Top 20 Washington Capitals prospects feature some familiar faces

By Ryan Womeldorf

Philipp Grubauer - Washington Capitals

Photo: Washington Capitals goaltending prospect Philipp Grubauer received his first NHL playoff action back in April, picking up a 4-3 win over the New York Islanders (courtesy of Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire)



10. (10) Philipp Grubauer, G, 7.0 D
Drafted 4th round, 112th overall, 2010

For several seasons, Philipp Grubauer has been consistent for the Hershey Bears while getting spot time for the Capitals. Though his spot time consisted of just one game in 2014-15, he was again a strong point for the Bears, posting a 2.30 goals against average and .921 save percentage in 49 games. He struggled a bit in the playoffs, posting a less-than-stellar .901 save percentage in seven games.

For 2015-16, it seems as though the backup spot could finally be his for the taking. Braden Holtby has the starting job locked down after a banner season and a huge contract extension in the offseason, but the backup job will be up for grabs between Grubauer, Dan Ellis and incumbent backup Justin Peters. If Grubauer cannot grab the backup job, he will likely return to Hershey to reclaim his starting job.

Grubauer projects as a quality NHL netminder, though he likely will not get his shot at a starting gig in Washington thanks to Holtby and the high-end prospects behind him.

9. (6) Christian Djoos, D, 6.5 C
Drafted 7th round, 195th overall, 2012

Djoos did all he could do for Brynas IF of the SHL, playing out his last season in 2014-15. He had a solid 17 points while continuing to grow both physically and defensively. He will make the jump across the pond full-time in 2015-16, joining Hershey of the AHL.

Djoos is still on the smaller side of the scale which causes him issues in his own zone at times, but he plays a quietly solid all-around game. He does not have the offensive ability of his dad, former NHLer Par Djoos, but he has a good hockey IQ and has shown an ability to join the rush when the situation presents itself. Has the potential to be a solid, smart, intelligence-driven addition to the top six, likely playing bottom-pairing minutes should he make it to Washington.

8. (9) Nate Schmidt, D, 7.0 D
Signed as a free agent, April 2013

Schmidt, like a good chunk of his brethren on the Capitals’ defensive prospect list, came into the mix as a puck-moving defenseman. But if the 2014-15 season show us anything, he is more of a well-rounded defender than anyone really knew. For the second straight season, Schmidt split time between the AHL and NHL, playing well in bottom-pairing minutes in 39 games with the Capitals.

For 2015-16, Schmidt has a good shot to reclaim his role on the bottom pairing. He has learned to put his offensive abilities aside and focus on playing a smart, sound game instead. Going forward, he is not likely to get the big minutes he would need to produce at the rate he did back at the University of Minnesota, but he will be a quality piece on defense with his skating and smarts.

7. (3) Vitek Vanecek, G, 7.5 D (8.0 D)
Drafted 2nd round, 39th overall, 2014

The 2014-15 season was a bit of an up-and-down one for the young Vanecek. He performed well for both Bili Tygri Liberec of the Czech League and for HC Benatky nad Jizerou as a loan during the regular season. He then had a stinker of a World Junior Championships performance with an .829 save percentage in three games for the Czech Republic, and upon return, struggled in the playoffs—posting a .902 save percentage in five games.

Though he does not have the size that Samsonov possesses, he has every bit the athleticism. Vanecek turns in highlight-reel saves with regularity, displaying a slick glove hand that can snatch away a guaranteed goal consistency. He will make the jump to North America, joining the Hershey Bears of the AHL in 2015-16. There is a bit of a glut in goaltending at that level, so it would not be a surprise if he cuts his teeth in the ECHL first. Vanecek has the potential to be a very good NHL goaltender, but is still quite raw at this stage in the game.

6. (NR) Jonas Siegenthaler, D, 7.0 C (6.5 C)
Drafted 2nd round, 57th overall, 2015

Siegenthaler was far from the flashiest prospect available when the Capitals selected him 57th in the 2015 NHL Draft, but he had himself a quality 2014-15 season. Playing for Zurich of the Swiss NLA, he showed himself to be a quality defensive defenseman capable of playing a shutdown role.

Under contract for one more season with Zurich, Siegenthaler will not be able to make his North American debut until 2016-17 at the earliest, but could have one of the fastest tracks to the NHL among Capitals prospects. He has an NHL-ready frame at 6’3, 220 pounds and plays a no-frills, quality defensive game. Siegenthaler possesses good mobility and keeps his game simple, making the smart play and standing his ground in the dirtier areas. Should he become a fixture on the team’s blueline as a shutdown defender, he will be the type of defenseman that you never notice, but feel supremely confident in.

