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But which Capitals' prospects have the most upside?
Among scouts, the word "upside" is often used to describe a prospect that could someday be good or even great, but right now has something standing in his way. These obstacles could be of a physical nature, if the prospect is underdeveloped, undersized or unhealthy. A prospect's upside could also be hampered by issues of a technical nature, including inexperience, poor technique or a lack of proper instruction. But the factors that are most damaging to a prospect's upside are the insidious intangibles, such as a poor work ethic, a bad attitude or a propensity for breaking contractual obligations.
Here is a list of the 10 Washington Capitals prospects with the most upside. The ranking is based upon a combination of both the projected upside and potential downside of each prospect. Also, this list excludes any Capitals prospect that has played in the NHL, such as Braden Holtby, Dmitry Orlov and Tomáš Kundrátek.
Sergei Kostenko was selected by the Washington Capitals in the seventh round of the 2012 NHL Draft, 203rd overall. His selection helps add to the Capitals' organizational depth at the goalie position.
But despite getting buried behind several good young goaltenders, Sergei Kostenko has shown promise. HockeysFuture.com rates Kostenko No. 19 on the Fall 2012 Edition of Washington Capitals' Top 20 Prospects. Keep in mind, that list includes the three players (Holtby, Orlov and Kundrátek) that were disqualified from this slideshow on the basis of their having played in the NHL.
Here is more from HockeysFuture.com on Kostenko:
Sergei Kostenko has been on the Capitals radar for some time before the 2012 draft. A smaller goalie who is quite athletic, he is solid positionally and reacts well to the play in front of him. In addition, he likes to compete and has a good attitude—making him very coachable...There are a lot of unknown variables about Kostenko, but his drive and commitment along with the Capitals ability to develop young goalies, makes him an intriguing long-term project.
Sergei Kostenko attended Capitals Development Camp in July, and impressed enough to earn a contract with the Hershey Bears. Kostenko has quickly progressed through the Washington Capitals' farm system, and will continue doing so if he taps into his potential.
Connor Carrick is an 18-year-old defender out of Orland Park, Ill. who was drafted 137th overall by the Washington Capitals in the fifth round of the 2012 NHL Draft.
Carrick is currently playing for the Plymouth Whalers of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), and is one of five Capitals prospects playing North American Juniors hockey, according to the 2012-13 Washington Capitals Prospects Report. Through Nov. 29, Carrick has four goals, nine assists and 21 PIMs in 25 games with Plymouth.
HockeysFuture.com currently ranks Carrick as No. 18 on the list of Capitals' Top 20 Prospects, and gives him a favorable evaluation:
Connor Carrick is a two-way defenseman who plays a primarily offensively-oriented game. He loves to rush the puck up ice, has a strong shot that frequently hits the net and makes a strong, crisp outlet pass. A smooth, mobile skater, Carrick plays with a lot of confidence and is fairly quick in his decision making. Last season he played for the US National U18 team and scored eight goals and 13 assists in 57 games, along with 46 penalty minutes. He also contributed four points in six games for the US in the U-18 World Junior Championship. Carrick is a project who eventually could turn into a bottom-four NHL defenseman.
Carrick may have sped up the timetable for his development when he decommitted to the the University of Michigan and instead opted for the OHL. As he told Eric Detweiler of The Washington Post, "I’ve changed my mind, and now I believe Plymouth is the best decision for me, I’m doing that 100 percent. There’s no looking back."
The Washington Capitals drafted Chandler Stephenson in 2012, with the 77th overall selection in the third round.
The 18-year-old Stephenson is back in his native Saskatchewan playing for the Regina Pats of the WHL. According to the 2012-13 Washington Capitals Prospect Report, Stephenson has four goals, six assists and six penalty minutes in 12 games through Nov. 29.
Stephenson is ranked 11th among the Capitals' Top 20 Prospects by HockeysFuture.com, which also considers Stephenson one of many potential breakout candidates in the Caps' system. But as Eric Scheib of HockeysFuture.com explains in his evaluation of the talented left wing, Stephenson could potentially be even better than he is right now:
A small forward who has good offensive upside and puck skills, Stephenson is quick and plays well on both ends of the ice. He will be expected to play a bigger role this upcoming season with the Pats which should help his progress. One area of concern is his size. He is strong for his size and likes to be near the net but will need to bulk up to be able to play thisat the professional level.
