with the team, if he doesn’t make the Caps’ roster.

10. (9) Francois Bouchard, RW, 22
Drafted 2nd round, 35th overall, 2006

Bouchard had another solid season for Hershey, potting 21 goals and adding 31 assists and a plus-21 in 77 games. After opening the 2009-10 season with just one assist in five games, he went on a tear, scoring 10 points in the next five games. That appears to be a trend for Bouchard, slumping for a bit and then getting hot.

In the Calder Cup playoffs, he continued his streaky play. After scoring a goal in first game of the first round, he didn’t scored again until the third round. However, he came to play in the Calder Cup final, scoring three goals and adding an assist in the six-game set against Texas as the Bears went on to hoist their second straight Calder Cup. In total, Bouchard scored five goals and added five assists to go along with a plus-nine in 21 games.

Bouchard possesses great agility but isn’t a particularly fast skater. He is known for his creativity with the puck, making beautiful passes and beating defenders one-on-one. More of a passer than a shooter, he still shoots hard and can get his off quickly. He isn’t particularly big and gets knocked off the puck by defenders and he also has a propensity for taking bad penalties. He does need to improve his consistency from game to game if he wants to make it in the NHL.

The 22-year-old is likely to spend the season in Hershey, but it’s possible he could make the team if he has an impressive camp and shows chemistry with the NHLers. Unfortunately, his skill-set is more adapted to a top-six role and the Capitals have a bunch of solid players and prospects itching for top-six minutes. Bouchard continues to play well in the minors, but it’s possible he’ll never get his shot with the Capitals and be forced to move on to another team.

11. (11) Dmitri Kugryshev, RW, 20
Drafted 2nd round, 58th overall, 2008

Kugryshev had a fantastic season in the QMJHL for the Quebec Remparts in 2009-10. With 29 goals, 58 assists, and a plus-19 in 66 games, he not only led Quebec in scoring, he also finished fifth in scoring in the entire QMJHL. In the playoffs, he added four goals and six assists in nine game
s, as Quebec beat Acadie-Bathurst in the first round but was swept by Victoriaville in the second round.

Kugryshev oozes scoring ability, using the shifty skating, hard work down low in the offensive zone, and a quick release to torch goaltenders. He makes clean passes all over the ice and works consistently on the back-check and the defensive zone. He isn’t supremely fast or overly physical, but he’s competitive in all three zones and is solid on his skates.

Kugryshev is likely to spend the 2010-11 season playing for the Bears, although he could return to Quebec for a final season. He likely needs a few seasons in Hershey to adjust to the pro game and improve his strength and conditioning. A few years down the road he projects to be a solid two-way forward with scoring abilities, a decent fit on either the second or third line.

12. (NR) Stanislav Galiev, RW, 18
Drafted 3rd round, 85th overall, 2010

Galiev had a promising rookie season in 2009-10 for St. John Sea Dogs of the QMJHL, posting 15 goals and 45 assists in 67 games. In the playoffs, he led all rookies with 19 points (eight goals, 11 assists) in 21 games as St. John fell to Moncton in the finals in six games. He finished the season as a finalist for QMJHL Rookie of the Year award and was named to the QMJHL All-Rookie Team.

Galiev plays a similar game to current Cap Alexander Semin, with some scouts saying he’s an even better passer than Semin was at his age. He is known for his on-ice vision and creativity, which complement his speed and elusiveness. He is more of a passer than a shooter, but serves a spectacular complementary role to snipers, setting them up beautifully. He really needs to work on his strength and defensive game. However, he hustles on defense and needs to improve his judgment and awareness more than anything.

The 18-year-old will return to St. John for the 2010-11 season and continue to round out his overall game. If he can continue his solid transition to the North American game, he projects to be a good playmaking second or third-liner with defensive hustle, complementing natural scorers well and strengthening his line’s defensive play.

13. (NR) Braden Holtby, G, 21
Drafted 4th round, 93rd overall, 2008

Holtby had a whirlwind season in 2009-10, bouncing around from the South Carolina Stingrays of the ECHL, the Hershey Bears, and even being called up to the NHL, serving as a backup in a few games as the Capitals faced goaltender injuries. He didn’t appear in any NHL games but put up solid numbers at every other level. He was named an ECHL All-Star after posting a 7-2-3 record, a goals against average of 2.95, and a save percentage of .911 in 12 games with the Stingrays. With Hershey, he played in 37 games, finishing the season with a 25-8-2 record, a 2.32 goals against average, and .917 save percentage. He played three games in the AHL playoffs, going 2-1 with a 3.60 goals against average and a .857 save percentage as the Bears captured the Calder Cup.

