As the calendar hits 2013, there are still questions whether there will be an NHL season. Regardless, the Washington Capitals made great strides over the past year, including key additions to their prospect pool including Tom Wilson and Filip Forsberg along with a big year in goal by potential Capitals goalie of the future, Braden Holtby. As 2013 gets underway, The Hockey Writers ranks all Washington Capitals players based on how far away they are from reaching the NHL, their position and where they fit on the depth chart. Past performance, Capitals plans for the future and player projections were used to develop the 2013 rankings. This article breaks down Washington’s prospects on the cusp of the NHL, about two years away from the Capitals.
1. Tom Wilson
Washington selected Wilson in the first round of the 2012 NHL draft, following their selection of Filip Forsberg. The hard working forward attended camp for team Canada during World Juniors, but didn’t make the team. He currently plays for the Plymouth Whalers of the OHL (Ontario Hockey League), but should begin his first pro season with the Hershey Bears next season. He projects as a great third line winger, with potential to move to the second line if need be. Expect Wilson in Washington for the 2014-2015 season.
2. Garrett Mitchell
Mitchell currently is in his second full season for the Hershey Bears, Washington’s AHL affiliate, and has had a great start to this season. The Capitals sixth round pick posted 15 points in his first year with Hershey during the 2011-2012 campaign, and already has registered 13 points through 32 games this year. He projects as a third or fourth line grinder and penalty kill specialist. Mitchell also isn’t afraid to drop the gloves.
Sjogren has been playing for the Hershey Bears this season, but has yet to contribute offensively like Capitals’ management had hoped. The 25 year old is a big, physical center, and projects as a third liner at the NHL level, if he can continue his progression.
4. Zach Hamill
Washington acquired the versatile forward this summer in exchange for Chris Bourque. Hamill never found his groove with the Bruins, but has played great with the Hershey Bears this season. The former eighth overall pick by Boston has contributed 19 points through 29 points, two points shy of his point total in the AHL last season. Hamill has played numerous roles to this point in the season, including second line center and penalty kill specialist.
Kundratek was originally drafted by the New York Rangers in the 2008 NHL entry draft in the third round, but was traded to the Washington Capitals last season. Although he never received much playing time with the Rangers, the 23 year old offensively gifted defenseman has made his talents known with the Hershey Bears, AHL affiliate of the Capitals. Last season he contributed 34 points from the blue line in 55 games and has nine goals and nine assists through 32 games this season. Kundratek is skilled on the power play and is a great skater as a defenseman, but must work on his defense to reach the NHL level. Another year or two in Hershey to help develop his defense could lead him to a spot on Washington’s blue line.
Stafford, 32, is a well travel right handed defenseman with NHL experience. He signed a one year, two way deal with the Capitals this offseason and currently plays for the Hershey Bears during the lockout. In Hershey, Stafford has proved to be a reliable presence on the power play, contributing 15 points in 21 games played. He has struggled on the defensive side of things, but that’s not his game. Stafford will likely only be used in Washington if there are injuries to numerous Capitals defenseman, but is still an option.
3. Patrick Wey
Wey is finishing out his senior season at Boston College and should begin his professional hockey career in the AHL next year, after signing his entry level deal with the Capitals. He brings a solid two way game from the blue line, and is a solid puck mover. Wey projects as a backend defenseman who can help out on the penalty kill.
You can view part one in the Capitals player ranking series by clicking on the link belo
The next article in the series will focus on Capitals’ prospects that are at least three years away from the NHL along with likely AHL only players.