Washington Capitals continue tradition with strong group of Europe-based prospects

By Sean Shapiro
Thomas Di Pauli - Notre Dame

Photo: Notre Dame forward and Washington Capitals prospect Thomas Di Pauli was a greatly improved player in his final two seasons of collegiate hockey with the Fighting Irish (courtesy of Richard T. Gagnon/Getty Images)



Looking at both sides of the pond, the Washington Capitals had long-term projects playing in the NCAA ranks and Europe this past season.

In college Washington a group of forwards that all matured more this season and one prospect who won a national title. In Europe, Washington watched as a group of teenagers started to step up against adult competition, including top-ranked prospect and 19 year old goalie Ilya Samsonov in the KHL.


Thomas Di Pauli, C, Notre Dame Fighting Irish (Hockey East)
Drafted: 4th round, 100th overall, 2012

Di Pauli finished up his collegiate career at Notre Dame as one of the more decorated scorers over the past two seasons in South Bend. He had 32 points in 37 games in 2015-16 and helped Notre Dame in its rise up the NCAA rankings. Di Pauli grew as a leader with the Fighting Irish, while he also added a more physical element to his games this season.

Di Pauli should make the jump to the pro game next season, likely with the Hershey Bears in the AHL, and he could be quite an effective rookie.

Zach Sanford, LW, Boston College Eagles (Hockey East)
Drafted: 2nd round, 61st overall, 2013

Sanford started to add some intangibles to his raw skill this season with Boston College and skated deep into the season as the Eagles reached the Frozen Four in Tampa Bay.

Sanford had 39 points (13 goals, 26 assists) in 41 games and finished with an impressive plus-27. Over the season Sanford improved in his defensive zone and was given more responsibility by coach Jerry York.

Shane Gersich, C, North Dakota Fighting Hawks (NCHC)
Drafted: 5th round, 134th overall, 2014

Gersich won a national title this spring as a freshman with the University of North Dakota and was a key role player for the Fighting Hawks. He didn’t have many points (11 in 37 games) but was reliable defensively and improved as the season went along.

He isn’t known for his size (5-foot-11, 175 pounds) but plays bigger than his size and weight. He could step into more of a scoring role next season for North Dakota and flourish in that spot.

Steven Spinner, C, University of Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks (NCHC)
Drafted: 6th round, 159th overall, 2014

As a freshman this season at University of Nebraska Omaha the Minnesota native had 11 points in 33 games as one of the younger players on the team.

Spinner has decent size at 6-feet, 202 pounds and uses that to his advantage. He improved as the season went on during his freshman campaign and should step into a larger role next season. 


Kevin Elgestal, RW, HC Vita Hasten (Allsvenskan)
Drafted: 7th round, 194th overall, 2014

The 19 year old Swede split time between Frolunda’s junior team and HC Vita Hasten in Sweden’s second highest league. He played amongst men and started to find a role, as his confidence grew after his first dozen games. Elgestal finished with three goals and two assists in 27 games with HC Vita Hasten.

Elgestal has the makings of a power forward and will be easier to dissect as his confidence grows playing against men.

Jonas Siegenthaler, D, Zurich (NLA)
Drafted: 2nd round, 57th overall, 2015

Siegenthaler learned against men this season in the top Swiss league. In 40 games with Zurich he had three goals, five assists and was an impressive plus-16, while registering 28 penalty minutes.

He’s still learning how to be an offensive threat from the blue line, but his defensive prowess is impressive. Siegenthaler is strong in his own zone and was one of the most impressive Swiss players at the World Junior Championships when he played against players his own age.

The defenseman will likely be back in Switzerland next season, but he’s looking like a nice pickup for the Capitals.

Ilya Samsonov, G, Magnitogorsk (KHL)
Drafted 1st round, 22nd overall, 2015

The 19 year old Russian grabbed a position as a backup in the KHL this season and did a nicely for a Magnitogorsk team that contended throughout the season and he then started in the playoffs.

In 19 regular season games Samsonov had a .925 save percentage and 2.04 goals against average. In the playoffs he had a 2.29 goals against average and .916 save percentage. He still has two years remaining on his KHL contract.

Prospect of the Month

Shane Gersich - North DakotaShane Gersich lifted a national championship trophy as North Dakota defeated Quinnipiac 5-1 in Tampa Bay at the Frozen Four. Gersich scored the first goal of the championship tilt and had three shots in the title game.

Just a freshman, Gersich was part of a North Dakota team that was deep and used all four lines. He’s an averaged-size player, but his work ethic was something coaches and teammates noticed this season in North Dakota. Gersich also has strong NHL family bloodlines as the nephew of Aaron, Neal, and Paul Broten.



Follow Sean Shapiro on Twitter via @seanshapiro