There are only a few new names on this edition of the Washington Capitals Top 20 prospects compared to the early 2015 edition. This is largely because the team has a solid, consistent group at the NHL level and have not had the need to rush prospects into the big leagues.
That is not to say they have not had any graduates: the highly-touted duo of Evgeny Kuznetsov and Andre Burakovsky made their NHL debuts last year and look to be fixtures in the nation’s capital again in 2015-16.
The Capitals show a bit of a trend here in that they appreciate the smaller, faster, more skilled forward and potentially dynamic goaltenders. There is a good mix of puck-moving defenders and stay-at-home types, though there are far fewer dynamic players in that group than there are in other positions.
20. (19) Shane Gersich, C, 6.0 D (6.5 D)
Drafted 5th round, 134th overall, 2014
Gersich spent 2014-15 with the Omaha Lancers of the USHL, posting 27 goals and 49 points in 52 games. He will make his collegiate debut in 2015-16 with the University of North Dakota.
One of the younger players on this list, Gersich is intriguing. He is not known for his size (5’11, 175 pounds), instead using his game-breaking speed and skating to stand out. He has a strong shot and quick release, making him dangerous off the rush. He will spend at least the next three seasons with North Dakota, looking to develop his offensive game before he makes the leap to pro hockey. He has the one-on-one skill and the skating ability to be a factor going forward, though it is uncertain just how high his potential is.
19. (NR) Kevin Elgestal, RW, 6.0 D
Drafted 7th round, 194th overall, 2014
Much like his 2013-14 effort, Elgestal was again solid for Frolunda’s junior team in 2014-15, posting 10 goals and 26 points in 33 games. He also appeared for five games at the international level, though his role was very limited and he did not post any points in that time.
Elgestal will return to Frolunda’s junior team for 2015-16, looking to add size to his frame and further develop his overall game. He has quality size at 6’1, 187 pounds and has the makings of a power forward at the next level if he continues to learn how to use it to his advantage. Still a bit of a fringe player, Elgestal is a solid playmaker, though he has shown the ability to shoot the puck. He is very much a project at this point, and if he makes it to the pros, will need at least a few more seasons to do so.
18. (14) Travis Boyd, C, 6.0 C
Drafted 6th round, 177th overall, 2011
Boyd, despite not being the most hyped of prospects, has continued to be a fixture for a collegiate powerhouse, the University of Minnesota. More of a playmaker in years past, Boyd exploded for 19 goals in 2014-15. That is even more impressive when you consider he had scored 13 career college goals prior to that. He also set a career-best in points, with 41 in 32 games.
Boyd is set to make his full-time professional debut in 2015-16 with Hershey. He has played above his skill set thus far and will need to continue to show that he can perform as he hits the professional level. Boyd shows a strong two-way game, along with very good hockey intelligence and offensive instincts. He is not likely to be an offensive focal point going forward, but he has performed at every level so far. If he can score as a pro, he could surprise many and make the Capitals as an effective third-line center.
17. (18) Caleb Herbert, C, 6.5 D
Drafted 5th round, 142nd overall, 2010
The transition from being an effective player at the University of Minnesota-Duluth to a similar player on the professional level was not an easy one for Herbert in 2014-15. He managed just two assists in a dozen games for Hershey before being sent to South Carolina of the ECHL. Herbert managed to fair well for himself there, scoring 19 goals and 28 points in 42 games.
In 2015-16, Herbert will return to Hershey for another shot at full-time status. He has good hockey intelligence and offensive instincts, but his size (6’0, 195 pounds) and skill set do not necessarily jump off the screen at you. Going forward, Herbert could find a niche as a two-way center either on the third or fourth line, but he will need to show that he can compete on the higher levels before going any further.
16. (NR) Stanislav Galiev, W, 6.5 D (6.5 F)
Drafted 3rd round, 86th overall, 2010
After a frustrating two seasons where he split time between Hershey and Reading of the ECHL, 2014-15 was a banner season for the talented Galiev. He tied for the team lead in goals with 25 and finished fifth with 45 points, though he was a no-show in the playoffs with one goal in five games.
