Capitals prospects push to make the playoffs

By Seth Keggins

Capitals prospects in Portland, Maine are being preached to on just one topic this season: team defense. With 12 games remaining on the schedule, the AHL Portland Pirates remain two points out of the fifth and final spot of the Atlantic Division and team defense undoubtedly will make the difference in post-season birth or post-season dearth for many Capitals prospects.

Portland is last in scoring with 127 goals overall in the AHL. Why,
might you ask? Because the team preaches defense first. Just ask top
rookie scorer and recently acquired 20-year-old prospect right wing Brooks Laich. After Laich was traded for Washington Capitals hero Peter Bondra, he has yet to score a single point for the Pirates. Before joining the Capitals organization, he was responsible for 15 goals and 18 assists in 44 games at Binghamton.

Capitals prospects playing at the AHL level have all struggled
trying to learn Coach Tim Army’s “center high” system this season.
Included in this lump of prospects is 24-year-old prospect right wing Roman Tvrdon, who has a lowly 2 goals and 4 assists in 49 games. Tvrdon was projected as an excellent two-way player when he was drafted while playing in the Western Hockey League. He was capable scoring at least a point per game at the junior level, but he has really struggled at the pro level. Nagging injuries may be the culprit for Tvrdon who injured his shoulder in 2002-03; however the scoring woes are the consensus for Caps prospects this season.

With All-Star goaltenders Maxime Ouellet, 22, and Rastislav Stana, 24, backstopping the Portland Pirates, teams find it difficult winning some games as a tandem even with out the low scoring offense. Both goalies share 13 shutouts between them this season, along with a .940 save percentage. Stana will soon be returning from a shoulder injury sustained during the AHL Skills Competition, but he still leads all Capitals goaltender prospects as well as the AHL with the top save percentage of .950 as of March 17th.

In other prospect news down in Portland, 24-year-old right wing Graham Mink leads his team with 18 goals and is second in overall team scoring with 35 total points. And 20-year-old right wing Boyd Gordon had been fairly quiet since his demotion from Washington, but he has recently turned it up his game with a goal and 2 assists in the last few games for his team, the Portland Pirates.

Clear Day Rosters were announced on Friday, March 12th for the AHL, which are lists of the players eligible for the Calder Cup playoffs.
Twenty-year-old defenseman Shaone Morrisonn and 20-year-old left wing Alexander Semin were both included on the list for the Pirates. Also included are Capitals prospects 20-year-old right wing Owen Fussey, Brooks Laich, both of which scored their first NHL point last week in a loss to the Chicago Blackhawks, and Boyd Gordon. Alexander Semin has a clause in his contract, which restricts him from being demoted to the AHL in his first pro season, however he still may personally decide to play after the NHL season concludes. This means he does have a slim chance of being a part of the Pirates lineup, along with many other Capitals prospects if they can hunker down and sneak into the playoffs.