A look at the Washington Capitals top 10 prospects heading into the 2015-16 season.
With the Capitals having a decade of the Alex Ovechkin era behind them, and some regular seasons of success, they have done a fine job avoiding the temptation of trading high picks for rental players trying to load up for a championship run. Perhaps that has been a mistake seeing as they have failed to come within striking distance of a championship with the strongest player the franchise has ever seen.
In the past two years under GM Brian McaLellan the draft results have been criticized. With ten picks from the last two drafts, the only player who stands out is Jakub Vrana and the decision to draft a goalie with the first pick from 2015 did not help change the criticism.
1. Madison Bowey: Defence – 6’1” / 195 lbs
Drafted: 53rd overall in the second round of the 2013 draft by Washington
Bowey’s game is defined by his great skating ability. His mobility is top notch, as he has very good top end speed, and acceleration; both in his forward and backwards skating. He has great pivots, excellent agility and very good edgework which allows him to cover a ton of ground out there. This skating ability allows Bowey to keep the play in front of him, as well to recover when he makes a mistake. – Last Word on Sports
2. Jakub Vrana: Left/Right Wing – 5’11” / 185 lbs
Drafted: 13th overall in the first round of the 2014 draft by Washington
Vrana has a fantastic wrist shot with a plus plus release. He is also skilled at finding gaps in coverage from which to strike. After an awesome start to his North American career, with five assists in three games, he will try to repeat the performance in a full season. Anything close will see him unveiled in the U.S. Capital before too long. He has more upside than anyone in the system. – Hockey Prospectus
3. Stanislav Galiev: Right Wing – 6’1” / 187 lbs
Drafted: 86th overall in the third round of the 2010 draft by Washington
Innovative forward with soft hands .. not overly big or powerful but wiry and strong for his size .. talented, agile skater with quick, resourceful feet .. moves well laterally, transitions instantly – has an awkward hitch in crossovers before flowing into a long, comfortable stride .. slippery, squirmy 1-on-1 – thanks to an elastic body and a unique ability to make skilled plays while twisting and pivoting in tight spaces .. generates serious wang on a hard, tricky wristshot that handcuffs goalies .. takes hits to make plays – finishes the odd check with conviction – but is generally easy to play against .. responsible defensively – but in need of better checking postures and routes – tends to roam from coverage lanes. – McKeens Hockey
4. Riley Barber: Right Wing – 6’0” / 194 lbs
Drafted: 167th overall in the sixth round of the 2012 draft by Washington
Barber is an outstanding two way player with great instincts and hockey sense at both ends of the ice. He is very good on the cycle game, protecting the puck extremely well with strong balance, and being very hard to knock of the puck. He wins board battles despite his size and can really work the puck down low. He also is willing to get to the front of the net and battle for position for tip ins, rebounds and converting a pass from a teammate. Barber has good vision and can find open teammates in front of the net when he is cycling. Barber is a good skater, who has very good top end speed and acceleration, and also the strength and balance to fight through checks and get to the front of the net. – Last Word on Sports
5. Ilya Samsonov: Goalie – 6’3” /200 lbs
Drafted: 22nd overall in the first round of the 2015 draft by Washington
Combines essential elements of size and athletic ability to be imposing in the net and make scoring difficult. He is very aware and reads the play well and is quick to close down the net. An ultra competitor who never gives up on a play. With normal technical refinement, he can become a star. – TSN.ca
6. Jonas Siegenthaler: Defence – 6’3” / 220 lbs
Drafted: 57th overall in the second round of the 2015 draft by Washington
Jonas Siegenthaler is a big and wide defensive defenseman out of Switzerland who spent most of his age 17 season playing in Switzerland’s top senior league. His three points in 41 games is indicative of his offensive prowess, although he has the tools to contribute something once he is more accustomed to the speed of the men’s game. He plays a mature, calm game and demonstrates an excellent first pass out of his own zone. The ultimate upside is limited, but Siegenthaler fairly safe as far as prospects go. – Hockey Prospectus
7. Zach Sanford: Left Wing – 6’3” / 185 lbs
Drafted: 61st overall in the second round of the 2013 draft by Washington
A massive young man with some offensive upside, he is still very much a work in progress. He has already demonstrates plus puck protection abilities, as befitting of a player his size, but we should expect his production to increase as his game matures with more time at B.C. – Hockey Prospectus
8. Travis Boyd: Center – 5’10 / 185 lbs
Drafted: 177th overall in the sixth round of the 2011 draft by Washington
Boyd completed four years of college hockey in Minnesota, scoring 41 points in 32 games. He made his pro debut with Hershey at the end of the year, scoring a goal and an assist in two games. Boyd is strong on draws and has two-way potential in a bottom six role. He needs time in the AHL, but could see a NHL cup of coffee if injuries at centre present an opportunity.
A playmaking center who shoots right, Boyd is expected to play a similar role that Stephenson played for the Bears last season, with possibly seeing reps on the Bears’ power play. CSN mid-atlantic
9. Philipp Grubauer: Goalie – 6’1” / 184 lbs
Drafted: 112th overall in the fourth round of the 2010 draft by Washington
At 6’1 and 185 pounds, Grubauer plays bigger than his size in net. He has a strong ability to fill the net, though he is still susceptible to high shots. His true strength comes in his positioning and his demeanor; he is calm and collected at all times, rarely seeming rattled. Though he is not the most athletic goaltender in the Capitals’ ranks, he shows quick legs and a strong glove hand. Graubauer is not the kind of goaltender who makes the highlight reel, but he can be as solid as they come. – Hockeys Future
10. Chandler Stephenson: Center – 5’11 / 190 lbs
Drafted: 77th overall in the third round of the 2012 draft
The former 89 point player for the Regina Pats of the WHL, played his rookie season in the AHL and struggled to produce offensively – 14 points in 54 games. Things improved in the playoffs when he scored five points in ten games. Undersized for the pro game, he will need to reinvent himself as a player as he likely cannot be the prolific scorer he was in junior. A late cut from the Caps roster in favor of veteran Jay Beagle for the fourth line centre position, he will see top six role in the AHL.
Barry Trotz brought up Stephenson’s name when asked about the Caps’ fourth-line depth in the event Nicklas Backstrom is slow to recover from summer hip surgery. After netting a career high 30 goals and 89 points in his fourth and final year with Regina of the WHL, Stephenson was used in a checking role in his first pro season with the Bears and did a lot of little things well under Troy Mann. He’ll need to prove he can handle the bigger bodies of the NHL if he hopes to land a spot on the Caps’ roster. – CSN mid atlantic
Honorable Mention: Chris Brown, Christian Djoos, Vitek Vanecek
Recent Roster Graduations: Andre Burakovsky, Sam Carrick, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Michael Latta, Dmitry Orlov, Nate Schmidt
Players under 25 years old and with less than 25 career NHL games played qualify as a prospect for purpose of this list.
Written by Peter Harling, who can be found on twitter @pharling