With a large frame and solid positional play, Holtby is a prototypical butterfly goalie, with side-to-side movement comparable to Varlamov’s. He controls rebounds well and has an exceptional glove hand. However, he can be beaten on high shots and needs to continue developing his whole game. He has shouldered a heavy workload, in both junior and the minors, and looks to be a solid option in net for good teams, elevating his play and sometimes stealing important games. As a young goaltender, he needs time to mature and round out his game in order to make an impact in the NHL.

Holtby will be the starter for Hershey in 2010-11, likely receiving a large majority of the starts over veteran Dany Sabourin. Although Washington has a crowded crease with Varlamov and Neuvirth, Holtby will benefit from consistent pro playing time and that time will allow him to develop into a potential starter or maybe a consistent, dependable backup in the NHL.

14. (17) Jay Beagle, C, 24
Signed as a free agent in March 2008

Beagle got another cup of NHL coffee in 2009-10, scoring his first career goal and adding an assist in seven games. Playing 66 games with Hershey, he put up 35 points (16 goals, 19 assists) and a plus-10 to go along with 25 penalty minutes. In the playoffs, he added two goals, six assists, and a plus-six in 21 games as Hershey won the Calder Cup. He also proved an effective penalty-killer throughout the season, potting two shorthanded goals.

Beagle is a perfect third or fourth-liner, boasting size and physicality and bringing energy to the line-up. He isn’t a big time scorer, but with solid skating and a hard-working mentality, he projects to be strong grinder for the two lower lines.

He’ll most likely spend time with both Washington and Hershey this next season, with an outside chance to make the two lower lines with the Capitals out of training camp. Down the road, he could be a perfect complement to Washington’s stacked offensive lines, providing physicality and energy when he’s on the ice with the third or fourth line. If he doesn’t consistently crack the NHL line-up, he could serve as a useful depth player that works hard and wears opponents down.

15. (NR) Philipp Grubauer, G, 18
Drafted 4th round, 112th overall, 2010

Grubauer had a solid season in 2009-10, splitting time between Belleville and Windsor of the OHL and playing in multiple high-profile tournaments. For the Belleville Bulls, he played in 31 games, posting a 10-14-5 record, with a 3.14 goals against average and a .913 save percentage. After being traded to the Windsor Spitfires, he posted a 13-1-2 record, a 2.37 goals against average and a .906 save percentage in 19 games. In the OHL playoffs, he went 18-2 with two shutouts, posting a 2.69 goals against average and .906 save percentage. In four Memorial Cup games, he went 4-0 with a 2.14 goals and .930 save percentage, leading Windsor to its second consecutive Memorial Cup title. Competing for Germany in the second division of the WJC, Grubauer posted a 5-0 record, an insane 0.64 goals against average and a ridiculous .974 save percentage as Germany won gold and will move up to the top division in next year’s WJC.

Grubauer plays big in net, positioning himself well and covering the bottom of the net like a brick wall. He is athletic and flexible and plays very calmly in net. However, he does over-commit sometimes and can be beaten by high shots or patient shooters. He can be streaky at times and it’s hard to gauge his ability at this time. Playing for a dominant Spitfires team, he played great but wasn’t as good with a weaker Belleville team.

Grubauer was traded to the Kingston Frontenacs at the OHL Entry Draft this year, clearing the way for Jack Campbell to take the reins in net for Windsor. Grubauer will likely remain in junior
for this coming season and perhaps next, with more time needed to continue his development. He needs to improve his overall play and prove he can play well regardless of the team he’s on. If he continues to improve in the coming seasons, he has the natural talent to become an NHL starter, but it’s far from a sure thing. If not, he could prove to be a serviceable back-up down the road.

16. (18) Anton Gustafsson, C, 20
Drafted 1st round, 21st overall, 2008

Gustafsson had a season to forget in 2009-10. He suffered a concussion in the Capitals’ prospect camp and then suffered a multitude of different injuries in training camp. He was sent down to Hershey to start the season but didn’t get into a regular season game and was loaned to Boras HC of the second tier Swedish league. There, he put up solid numbers, scoring six goals and adding 12 assists in 34 games. After the Boras season ended, he returned to Hershey, making his pro debut on April 4th, adding two assists and a plus-two in a win over Norfolk. He was with Hershey for the Calder Cup playoffs but didn’t get into any games.

Gustafsson is a solid two-way center, with good playmaking skills and physical play. He is a tireless defender, often making smart decisions and rarely trying to do too much. In the offensive zone, he possesses good hockey sense and distributes the puck well to his teammates. His shot isn’t overpowering, but it is accurate and he manages to get if off quickly. He isn’t particularly agile but strikes fear in the hearts of defenders when he reaches full speed. Gustafsson has suffered a rash of injuries, an unfortunate side-effect of his physical playing style, and they have slowed his development. If he can continue to mature physically and improve his durability, his play should also continue to improve.

