Player development is what can make NHL teams so strong for a substantial length of time. The Washington Capitals are competing for a playoff spot at this moment, but could end up with a top ten draft pick during the 2014 offseason depending on their play after the Olympic break.
Their farm system features a few projected top end players, but lacks obvious NHL talent after that. There are some prospects that could make it, but their role won’t be a large one. The Hockey Writers takes a look at the Capitals’ prospects throughout the organization, breaking down the farm system at each level of play.
|Player||Team||January||Season to Date|
|Andre Burakovsky||Erie Otters (OHL)||8 GP, 7 G (3 PPG), 10 A||41 GP, 30 G (13 PPG), 34 A|
|Blake Heinrich||Sioux City Muskateers (USHL)||9 GP, 1 G||37 GP, 7 G (5 PPG), 8 A(5 PPA)|
|Brian Pinho||Indiana Ice (USHL)||10 GP, 5 G, 7 A (1 PPA)||38 GP, 11 G (3 PPG, 1 SHG), 16 A (2 PPA)|
|Chandler Stephenson||Regina Pats (WHL)||13 GP, 8 G (1 PPG, 1 SHG), 9 A||51 GP, 25 G ( 5 PPG, 6 SHG), 41 A|
|Garrett Haar||Portland Winterhawks (WHL)||9 GP, 7 A||49 GP, 5 G (1 PPG), 33 A|
|Jaynen Rissling||Calgary Hitmen (WHL)||3 GP, 1 A||39 GP, 7 G (5 PPG), 21 A|
|Madison Bowey||Kelowna Rockets (WHL)||15 GP, 2 G, 11 A||54 GP, 15 G (4 PPG), 31 A|
|Tyler Lewington||Medicine Hat Tigers (WHL)||13 GP, 1 G, 5 A||50 GP, 7 G (1 PPG), 18 A|
|Zach Sanford||Waterloo Black Hawks (USHL)||5 GP, 1 G, 2 A (PP)||34 GP, 12 G (4 PPG), 16 A (8 PPA)|
Riley Barber: After taking on the role of Captain for the United States of America during the World Junior Hockey Championship, Washington’s 2012 sixth round pick is back playing collegiately at Miami University of Ohio. He can play in all three zones and is one of the best young players in the NCAA. It’s unknown when he’ll make the switch to the pro game, but Barber told The Hockey Writers that he’s taking it one step at a time collegiately and isn’t looking too far ahead.
|Player||Year||Team||Season to Date|
|Austin Wuthrich||Junior||Notre Dame University||28 GP, 4 G, 6 A, 49 SOG|
|Caleb Herbert||Junior||University of Minnesota Duluth||25 GP, 7 G (3 PPG), 14 A, 61 SOG|
|Patrick Koudys||Junior||Pennsylvania State University||23 GP, 1 G, 4 A, 31 SOG|
|Riley Barber||Sophomore||Miami University of Ohio||25 GP, 16 G (6 PPG, 3 SHG), 19 A, 115 SOG|
|Thomas DiPauli||Sophomore||Notre Dame University||14 GP, 1 G, 21 SOG|
|Travis Boyd||Junior||Minnesota University||28 GP, 8 G (5 PPG), 11 A, 78 SOG|
Evgeny Kuznetsov: Once regarded as the top prospect not playing in America, Kuznetsov has stated repeatedly that he intends to join the Capitals. Washington hopes it is just a matter of when. Injured earlier this season, the Russian native has 17 points in 27 games this season. He’s crucial to Washington’s future and could play a key role on the decision to retain or move on from Mikhail Grabovski.
Christian Djoos: Having played well for Sweden in the latest World Junior Hockey Championship, Djoos is an intriguing Capitals prospect. He’s been playing for Brynas IF Gavle in Sweden and has totaled 11 points in 43 games this season, surpassing his eight point season during the 2012-13 campaign. While many have not seen what he can bring in the pro style, Djoos is a must-watch for Capitals fans if he signs with Washington in the next year or two.
|Player||January||Season to Date|
|Cameron Schilling||13 GP, 3 G, 2 A||46 GP, 3 G, 8 A, 56 SOG|
|Michael Latta||9 GP, 3 G, 8 A, 10 SOG||24 GP, 6 G, 13 A, 29 SOG|
|Nate Schmidt||11 GP, 3 A, 28 SOG||21 GP, 1 G, 7 A, 55 SOG|
|Nathan Walker||3 GP, 1 A, 1 SOG||31 GP, 5 G, 6 A, 56 SOG|
|Patrick Wey||4 GP, 1 G, 2 A, 11 SOG||14 GP, 1 G, 2 A, 13 SOG|
Cameron Schilling: Paired with veteran Tyson Strachan, the Miami University of Ohio alumni is having arguably his best season at the professional level. His plus eleven rating through 46 games is a new career high and Schilling has accumulated 11 points of the season, five short of his total from last season (16). If he continues to play well on the Bears’ top defensive pairing, there is still opportunity to make the NHL.
“He’s been a steady presence back there,” Hershey Bears coach Mike Haviland said of his play this season. “He kills penalties, he’s our shutdown guy with Strachs (Tyson Strachan) and every night we expect him to be a shutdown guy and he’s a plus player. When you’re a shutdown guy and you’re a plus going against the top guys around the league, he gets that assignment every night; it kind of shows what year he’s having. He goes under the radar because he’s not a flashy player. You notice him because he can skate, I look at his plus-minus (rating), that’s what I look at it. The way he shuts down the other teams’ top guys.”
Philipp Grubauer: After receiving a long look in Washington, the Capitals’ top goaltending prospect was assigned to the AHL’s Hershey Bears to clear up the goalie situation in the nation’s capital. His play with the Bears has been exceptional, going 8-5-1 with a 2.18 goals against average and .925 save percentage.
Michael Latta: Having jumped back and forth between the NHL and AHL for a large portion of this season, the former Nashville Predators prospect is enjoying success with the Hershey Bears at the moment. He’s etched out a primary role on the Bears’ second forward line with Jeff Taffe and Dustin Gazley along with getting significant time on the Hershey power play. He totaled 11 points in January, his best month of the season. Latta projects as a bottom six forward at the NHL level, along with getting a good run on the penalty kill each game.
Nate Schmidt: A Minnesota University product, Schmidt has seen time at both the NHL and AHL level this season. He’s a strong skater with obvious offensive skill, but his defensive game is still unrefined. If he can get better in his own end there’s potential for him to become a top four defenseman.
Patrick Wey: This first-year pro recently recorded his first NHL point in Washington, after getting another recall to the show. He plays a strong defensive game and will improve as he gains experience. Wey won’t provide much offensively, but could be a solid third pairing blue liner and penalty killing specialist for the Capitals down the road.
Brandon Anderson: After a first season with the ECHL’s Reading Royals, the Capitals free agent acquisition from 2010 has been playing much better of late. After posting a 3.18 goals against average and .876 save percentage in 16 regular season games during the 2012-13 season, Anderson has already played more minutes than he did in the previous campaign.
He won goalie of week in January and has a 2.52 goals against average and .904 save percentage in 21 games this season. Anderson is competing and will continue to compete with Riley Gill for minutes in the Royals’ net through the remainder of the season. He’s set to become an unrestricted free agent after the 2014-15 season, when his entry level contract expires.
Brett Flemming: Once a fifth round pick in the NHL draft by Washington, the 5’11” defenseman has yet to find a full-time role past the ECHL. He has nine points through 28 games this season and could become an unrestricted free agent this offseason, potentially not receiving a qualifying offer from the Capitals. He’s been playing better lately for Reading, with five of his nine total points coming in January.