Galiev will return to Hershey for 2015-16, looking to play bigger minutes and round out his overall game while showing that he can score consistently at this level. Going forward, Galiev is a huge question mark. He clearly possess the skillset to be an effective scoring forward at the next level, though he tends to disappear for stretches.
15. (20) Thomas Di Pauli, C, 6.5 D
Drafted 4th round, 100th overall, 2012
DiPauli was a bit of a question mark before his breakout 2014-15 campaign as a junior for the University of Notre Dame. In 67 games prior to 2014-15, DiPauli managed just eight goals and 17 points. In 41 games as a junior, he managed eight goals and 29 points, a pretty sizable jump in production.
There is a bit of uncertainty as to what the next step for DiPauli is. He still has a year of eligibility left and could opt to return to Notre Dame or make the jump to the pro level in 2015-16, likely with Hershey of the AHL. DiPauli has outstanding skating ability and speed as well as a high motor, making him a potentially effective energy player at the next level and beyond. His explosion in production makes him at least intriguing going forward, though he is more likely to find himself in a grinder role.
14. (12) Zach Sanford, LW, 6.5 D (6.0 C)
Drafted 2nd round, 61st overall, 2013
Making his collegiate debut with powerhouse Boston College in 2014-15, Sanford showed that he will be a force to reckon with as he gains size and experience. His seven goals and 24 points in 38 games belies something much bigger as his continues his college career.
Sanford has a very enticing package of size (6-4 195) and skill, though he is still more on the raw side than anything else. He will return to Boston College for his sophomore season and should become more of a focal point going forward. He will no doubt need three or four years in college before making the jump to pro hockey, though he has the frame and ability to become an effective power forward at the next level.
13. (17) Brian Pinho, C, 6.5 D
Drafted 6th round, 174th overall, 2013
Pinho made the jump to collegiate hockey in 2014-15, beginning his freshman season with Providence College. Pinho showed flashes of his potential, posting six goals and 18 points in 39 games en route to a National Championship, the first for Providence.
Pinho will return to Providence for his sophomore season in 2015-16, looking to take on a larger role for the defending champions. Pinho has quality size at 6’1 185 pounds, with room to pack on more strength and muscle as he develops as the collegiate level. Like Chandler Stephenson, he is a very good skater with good offensive skills. He will be shown patience, and allowed to develop over the next few seasons before making the jump to professional hockey. He has the ability to be an effective third-line forward in the future, showing good offensive punch to his game.
12. (11) Chandler Stephenson, C, 6.5 D (7.0 D)
Drafted 3rd round, 77th overall, 2012
Following a successful final season with the Regina Pats of the WHL in 2013-14, the results were a little disappointing in 2014-15. Stephenson made his professional debut with Hershey, posting just seven goals and 14 points in 54 games. Granted, he had to battle for ice time and wasn’t getting the minutes he will need to produce like the Capitals believe he can, but he has to show more going forward.
At 5’11 and 200 pounds, he makes up for his size with outstanding skating and speed, as well as good one-on-one offensive skills and hockey IQ. He will return to Hershey for the 2015-16 season, hoping to win a larger role going forward. Looking ahead, he has the ability to be a quality third-line center at the NHL level, but needs to find consistency.
11. (7) Tyler Lewington, D, 6.5 C
Drafted 7th round, 204th overall, 2013
Lewington continued to grow as an all-around player in his final season with the Medicine Hat Tigers during 2014-15. He posted career-highs for the third straight season in goals (9), assists (36) and points (45) while wearing the captain’s “C” for the first time in his junior career.
Though his size is not great (6’1 195 pounds), Lewington’s path to the NHL will be tied to his defensive game and willingness to get into the dirty areas. He plays a strong, physical game, a nice contrast to all the puck-moving defensemen the Capitals have both on their NHL roster and in the system. He’ll make his professional debut with Hershey in 2015-16 and is likely a few years away from challenging for a spot at the NHL level. Lewington’s offensive skills remain something of an unknown, but if he continues to play a punishing, defensive game, he could find himself a bottom-pairing spot when he is ready to make the jump to the NHL.