Gustafsson will attend the Capitals training camp but will almost certainly return to Hershey for the 2009-10 season. If he can put his injuries concerns to rest, he could prove to be a solid two-way forward for a stacked Hershey team. With increased maturity, durability, and experience, Gustafsson could eventually make it on the Capitals roster as a two-way forward on the second or third line. However, it will take several more injury-free seasons of continued development before he’s close to making the jump to the NHL.

17. (NR) Patrick Wey, D, 19
Drafted 4th round, 115th overall, 2009

Wey played for Boston College in 2009-10, putting up five assists and a plus-four in an injury-shortened season. He suffered a broken wrist and only played in 27 games. Adding insult to the injury, he missed the NCAA Frozen Four, suffering from a bout of mononucleosis. He did however participate in USA Hockey’s WJC evaluation camp, adding an assist in five games.

Wey is a puck-moving defenseman, a player that loves to rush the puck up ice and dish it to his teammates. Unfortunately, he missed significant time in 2009-10 with an injury and an illness. He has a NHL-sized frame, which will help him to survive the rigors of the NHL if he gets there. He still has a lot to learn and needs to improve his defensive play. He isn’t very far along in the development, but with solid defensive players and prospects in the Capitals system, he’ll have plenty of time to round out his game playing for Boston College.

Wey will return to Boston for the 2010-11 season, looking to repeat as national champions. Wey attended the Capitals’ prospect camp in July 2010 and has a chance play for Team USA at the 2010 WJC. If he continues to improve and acquits himself well playing against some of the best under-20 players in the world, he could be well on his way towards a future in the NHL as a solid two-way, puck-moving defenseman.

18. (20) Zach Miskovic, D, 25
Sign as a free agent in March 2009

Miskovic had a really solid season in 2009-10, playing in 59 games with Hershey. In those 59 games, he put up 26 points (six goals, 20 assists) and a plus-18. In the Calder Cup playoffs, he played in six games, posting a goal, an assist, and a minus-two.

Miskovic projects as a two-way defenseman at the NHL level, relying on solid outlet passes to start the rush. He isn’t particularly large, but plays more of a positional game to stop the opposition. He’s a solid power play shooter, utilizing an accurate shot to get pucks through and cause rebounds.

Miskovic re-signed with the Capitals as a restricted free agent to a one year contract in June 2010 and is expected to play for Hershey in the 2010-11 season. He may get some NHL time as an injury call-up, but he doesn’t have much upside. He’s been effective at the NCAA and AHL levels, but at 25, he has probably developed as much as he can and it’s uncertain if he’ll ever make the NHL.

19. (NR) Patrick McNeill, 23
Drafted 4th round, 118th overall, 2005

McNeil had a good season for Hershey in 2009-10, posting 35 points (eight goals, 27 assists) and a plus-20 in 62 games. In the postseason, he appeared in 11 games, scoring three goals, adding three assists and a plus-six.

McNeil is a textbook puck-mover from the blue line, boasting good mobility and the ability to make smart outlet passes. He is a noticeably slippery player, excelling in one-on-one offensive situations. However, he has a lot to work on in the defensive zone. He isn’t a physical player and must rely on positioning to stop the opposition. Unfortunately, he still needs to improve his positional play and has taken penalties after being beaten by opponents because of his poor positioning. At this time, he is too much of a defensive liability to make the jump to the NHL and must focus on improving his play in his own end.

McNeil re-signed with the Capitals for one year in July 2010 and will play in Hershey for the 2010-11 season. With concerns about his defensive play and a surplus of puck-moving defensemen in the Capitals’ system, it could be quite some time before McNeil sticks at the NHL level. With improved defensive play, he could be a number five or six defenseman with offensive upside somewhere down the road.

20. (NR) Phil DeSimone, C, 23
Drafted 3rd round, 84th overall, 2007

DeSimone had a good season in 2009-10 playing for the University of New Hampshire, his third with the team. He posted 37 points (10 goals, 27 assists) and a plus-six in 39 games. UNH had a disappointing postseason, losing two out of three in the Hockey East quarterfinals against Vermont. In that series, DeSimone had two assists. In the NCAA East regional tournament, UNH defeated Cornell in the first game. DeSimone added two assists in that game. In the regional semifinals, UNH fell to RIT. DeSimone scored a goal in that game.

The 23-year-old is a fast forward with good hockey sense. He is a solid puck-distributor and shows great patience with the puck. His defensive play is lacking, but he continues to improve it in each season.

DeSimone will return for his senior season at UNH in 2010-11. If he shows continued improvement, he could earn an entry-level contract with the Capitals. If he does, he will likely start the following season in Hershey, adapting to the pro game. Down
the road, he could compete for bottom-six minutes at the NHL if he can play decent defensively and put up numbers at the AHL level.

Article was written by Patrick Harbolick.