NHL opportunities few and far between for Washington Capitals prospects

By Sean Shapiro
Photo: With Philipp Grubauer finished the season with a 2.32 goals-against and .918 save percentage. (Courtesy of Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Photo: Washington Capitals rookie goaltender Philipp Grubauer finished the season with a 2.32 goals-against average and .918 save percentage. (courtesy of Patrick Smith/Getty Images)



The Presidents’ Trophy is already in hand and the Washington Capitals have switched focus toward the playoffs. The success this season has also given prospects extra time to cook in the minors or in junior.
That has left limited opportunities for prospects in the NHL club. Of those to get the chance, and of the prospects to play in an NHL game this season, only three survived the trade deadline as Washington bulks up for a cup run.

Chandler Stephenson, C, 21

After two full years in the AHL the third-round pick (77th overall) in 2012 earned his first NHL opportunity this season and appeared in nine NHL game with Washington. He went pointless in those opportunities, but he filled a role defensively and wasn’t on the ice for many goals against.

In the AHL, with the Hershey Bears, Stephenson has appeared in 40 games this season and has played a larger role than his first two seasons. He’s also showing more of a scoring touch with 23 points (5 goals, 18 assists) and he’s stayed clear of the penalty box (18 PIM).

Stephenson should continue to develop as a bottom-six forward that can kill penalties, and should benefit from added time in the Calder Cup Playoffs. Last season he appeared in 10 playoff games and had five points (1 goal, 4 assists) for the Bears.

Stanislav Galiev, 24, LW

The 24-year-old hasn’t played much but has been part of the NHL roster for most of the season. In 24 NHL games he has three assists and is plus-2. He also had three goals in five AHL games with the Bears this season.

The Russian has grown accustomed to life in North American after starting his career with the Indiana Ice in the USHL and spending three years with the St. John Seadogs in the QMJHL. He’s shown a scoring touch and been reliable in his defensive zone in the minors, while he’s still looking for a larger role with the NHL club.

Galiev will likely enjoy a front-row seat during the Capital playoff run, before taking the next step on the depth chart next season.

Philipp Grubauer, 24, G

Grubauer has appeared in 21 NHL this season, making the most of his limited opportunities backing up Braden Holtby in Washington. The 24-year-old German has a 2.32 goals-against average and .918 save percentage.

The 6-foot-1, 182-pound goalie isn’t cut from the same cloth as the other large goalie prospects in Washington’s system, but he’s composed and limits rebound. He’s also benefited from working closely with Capitals goalie coach Mitch Korn.

Holtby is still the present and future in Washington’s net, but Grubauer has established a nice niche in the back-up role and has been a good teammate on a team that could make deep playoff run.

2016 World Junior Championships

While the NHL club has been loaded with veterans, the Capitals did have a trio of prospects apply their trade at the 2016 World Junior Championships in Finland.

Ilya Samsonov, a 19-year-old Russian goalie, took home a silver medal and showed the poise that could turn him into an NHL starter in the future. He only appeared in two games in the tournament, but was stellar with a 2-0 record and .956 save percentage. Samsonov’s performance was in line with his showing in the KHL this season, where the teenage goalie posted a .925 save percentage and 2.04 goals against average.

Vitek Vanecek appeared in five games for the Czech Republic and the team struggled in front of the goaltender. He left with a .881 save percentage and 2.73 goals-against average.

Vanecek has made his transition to North America this season and has been playing with Washington’s ECHL affiliate the South Carolina Stingrays. In 31 ECHL games, he has a 2.09 goals-against average and .914 save percentage. He’ll get his first taste of playoff action this spring with South Carolina in the Kelly Cup Playoffs.

The only non-goalie to represent Washington in Finland, Swiss forward Jonas Siegenthaler had one assist and six penalty minutes in six games representing his country. He has finished up his season in Switzerland and made his North American debut after joining Hershey.

Prospect of the Month: Riley Barber

Riley Barber - Washington CapitalsA sixth-round pick in 2012, Riley Barber has turned into a nice find for Washington after making the jump from college to pro this season. In 68 games with the Hershey Bears the former Miami University forward has 24 goals and 28 assists.

Barber always showed a scoring touch with Miami and was a point-per-game player for the RedHawks, but his production in the AHL has been a pleasant surprise. The 22-year-old has shown he isn’t afraid to shoot and has 153 shots. Of his 24 goals, six have been on the power play. Barber is third in rookie scoring in the AHL and is a strong candidate to make the All-Rookie Team.