Capitals 2006-07 rookie review

By Ryan Bright

Mike Green, D
6’1, 208 lbs
Oct 12, 1985
Drafted 29th overall in 2004

Following a Calder Cup championship season last year, Mike Green began the 2006-07 season with the Capitals as a very promising young defender who had something to learn at the NHL level.  Green started better than he finished, but overall did fine. 

Green was seventh among Capital defensemen in average ice time per game with 15:29.  In 70 games played, he had 2 goals, and 10 assists, and a -10 rating.  Green’s plus/minus rating was amongst the best on the team prior to a foot injury he suffered on Jan. 16.  Green’s play before the injury was good enough to win him a spot on the Eastern Conference roster for the YoungStars game, in which he shined, notching 3 assists, and a +2 rating.

After the All-Star break, Green’s game was not quite as good, which may or may not have been a direct result of a still recovering injured foot.  This decline in his play had him assigned to Hershey in mid-February, in which he had 2 goals, and 4 assists, with a +4 rating in only nine games.  His good play in the AHL was rewarded with a return to the NHL, he was recalled on March 5, and continued in Washington till the end of the season.  After being recalled back to the NHL, Green only had 2 assists with a -11 rating in the final 16 games.  This is a major difference from his first 16 games when he had 2 goals, 3 assists, and a +7 rating.

After Washington’s season ended, Green was sent to Hershey to compete in the AHL playoffs along with other rookies on the team.  He currently has six goals and six assists in 12 playoff games.

Green will be looked upon to be a steady defender for the Capitals in 2007-08, who desperately need consistency on the blue line.  If he can take what made him so successful in the first half of the 2006-07 season and apply it all season long, he will become a mainstay on defense for the Capitals for some time to come.

Jiri Novotny, C

6’2, 194 lbs
Aug 12, 1983
Drafted 22nd overall in 2001

Novotny was acquired by Washington in the trade deadline deal on Feb 27 that sent Dainius Zubrus and Timo Helbling to the Buffalo Sabres in return for the 6’2 Czech. Though he was only in a Capitals uniform for a handful of games, he made his presence felt with immediate point production.

Novotny averaged 12:55 minutes of ice time a game between Buffalo and Washington, though found slightly more ice time in Washington, with its lack of depth at the center position.  In 18 games played with the Capitals, Novotny broke the 18-minute mark of ice time three times.  He did this only once in 50 games with the Sabres.  Novotny’s extended ice time resulted in point productivity as he tallied 6 assists in the 18 games he played with the Capitals.  He was second on the team in assists during that time, only trailing Alexander Semin who had 9 assists in the final 18 games.  Novotny had 6 goals, and 7 assists in 50 games with the Sabres, and finished the season with 6 goals, 13 assists in 68 games.

After the NHL regular season ended, Novotny was chosen to play in the IIHF World Championships for the Czech Republic.  He had no points in six games played. 

The former Buffalo first-round draft pick is in the long-term plans of the Capitals, who desperately need offensive depth at center.  With Novotny’s talent for faceoffs, as well as his improving passing ability, he could serve as high as the Capitals second line center of the future or even as soon as next season.  Where Novotny will play depends on the arrival of highly-touted center prospect Niklas Backstrom from Sweden.

Jakub Klepis, C
6’1, 198 lbs
Jun 5, 1984
Drafted 16th overall in 2002

After having a very good preseason, it appeared as if Klepis had finally arrived at the NHL, and would make a serious case for the vacant second line center position during the regular season.  This success did not last into the regular season however, as Klepis only had 1 assist in the first 14 games of the season. 

Klepis’ first goal of the season came on Nov. 18 against Boston. He followed that up with the first two-point game of his NHL career, as well as the first time he scored goals in back to back games, by scoring a goal and an assist against Atlanta on Nov. 22.  After this minor offensive flurry, Klepis fell back in a rut only adding four more assists in his next 20 games, going scoreless in 11 games between Dec. 9, and Dec. 30.  This slump eventually landed Klepis back in the AHL in late January, where he was forced to earn his way back to the NHL.  Klepis did just that with 6 goals, 21 assists, and a +19 rating in only 27 games with the Bears.  He was recalled back to the Capitals on March 27 and tallied points in back to back games, scoring a goal and an assist on March 30 and March 31.  Klepis averaged 9:57 minutes of ice time a game, and finished the season with 3 goals, and 7 assists in 41 games.  Though the stats may not be much to look at, his plus/minus of -2 was notable.  Despite facing scoreless droughts throughout the season, Klepis’ two-way play was good, which is a positive sign that he will have a future in Washington.

