What happened to the Washington Capitals this off season I wonder….
What do you do when you win the Stanley Cup the next season, well you try to bring back as close to the same team as you can and the Capitals are doing just that. Washington let Alex Chiasson leave and let Vancouver give an ABSOLUTELY insane contract to Jay Beagle, while simultaneously giving just as insane a contract to 35-point scorer Tom Wilson because …truculence?
The Capitals also traded away back up Philip Grubauer to the Avalanche to take Orpik’s rich contract, only to resign him once the Avs bought him out to a cheap deal because they want to give other teams a chance to score on them?
Washington also resigned DSP to a short-term smart contract ((for the team not the player) and signed Nic Down to create competition for the fourth line centre spot for Travis Boyd. The off season for Washington was one of smart move and dumb moves, but ultimately it is hard to criticize the team that just won the cup.
Christian Djoos – Does he even count here anymore after playing 63 NHL games, 22 playoff games, and covering for a slow Orpik. Well in case he does or does not, let us just reminisce about how great of a season the 24-year-old had. Djoos rarely looks out of position, can make a great first pass, knows when to pinch, and can knock larger players off the puck with his stick and positioning. He still will look to pass instead of shoot and can get knocked off the puck from bigger players barrelling him over. Djoos will likely be kept on the third pair but if injuries strike he will be the first to move up the line-up.
Madison Bowey – Bowey got into the Capitals line up early and just when he looked like he was getting the hang of NHL play (after scratches and limited ice time) he was sent down to the AHL, and when he got into the Bears line up you could see he does not need any more AHL time. Bowey is prone to the odd defensive mistake and will have to battle Brooks Orpik for roster time this season, but he looks to be a full time NHLer, albeit a four to six defenseman.
Travis Boyd – Boyd was again one of the best players on a poor Hershey squad, and even got himself into eight NHL regular season games and one playoff game. He then signed a two-year contract with the Capitals all but reassuring himself an NHL spot as he will surely be lost to waivers if placed on them. Boyd will be able to take over the fourth line centre role, but may be relegated to wing if the Capitals want a more traditional fourth line forward there (Dowd). Needless to say do not expect many points from Boyd but he can move up and down the line up when injuries strike.
Phoenix Copley – The 26-year-old net minder has a very good shot to be Braden Holtby’s back up this season, and should grab the role easily as he has a great AHL track record (besides the poor 2017-2018). If he is not able to the Capitals would be smart to seek outside help instead of rushing the team’s best prospect in Samsonov. Realistically Copley is not as good as Grubauer but can play solidly for 20-25 games as needed.
Garrett Pilon – All Pilon has done since being drafted by the Capitals in the third round back in 2016 is score and improve his scoring every season. For a player who rarely shot in his first two WHL seasons Pilon lead the WHL is shots last year, and even kept up his strong all around play into the playoffs. Pilon projects to be a middle six scorer and will play in the AHL for 2018-2019, and it should take him an adjustment period to get used to the pro game.
Axel Jonsson-Fjallby – AJF took the prospect world by storm after his play in the World Junior Championship where he was a standout player for Sweden, especially on the penalty kill. AJF is an excellent skater, and has a great shot, but will never be mistaken for a top line powerplay forward. He will bring his hard working play to Hershey this season, and it should be no time before he is playing with the Capitals as AJF’s game is a game that can transition well to the NHL.
Ilya Samsonov – Samsonov had another fantastic KHL season while playing in the 1B role for Metallurg Magnitogorsk. All Samsonov does is play at an elite level where ever he goes, but the pro game in the AHL will be a different beast. Samsonov should adapt well and quickly but he will have some competition as Vitek Vanacek is still looking to establish himself in the organization.
Vitek Vanacek – Speaking of Vanacek, he has not been able to solidly grab a hold of the AHL starters gig, but is too good to play in the ECHL. Because of his slower development he now has to compete with Samsonov for playing time, and that would be difficult for any AHL goalie. Vanacek will have to have a strong season or he risks the Capitals giving up on him.
Connor Hobbs – Hobbs is on this list because I expected a bigger impact in the AHL last season. Sure he was hurt for a portion but his decision making was awful at times and he never really took over any games with his shot. Hobbs needs a healthy fresh season and to focus on his game so he can show promise in other aspects of his game besides his incredible shot.
Riley Barber – Through no fault of his own Barber winds up here. He was solid in the AHL last season for a bad Hershey team and could not buy a goal for the first three months. He still wound up leading the Bears with 20 goals as he scored 15 goals after mid-December hit. The Capitals made no room for Barber though and he will be in tough to make the NHL squad. He should be one of the first players called up and another solid season in the AHL (on a better Bears team) should lead him to a full time position in 2019-2020, though his role will likely be that of a third line winger.
Top 11 Prospects
*based on fantasy upside and I am considering Djoos and Bowey graduated
- Ilya Samsonov
- Connor Hobbs
- Alexander Alexeyev
- Garrett Pilon
- Shane Gersich
- Lucas Johansen
- Travis Boyd
- Riley Barber
- Axel Jonsson-Fjallby
- Juuso Ikonen
- Damien Riat
That is all. Thanks for reading, expect some great ramblings from me next Thursday!
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