The 2018-19 regular season comes rapidly to a close but before that, it is time to take a look at some of the Capitals’ prospects (Nathan Walker, Shane Gersich, Ilya Samsonov) and what they have been up to this year. Have some taken a step forward or backward? Washington won the Stanley Cup last year but still has a pretty good pipeline.
Prospect wise, Washington expects a pick somewhere in the twenties this year. The Capitals pick six times in the 2019 NHL Draft. They traded away their third-round pick last month. That was the deal for Carl Hagelin. Below, are the top ten prospects of the Washington Capitals.
2018-19 Top 10 Washington Capitals Prospects
1. Ilya Samsonov, G – Hershey (AHL)
Drafted: 22nd overall in the first round of the 2015 draft by Washington.
Samsonov having a bit of a rough transition is not a surprise. The Russian goalie played great in the KHL but even the AHL is an adjustment (North American hockey always is). The good thing is the goalie is in a platoon role, having played in 32 games. Ilya Samsonov’s record comes in at 17-12-3 with a 2.77 goals-against average and .894 save percentage.
Those numbers may not appear to be all that good but again, it is the experience along with the subtleties of playing goalie in a higher-tempo league. The expectation is that Ilya Samsonov becomes the starter for the 2019-20 season.
2. Shane Gersich, LW/C – Hershey (AHL)
HT/WT: 5-11/ 174
Drafted: 134th overall in the fifth round of the 2014 draft by Washington.
The forward averages just about two shots a game for Hershey while providing 20 points in 55 games. One of the concerns with Gersich is his low shooting percentage (5.8%). Overall, his two-way game keeps improving and his upside seems to be that of a middle-six forward. Gersich impressed many in the Washington camp and his confidence was sky high afterward. The season in Hershey has not quite gone as expected but one would never know it. His demeanor is always positive.
Again, another concern lies in the fact that his hockey instincts at game speed can be inconsistent. Decision time looms for Gersich and Washington as his entry-level deal is up. Players like Nathan Walker are competing with Gersich for a spot.
3. Lucas Johansen, D – Hershey (AHL)
Draft: 28th overall in the first round of the 2016 draft by Washington.
Washington may not have that many injuries with the big club but injuries have marred Johansen’s season — limiting him to just 35 games. He scored twice and assisted on ten goals in those games. The offense is slowly coming along.
Defensively, Johansen still has some aspects to work on like battles near the front of the net. Making smarter decisions in the high-danger areas is something which will come in time. He needs another season in the AHL mostly due to the lost time this season. However, there are flashes where the NHL-like talent comes out.
4. Alexander Alexeyev, D – Red Deer Rebels (WHL)
Drafted: 31st overall in the first round of the 2018 draft by Washington.
Arguably, Alexeyev will take time to develop but some think he could surprise quickly. He tallied 43 points (10 goals) in just 49 games for the Red Deer Rebels of the WHL. Many saw his potential at the 2019 World Juniors where he had six points in seven games. He did not look out of place in the least and was active often.
His upside is that of a top-four defenseman. That may become higher but based on what has been seen, Alexeyev has room to grow. He is not super quick but agile enough to take a few strides and engage. Over the summer, he may pick up a little more upper body strength like he did last summer. The expectation is for Alexeyev to play in Hershey for the 2019-20 season.
5. Riley Barber, RW – Hershey (AHL)
Drafted: 167th overall in the sixth round of the 2012 draft by Washington.
The forward needed to have a big jump upward this season in order to get noticed by Washington. Barber accomplished that and leads the Hershey team in points. A 30-30 season is quite likely for the forward who has 58 points on a team-leading 221 shots in just 59 games. Therefore, the question becomes does he crack the NHL roster in September?
One of his biggest problems is just being a right winger in a system where they are not needed. Perhaps an opening could come in September but will he re-sign again with Washington? His NHL skill level is that of a middle-six winger already. Stay tuned.
6. Jonas Siegenthaler, D – Hershey (AHL), Washington (NHL)
Drafted: 57th overall in the second round of the 2015 draft by Washington
Siegenthaler is known more like a defensive defenseman, and yet he can be physical and mobile at the same time. It is partially why the Swiss blueliner played 25 games for Washington this season. He makes proper decisions and has mostly good fundamentals.
Basically, he was Washington’s sixth/seventh defenseman. Siegenthaler’s improvement in strength was noticed by many in the organization. His possession metrics were right around team average in his time with Washington which was a good sign for his first call-up. The feeling is with a little more time in the AHL, Siegenthaler can be a good bottom pairing defenseman and/or second-pairing blueliner for the Capitals.
7. Garrett Pilon, C – Hershey (AHL)
Drafted: 87th overall in the third round of the 2016 draft by Washington
With a breakout season in Everett under his belt (28 points in 22 playoff games), Pilon came to Hershey and has performed fairly well. He may be a hair too unselfish but the center has 30 points in 65 games.
When his goal-scoring translates a bit better to the AHL, then look out. This is a player who had 45 goals between the regular season and playoffs last year in the WHL. Pilon was one of the last cuts in training camp for the second year in a row. The good news is that the forward may have a good chance at cracking the Washington roster come September. There is a lot to like about his game. He does need to hit the net more with his shot which is above average. Pilon could be up in a year or two permanently in the NHL.
8. Nathan Walker, LW – Hershey (AHL)
Drafted: 89th overall in the third round of the 2014 Draft by Washington.
After the last year or so, Walker proved he can score in the AHL. However, Washington is jammed with forwards. It makes it difficult to crack the roster consistently. Nathan Walker played three more games with the Capitals this year in an emergency call-up. Do not be surprised if that happens again before the season is out.
Fortunately, the style that Walker employs does translate well in the NHL as a bottom-six winger. Nathan Walker has a solid wrist shot which keeps improving. Everything boils down ultimately to will there be an opening for a fourth-line forward come September.
9. Connor Hobbs, D – Hershey (AHL)
Drafted: 143rd overall in the fifth round of the 2015 Draft by Washington.
Hobbs broke out with the Regina Pats two years ago and his playoff run (24 points in 23 games) caught the eyes of Washington brass. His first season in the AHL was just 49 games long due to a broken wrist. He has improved defensively a little but the penalties, err discipline, are still questionable too often.
Fortunately, Hobbs has time to develop in Washington. His ability to win puck battles is better as well. Defensemen take time and Hobbs has the skill set should improve as his health and experience grow.
10. Axel Jonsson-Fjallby, LW – DJurgardens IF (SHL)
Drafted: 147th overall in the fifth round of the 2016 draft by Washington
Johnsson-Fjallby presents as an intriguing prospect. He signed an entry-level deal before the start of the season and played 16 games in Hershey. It was clear that there are NHL level speed and puck-handling skills. On the other hand, the forward was not going to make Washington out of camp.
The winger fulfilled his contractual obligations and was loaned back to Djurgardens on November 14th. He had 10 points in 38 games there and will be back in September to try and claim a roster spot in Washington. More than likely, he ends up in Hershey next season. At least, that is the idea.