Klepis was reassigned to Hershey for the AHL playoffs, where he has 2 goals and 7 assists in 12 games.

Coming off a disappointing season, Klepis will look to rebound in 2007-08 and turn his preseason success into regular season success. 

Jeff Schultz, D
6’6, 224 lbs
Feb 25, 1986
Drafted 24th overall in 2004

Schultz began the 2006-07 season with the Hershey Bears, hoping for a chance to play in the NHL.  As injuries ravished the Capitals roster, Schultz received his call rather quickly, making his NHL debut on Dec. 22 against the New Jersey Devils

Replacing the ill Shaone Morrisonn, in his first game Schultz logged 21:17 minutes of ice time (the fourth highest on the team), and registered a +1 rating despite the Capitals losing 4-1.  Four games later, Morrisonn returned to the Capitals lineup and Schultz was sent back to Hershey.  On Jan. 18, Schultz returned to the NHL, in replacement of fellow rookie defender Green, who was nursing a sore foot.  Schultz’s solid play made the Capitals hard pressed to send him back down to the minors. 

In his next 13 games, Schultz had a +6 rating with 2 assists, despite the Capitals going 4-9 in that span.  He would remain in the NHL for the rest of the season.

In 38 games played this season for the Capitals, Schultz had 3 assists, and a +5 rating, which ranked him second on the team in that area.  In the 37 games he played with the Hershey Bears, Schultz had 2 goals, 6 assists and a +15 rating.  He scored his first NHL point on Jan. 26, against Carolina.  His average ice time was ranked seventh on the team at 18:12 minutes per game, and was tops amongst Capitals rookies.

Schultz was assigned to Hershey for the AHL playoffs, and in 12 games played has one assist.

Schultz proved himself to be a very responsible defender at the NHL level.  Though he had a high level of ice time, he managed to not give up many goals during his shifts.  Schultz has the size to become a good defender for the Capitals, but with little offensive game, he won’t be a top pairing player. 

Tomas Fleischmann, C
6’1, 190 lbs
May 16, 1984
Drafted 63rd overall in 2002

The enigma that is Tomas Fleischmann continued to be unsolved throughout the 2006-07 season. A very capable prospect who showed flashes of brilliance at times, he also showed very little at other times, causing a constant cycle of being assigned and recalled, to and from the AHL.

As a favorite to make the offensively thin Capitals roster in the preseason, Fleischmann did not impress enough to begin the season in the NHL.  He played one game on Oct. 7, but got his real opportunity on Nov. 4.  In seven games with the Capitals, Fleischmann only had one assist, causing him to be sent back to the AHL.  He was recalled from Hershey on Feb. 24, and paid dividends right away by scoring his first NHL goal against the Devils.  He remained with the Capitals for the rest of the season. 

In 29 games in the NHL, Fleischmann had 4 goals, and 4 assists, with a -6 rating, which includes a four-point game against the Tampa Bay Lightning on March 18.  He averaged 11:38 minutes of ice time per game, which was sixth amongst Washington rookies.  In 45 games played in the AHL, Fleischmann had 22 goals and 29 assists.  He ranked sixth on the team in points with 51, despite playing nine games fewer than the fifth-place player.

Fleischmann was assigned to Hershey for the AHL playoffs, where he has 3 goals and 11 assists in 12 games.

Fleischmann was expected to become a permanent center on the Capitals roster as soon as this past season.  But considering his offensive inconsistencies, and talented center prospects making moves in the Capitals organization, Fleischmann’s time to shine is now.

Eric Fehr, RW
6’4, 212 lbs
Sept 7, 1985
Drafted 18th overall in 2003

He scored his first-ever NHL goal this season, but Fehr’s tryout in the NHL was cut short by not one, but two back injuries.