5. (5) Connor Carrick, D, 7.0 C
Drafted 5th round, 137th overall, 2012

Carrick, who made a somewhat hasty jump to the NHL in 2013-14 by playing 34 games with the Capitals, got his first full season of action in the AHL during 2014-15 and showed why he is one of the top prospects in Washington’s system. Carrick finished sixth on the Bears in scoring, racking up 34 assists (second only to Tim Kennedy) and 42 points in 73 games.

Carrick will return to the Bears for 2015-16, looking to take on big minutes, play in all situations and continue to hone his defensive skills while showcasing his very obvious puck-moving abilities. Carrick has all the makings of a power play quarterback, someone with the ability to join the rush at any time and push the pace. His size (5’11, 185 pounds) is still a problem when it comes to one-on-one battles in his own zone, but he is learning to use his positioning and skating to help circumvent that. At the next level, he projects as a top four defender with good offensive ability, and he could join the NHL permanently as soon as 2016-17.

4. (4) Riley Barber, RW/C, 7.0 C
Drafted 6th round, 167th overall, 2012

Barber was again quite good in 2014-15, returning for his junior season with Miami University (Ohio), posting 40 points and a career-best 20 goals in 38 games. He also captained Team USA’s World Junior Championships group, notching four goals and six points in five games.

He is set to make his professional debut in 2015-16, joining the Hershey Bears of the AHL. Barber made his name on the collegiate level as a strong two-way player, showing good defensive instincts and an ability to produce offensively on every level he has played. Not only that, but he has shown good leadership skills, projecting as a potential leader with the Capitals in the future. He is a hard worker and will need to continue to bring that work ethic with him to the next level if he hopes to continue being productive, despite less-than-obvious skills.

3. (2) Jakub Vrana, RW, 8.0 D
Drafted 1st round, 13th overall, 2014

Though 2014-15 was a bit of a down year for Vrana, he still remains one of the best prospects in the Capitals system. Vrana turned in a disappointing outing at the World Junior Championships, though he performed admirably in his first full season in the SHL, posting a dozen goals and 24 points in 44 games for Linkoping HC as a loan.

Vrana still projects as a top-six scoring winger, leaning more towards a goal-scorer. He possesses good playmaking skills, but his instincts and a nose for the net as well. He got his first taste of North American hockey late in 2014-15 with the Hershey Bears, posting five assists in three games and another six points in 10 playoff games. He will get his first full season under his belt in 2015-16, looking to take on a big role for the Bears. He is still likely at least a year or two away from potentially making the Capitals, though he could help address the need for secondary scoring when he finally does arrive.

2. (NR) Ilya Samsonov, G, 8.0 C
Drafted 1st round, 22nd overall, 2015

The Capitals have shown an affinity for dynamic, athletic goaltenders and the choice to them was obvious when Samsonov was still available with the 22nd overall pick in 2015. Samsonov spent the majority of 2014-15 with Stalnye Lisy Magnitogorsk of the MHL, Russia’s top junior league. He also performed well on the international stage for Team Russia, turning in a strong World Junior Championships effort.

With a contract in the KHL for the next three seasons, Samsonov will try his hand at the professional level. He has the size and skills to thrive, but he will have to show that he can do it at a higher level.

Samsonov has outstanding athleticism and very good size even at 18 years old. If he continues to work on his consistency and the finer points of his game, he has the ability to be a very good starting goaltender at the NHL level. By the time he is ready to make the jump, he will have to unseat Braden Holtby—but if anyone can do it, it will be him.

1. (1) Madison Bowey, D 8.0 C
Drafted 2nd round, 53rd overall, 2013

For the second time in a row, Bowey is the undisputed king of the Capitals’ prospects. Bowey was dominant at every level of competition during 2014-15. He posted his second straight 60-point season, doing it in just 58 games for Kelowna of the WHL. He then posted a point per game in the playoffs, leading Kelowna to a WHL championship. And that is not even mentioning his role as a top-pairing defensive ace for Team Canada’s gold medal-winning World Junior  team.

With his prolific junior career behind him, Bowey is ready to bring his dynamic talents to the professional level. He will make his pro debut with Hershey of the AHL in 2015-16, acclimating himself to the speed and physicality of the professional game before he makes the jump to the NHL.

Bowey does it all from the blueline: he scores, hits, skates and plays in every situation. He projects as a top-pairing NHL defenseman that can and will be used in every situation. He is still likely a year or two away, but Bowey is the real deal and should be taking over the Capitals blueline in the very near future.

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