What an ....... off season for the Capitals.
First it was another disappointing exit at the hands of the Penguins (sorry for mentioning), then resigning the 2015-2016 astronomically high percentage shooter Oshie and as a result trading a younger player on a better contract for picks, doing not enough to keep Nate Schmidt from Vegas, not moving Grubauer (yes I know the market is saturated; more on this below), and not buying out Orpik (where in all likelihood a buy out next off season makes much more sense cap wise).
At least they got the RFA players they needed signed and have many openings for young players to step into! Here is a look at the current roster with question marks being the open slots:
13th F: Graovac/DSP/???
7th D: Chorney
As you see there are at least three forward and two defense spots open.
#1 Jakub Vrana
The most skilled Caps prospect has nothing left to prove in the AHL but needs to improve his attitude if he is going to stay in the professional league.
One of the top goalie prospects to own in keeper leagues, currently playing in the KHL but unlike Shestyorkin and Sorokin he will likely be in North America by the 2018-2019 season as said he has no problem starting in the AHL. Twitter:
Ilya Samsonov to @DariaTuboltseva: I'm ready to play in the AHL if it's needed. Goalie should play all the time, it's not a step back— Igor Eronko (@IgorEronko) August 10, 2017
He broke out last year with 58 points in 66 games after posting 22 points in 62 games the previous year. The added responsibility and ice time last season as the (mostly) only healthy Hershey defenseman really helped show the potential he could reach. Opportunity is always needed for smaller players and he got his last season.
#4 Travis Boyd
All he did was lead the Bears in points during his second full AHL year. It was an improvement of 10 points from the 2015-2016 season in the same amount of games, and he increased his playoff points per game as well.
#5 Riley Barber
A wrist injury derailed a majority of Barber’s 2016-2017 season, but he managed to keep around the same points per game average and improved his shots per game as well. Again he had a poor playoff showing, the second post season in a row; he really needs to step up his post season production to reach the next level.
#6 Connor Hobbs
Hobbs shot up most fantasy rankings with an even more impressive WHL season, and shot up the Capitals rankings as well, after producing over a point per game for the Regina Pats. He could have the best shot to land a top four role with the Capitals next season, if the Capitals stray away from their usual position of keeping prospects in the AHL for their first professional years.
Quite an inconsistent year for the former second round pick, but a majority of his poor play came with the Bears having an ECHL defense in front of him. Should be the starter for the Bears this year if the Capitals can fix their back-up log jam, if not then expect him to back up Copley or split starts with him.
Johansen did not improve upon his stats in the previous WHL season but did improve in his all-around play. He did not manage to see any ice time during the Bears post season run, and he will likely play in AHL but could line up next to Orpik on the Capitals third pair this season.
An injured ankle tendon took a large portion of his season away, along with some early management troubles (for this information buy the Dobber Prospects Guide!), and when he returned to the line up the defense was pretty set and on a winning streak. He was scratched during the final games of the playoffs and will need to impress management to have a chance to see the NHL this season.
Stehpenson is the Capitals future third line centre and has some offensive upside to his two-way game. He is likely to make the NHL soon but will likely be in a bottom six role
Honourable mention: Shane Gersich
Shane Gersich – Within a few months/weeks he will make his way onto the Capitals top 10 list as he broke out last season with the University of North Dakota posting near a point per game rate. He won “The Best non-NHL player” award over the summer for “Da Beauty League” registering 15 points in eight games. Gersich was also named the stand out player at the Capitals rookie camp at the end of June, and the player GMBM singled out for his play in media interviews.
Chrsitian Djoos – The most talked about AHL season for a defensive prospect shot Djoos up prospect rankings all over the map. The biggest issue is that he cannot seem to add weight to his frame, he was listed at 165 lbs to finish the previous season and the Capitals are doing all they can to beef him up. If he can gain weight expect him to be the first player given a shot to earn a role on the Capitals back end, but if not then expect him to be given a cautious approach of AHL/NHL time.
Connor Hobbs – He improved his stats in every way in his final WHL season and is looking like a fifth round steal for the Capitals. Can likely make an immediate impact in either the AHL or NHL, all heed needs is the opportunity.
Brian Pinho – His production has increased every year in the NCAA and this will be the final season in Providence College. Pinho will be a sought after commodity for NHL teams if the Capitals cannot get him signed. Could be a nice middle six forward in the future if his production keeps up going forward.
Madison Bowey – Bowey should be the Capitals prospect expected to jump right in the NHL but instead has fallen behind others due in large part to injury and inconsistent play upon his return. With a solid training camp Bowey could jump into the NHL but in all likelihood the Capitals will play cautiously with him and ease him into the NHL after more AHL seasoning.
Jakub Vrana – Vrana is only here because attitude may be a problem with him, as when he was sent back down to the AHL he half-assed his play, and was scratched for games in the playoffs. Really he should’ve been the Bears top player but instead played like he was distracted by the move. He needs to step up his mental toughness if he is to play under Trotz for a full year.
