With two months of hockey completed this season, it is now time to take a look at the stock report of a handful of prospects from the Washington Capitals. Because the NHL club is looking like one of the best teams in the league, it is understandable to ignore the future of this franchise. Eventually, like in previous years, the players from this year’s edition will be gone and cheap, young assets will have to come in and replace them. You can see from Nate Schmidt, Stanislav Galiev, Andre Burakovsky, Tom Wilson, Phillip Grubauer and Michael Latta how much young and unproven talent under cheap contracts is important in the modern NHL. So with that in mind, whose stock is looking good so far and whose stock is in need of a boost?
Connor Hobbs: Stock Up
It is no secret anymore that Capitals management has not been too keen on stockpiling Canadian Hockey League talent into their prospect pool. Since 2009, only two of Washington’s 12 first and second round picks have come from the OHL, QMJHL or WHL. Along with that, of Washington’s seven draft picks that came from the CHL since 2012, six have played in the WHL and that is where Connor Hobbs still plies his hockey trade now. The Regina Pat was taken 143rd overall in last summer’s draft and was considered a diamond in the rough pickup for General Manager Brian McClellan. After racking up just 18 points in 45 games, Hobbs has already put up 12 in 18 games and has been facing some of the team’s toughest assignments according to Josh Weissbock’s chlstats.com.
Also according to the website, however, Regina could be one of the worst defensive teams in the WHL. Not only have they given up over 3.5 goals per game, but Regina’s puck possession is a dismal 46.1% and their defense has given up a league worst 37.1 shots per game. Whether most of that has to do with Connor Hobbs’ play is undetermined without hours of footage, but it is something to pay attention to as Hobbs continues his quest towards his NHL dream.
Tyler Lewington: Stock Down
You can’t help but find the career path of Connor Hobbs to be pretty identical to that of Tyler Lewington’s. In his age-18 season, the former seventh round pick was also improving his offensive numbers from the blue line while also gaining a leadership role with the Medicine Hat Tigers. Like Hobbs, using both Rob Vollman’s new translation factors and Garret Hohl’s method to calculate cumulative NHL equivalencies have shown that both players are projected to produce 0.13 points per game once they make it to the NHL. Now, less than a week before he turns 21, Lewington is finding his way in the depths of ECHL South Carolina after impressing Barry Trotz in the preseason last year. While it is not a death sentence, plying your trade two tiers below the NHL is not a positive sign for any NHL prospect entering his first full professional season. With just three points in 12 games, Lewington’s stock certainly isn’t improving any time soon and that will have to change for him to be teammates with fellow prospects and more-skilled defensemen Christian Djoos, Connor Carrick and Madison Bowey in AHL Hershey.
Madison Bowey: Stock Down
Speaking of Bowey, things have not been rosy for the former second round pick and World Junior Champion. After projecting to produce 0.204 points per game at the NHL level, Bowey’s has only recorded half of those projected numbers with Hershey by putting up only one goal and three points in 14 games. Shooting only 14 shots during that span is not helping either, but there is caution as to how much of a big deal Bowey’s lack of production is. He is still 20 years old and Hershey has an infamous reputation of late for relying too much on AHL veterans to deliver wins and not allow the parent club’s prospects to develop. Even Chandler Stephenson has been able to play in the NHL after producing sub par numbers in the AHL the previous year. Still, Carrick and Djoos are producing as well or better than Bowey and both are only two years older than him. Add in the fact that Nate Schmidt and Dmitri Orlov are living up to their analytical potential and the avenues for Bowey to make it into Washington are much more difficult than expected.
Thomas DiPauli: Stock Up
Zach Sanford: Stock Up
Along with the lack of CHL talent coming into the Caps prospect pool, another trend that fans notice is the influx of American talent Washington’s management brings in from the later rounds of the NHL draft. It has brought up many interesting prospects over the years and none more so this season than Zach Sanford and Thomas Di Pauli. So far, both players are hitting their strides as offensive players as they are nearing a point per game production each for their respective universities. Sanford may only have a year left in the always competitive Boston College roster, but Di Pauli is in his senior year at Notre Dame and is among the team leaders in scoring. This is quite a turnaround for the former World Junior participant whom, despite his 5’11” frame, was considered more of a board battler than a goal scorer. That still may be the case, as he is only projected to record 0.134 points per game at the NHL level, but if he keeps this up, Di Pauli should be able to see more than some time in the Capitals minor league system.
As for Sanford, the 6’4″ New Hampshire native is still behind the likes of Bruins prospect Ryan Fitzgerald and Senators first round pick Colin White in scoring, but like Di Pauli, gradual improvement in point production can only be a good thing for his future. Like Di Pauli, Sanford should be expected to play all four years at the college level, where he can only be expected to get better.
Brian Pinho: Stock Down
While Di Pauli and Sanford are benefiting from the college game, Brian Pinho is not necessary seeing his production improve as much while he is with the defending National Champion Providence Friars. He is shooting the puck 2.27 times per game and is a +7 in 11 games, but with three goals and seven points, those are not totals that will stand out amongst avid prospect followers. There is still plenty of time for Pinho to improve his puck luck and gain valuable experience, but like many other prospects at his level, it is all about making sure you have the best avenue of making the NHL. With Di Pauli and Sanford improving, Pinho’s window is smaller than what it was at the start of the season.
Ben covers the Washington Capitals at the hockey writers. He has been blogging about the NHL since March 2013. Follow him @DCSportsDork