Fehr began the 2006-07 season in Hershey, but was brought to Washington on Nov. 23 for two games.  Having not had much success in either of the games, he was assigned to Hershey once again.  Almost two months later on Jan. 27, Fehr was recalled again to Washington, this time for a longer look.  On the same day of his recall, he scored his first NHL goal. Fehr stayed with the Capitals until a back injury on Feb. 24 had him day to day.  He was reassigned to Hershey on Feb 27, and played with the Bears until he was recalled again by Washington on March 14.  A day later Fehr injured his back again and would miss the remaining of the NHL season.  He missed a total of 18 NHL games with his two back injuries, tough for a rookie trying to make a name for himself in the organization.

In 14 games played at the NHL level, Fehr had 2 goals and 1 assist with a +3 rating.  He averaged 10:43 of ice time a game, seventh amongst Capitals rookies.  At the AHL level, Fehr had 22 goals, and 19 assists in 40 games played.

Fehr has the size and the skill to become an offensive force in the NHL, but so far has not been able to find momentum is in game because of nagging injuries.  If he can stay healthy and produce the way he is capable of, there will be spot on the Capitals’ roster for him. 

Alexandre Giroux, C
6’3, 201 lbs
Jun 16, 1981
Signed as UFA in 2006

Giroux was expected to be a depth forward who could contribute when called upon to do so.  While having a remarkable season in the AHL, the Capitals called on him to fill in, and add some potential offense to their roster.  In his limited time playing reserve forward for Washington, he played very well, leaving the door open for more opportunities at the NHL level in the future.

When the injury bug hit the Capitals in December, Giroux was called up as a replacement.  He made his Capitals debut on Dec.19, and stayed up for two games, in which he did not record a point.  He was reassigned to Hershey on Dec. 26, once Capitals regulars began returning from injury.  He stayed in the AHL until March 2, and after seven games was reassigned to Hershey again despite having 2 goals and 2 assists in those seven games.

Giroux averaged 10:11 minutes of ice time per game, and scored 2 goals and 2 assists in nine games played.  His AHL numbers were much better, finishing second in the AHL in goals, and also second in plus/minus with +29.  In the AHL playoffs, Giroux has 10 points in 12 games.

With the lack of depth in the Capitals lineup, Giroux could be a utility player that the Capitals continue to count on.  

David Steckel, LW
6’5, 215 lbs
Mar 15, 1982
Signed as UFA in 2005

Steckel’s 2006-07 season was projected to be entirely in the AHL, but with his solid play and excellent face off percentage, he was rewarded a chance to play in the NHL for a handful of games.

Steckel was recalled from Hershey for a three-game stint that began Dec. 29 and ended Jan. 1.  In three games, he had no points, and a -2 rating.  He did however have a 72 percent faceoff percentage.  Steckel was not recalled back to Washington until an April 4. The first game of the last recall, he had 19:22 minutes of ice time, and a +1 rating.

In five games played in the NHL, Steckel had no points, and was a -2.  In those five games he had a 64 percent faceoff percentage, and 12:26 minutes of ice time a game, fourth among rookies.  In the AHL, Steckel had 30 goals and 31 assists in 71 games played and was third in plus/minus with +28. In the AHL playoffs, Steckel has 12 points in 12 games.

With only five games played in the NHL this season, (two games fewer than last season) it is not likely Steckel will make Washington’s roster at the start of 2007-08 without an absolutely outstanding preseason.  Steckel, a high pick in his draft year, is not a skater bred for the new NHL. Yet with his ability to be a solid special teams player, as well as a reliable face-off man, he should see spot duty as long as his excellent work ethic continues.  

Jamie Hunt, D
6’2, 195 lbs
Apr 20, 1984
Signed as UFA in 2006

During a respectable rookie season with the Hershey Bears, the Capitals recalled Hunt for one game due to an extreme rash of injuries suffered by Washington blue liners. 

Hunt was recalled on Dec. 29 and played his first game against the New Jersey Devils.  This recall made Hunt the first Mercyhurst College player to reach the NHL.  On Dec 31, he was reassigned to Hershey, where he would remain until Jan 20, when he would be recalled again but broke his wrist before playing any more games. Hunt required surgery to repair the wrist in January, which cut short his season.

In the one game played with the Capitals, Hunt had no points, and a -1 rating in 6:01 minutes of ice time.  For Hershey, Hunt had 2 goals, and 10 assists in 36 games.  He did not participate in the AHL playoffs because of his broken wrist. 

Hunt will most likely start the season with the Hershey Bears, and depending on his play there, see recalls to the NHL.

Copyright 2007 Hockey’s Future.  Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.