It is kind of tough to pick another Capitals prospect who has fallen as the players drafted (or signed) to be bottom six players played well for their future roles, and prospects pegged for higher positions played well for those roles as well, so the last Faller will be a different idea:
GM Brian MacLellan – He deserves to be here and here are the reasons why:
- Signed Oshie to a large and long-term deal and as a result had to trade Johansson for next to nothing
- Did not improve any of the draft picks for the Capitals in the 2017 draft
- Lost Schmidt to expansion, thereby creating a big hole on defense
- Did not move Grubauer and now is stuck with what should be two NHL back-ups, likely stalling Vanacek’s growth as a prospect
Did not do all he could do to move out Orpik’s contract
- Positives include signing important RFA’s, creating roster battles for top nine opportunities for Capitals rookies, and making a few good late round draft picks in the past two drafts (including: Damien Rait, Sebastian Walfridsson, Benton Maass, Kristian Roykas-Marthinsen, Dmitriy Zaitsev, and Axel Jonsson-Fjallby).
- Strengths: Deep on LW, Centre, and Defense. High-end goalie prospect pipeline.
- Weaknesses: The RW depth is awful and many centre and LW’s will have to be converted.
Damian Rait (Personal favorite)
Aaron Ness (If ever given the opportunity)
Best Chances to make the Capitals this year
- Jakub Vrana – that top six spot is jut screaming his name
- Nathan Walker – Speedy checker would be primed for that fourth line role along-side Beagle and Wilson
- Riley Barber – If he is on the Capitals this season will likely be determined with his the Capitals want to set their lines. If they roll with a Bura-Kuzy/Back-Connolly second line Barber should have a great shot at the third line as Vrana-Eller-Barber. But if the Caps go Bura-Kuzy/Back-Vrana then line three will more than likely hold Wilson (for some reason) or Stephenson on the left side
- Tyler Graovac – signed as a UFA, he may surprise and earn a top nine role
- Chandler Stephenson – He is better suited to a bottom six role and can chip in points. Also may stick it out in AHL to play centre and develop further
- Christian Djoos – Only thing stopping him from making the team will be not gaining enough weight/muscle. If he makes it he will likely be anchored to Brooks Orpik or Taylor Chorney, so his plus minus may suffer
Likely in AHL / cups of coffee
- Travis Boyd – only here because he has played mainly centre in the AHL. Capitals may use him in a middle-six role if he has a great camp, but just appears to be headed to the AHL for one more season as he is the best bet to keep that team in the playoff hunt
- Connor Hobbs/Madison Bowey/Lucas Johansen – Likely one of these three will also make the Capitals (or two if Djoos doesn’t make it) and likely line up beside John Carlson. The money should be on Bowey but due to his struggles last season any of the three could make it
- Tyler Lewington – Could make the team now but his style of play is very closely related to Orpik and Chorney (but a much better skater) and that make keep him in the AHL until one of those two are gone
As it stands Grubauer is Holtby’s back-up and Copley will likely be headed back to the Bears to be the starter. Copley is still eligible to be sent to the AHL without needing waivers, so that saved the Capitals either losing a goalie for nothing or dealing with a ludicrous three goalie system. Belief is that the Capitals figured Grubauer would be scooped up by Vegas in the expansion draft clearing their crowded crease for them, but as it stands now the Capitals will now have to look to move Grubauer as he will become too expensive for their cap soon and he should be given an opportunity to start elsewhere. Copley should be given the opportunity to at least back-up in the NHL but due to this situation he will likely be in the AHL to start. Finally, Vanacek should be given the reigns in the AHL to start so the Capitals can see what they have in him before Samsonov comes over in 2018-2019, but now he is in a timeshare at best.
The future battle for the Capitals crease will ultimately be between Vanacek and Samsonov, with Samsonov having the inside track as a first round pick. A dark horse potential starter would be Copley, especially if Vanacek falters and Samsonov takes a while to acclimate himself to North American ice. But as it stands now the future of the crease is with Samsonov, even with Vanacek next in line with their development paths.
A recent article on the three year outlook of the Capitals was released from THN and I do not agree that “It is hard to get excited about the future of the Capitals” as this team has the depth and prospects to stay competitive for a long time. Link here:
In case the media does not show and you are too lazy to click on it, this is their future roster:
Notable omissions: Gersich, Hobbs, Djoos, and Vanacek
Other less known potential omissions that could be on the cusp of making the team in the 2020 season: Pilon, Rait, Pinho, Jonsson-Fjallby, and Lewington
Likely about to make jump: Geisser, Roykas-Marthinsen, and possibly Maass/Zaitsev/Walfridsson
My largest problems with this list are the “notable omissions” players above as at least three of the four should be on the roster by then.
Along with Holtby still being on the roster as I believe by then he will be gone and one (or both) of Samsonov or Vanacek will be ready to take over.
Not to mention a FOURTH line of Mitchell (not much to see here), Boyd, and Barber... I know teams was skill through out but just fourth line minutes to Boyd and Barber is pointless.
I have decided to give my best idea of the roster three years out, here it is (barring no trades into the team):
Scoring is spread out in the top three lines and the fourth line would be a great checking line that has skill and speed to boot. Also the Oshie contract is likely impossible to move by now but if he was moved I’d expect Pilon to be in his place (or switched with Barber).
You’ll notice four defense pairs, no this team will not Las Vegas its off season with 75 defensemen signed to one-way deals, but I expect two of them to be gone and likely traded for support on forward. I expect them to keep Djoos, Orlov, Bowey, Johansen, and Hobbs as long as they can.
This will be a battle in the crease with the winner staying the starter and the other being moved. As it stands Samsonov has the best chance to be the starter by now.
Ok that is all I can think of to write, hopefully you enjoyed and thanks for reading.
Feel free to argue or chat hockey and contact me on the cyber here --> @FHPQuinn
P.s. I also give great fantasy advice (unless you are in one of my leagues!)
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