Chandler Stephenson is a versatile forward who is actually listed as a center on the Capitals organizational depth chart, according to The Hockey News. Furthermore, Eric Scheib of HockeysFuture.com writes that Stephenson "is a prospect worth watching as his growth in the WHL will be a big factor if he is a blue chip prospect or long term project."
Partick Wey was drafted by the Washington Capitals back in the 2009 NHL Draft, with the 115th overall pick in the fourth round. The Pittsburgh native is currently enrolled at Boston College for his senior season, where he has one goal, seven assists and 16 penalty minutes for the Eagles through Nov. 29, according to the 2012-13 Washington Capitals Prospect Report.
Wey is a highly regarded defensive prospect within the Capitals system, as he ranks tenth among the Capitals' Top 10 Prospects, according to Hockey Prospectus. But as Eric Scheib of Hockey's Future explains, there are a couple of issues that have slowed Patrick Wey's development:
In his junior season at Boston College, Wey had two goals and five assists in 32 games. He proved to be a strong defensive defenseman, but the anticipated offensive side has yet to present itself. He will return to Boston College for his senior year and a chance to win his third NCAA title. To do that, Wey will need to increased ice time and finally show some offensive upside. The biggest issue for Wey might be his injury issues, the most recent occurring last season when he missed two months with a severed tendon on his foot. Headed into his senior season, the defenseman must not only stay healthy, but play at a very high level the entire season.
Staying healthy will allow Patrick Wey to his explore his offensive potential. Doing both will allow him to reveal his impressive upside.
Caleb Herbert is a 21-year-old center from St. Paul, Minn. He was drafted in the fifth round of the 2010 NHL Draft, 142nd overall by the Washington Capitals. Herbert currently plays for University of Minnesota-Duluth in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA).
Caleb Herbert is ranked fourth by Hockey Prospectus in their list of Capitals' Top 10 Prospects. Herbert received a prospect talent score of 7.0 out of 10.0 from Hockey's Future, which translates to a second-line forward in the mold of Andy MacDonald or Ryan Malone, according to the website's Player System Rating Rules.
The future could be bright for Caleb Herbert when all is said and done, according to Hockey's Future:
Herbert at this point is undersized for an NHL scorer but his skating ability and stick handling and passing skills—along with his sense for finding open areas and creating scoring chances—are an attractive skill set that few players have...At the least, he should have a successful college career and, if he can continue to develop, he projects as a scoring centerman who makes the players around him better. With several world-class forwards already in Washington, the Capitals could afford the luxury of allowing a player like Herbert time to develop.
The Washington Capitals surprised the hockey world by selecting Steffen Soberg with the 117th overall pick in the fourth round of the NHL Draft. At the time, Stephen Whyno of The Washington Times wrote, "The Norwegian goaltender wasn’t listed on NHL Central Scouting’s rankings and it took a lot of people some time to realize who he was."
Soberg attended the Capitals 2011 Development Camp, giving assistant goaltending coach Olie Kolzig a chance to evaluate the youngster. Kolzig told Stephen Whyno that Soberg is "a guy that obviously is gonna need a little more work."
The Capitals' organization was hoping Soberg would get "a little more work" at the team's rookie camp in September 2011, but Soberg skipped the camp as he was struggling with the decision of whether to play in North America. He eventually decided against playing for Swift Current of the CHL, instead returning to his native Norway to play for Manglerud. Eric Detweiler of The Washington Post wrote that Soberg's choice hurt his own development:
That decision ultimately cost Soberg valuable ice time. Because Swift Current had acquired his rights in the CHL Import Draft, the team had the right to block him from playing in Norway. He did not suit up for Manglerud in the country’s top league until after Christmas and played in just 17 games, posting a 3.86 goals-against average and a .901 save percentage.
Soberg was back at Capitals Development Camp in July 2012, but he is in no hurry to play in North America. Since camp ended, Soberg has returned yet again to his home country, this time to play for Valerenga. As of Nov. 29, Soberg is 16-4-0 with a 2.29 goals against average, .919 save percentage and three shutouts in 21 games.
Despite Steffen Soberg's vacillations, his progress is still being watched very closely by the Capitals organization. To support that theory, Soberg is the only goaltending prospect listed on the 2012-13 Washington Capitals Prospect Report. And Hockey's Future writes that "the Capitals organization has done well drafting and developing goaltending prospects under director of goaltending Dave Prior. Still fairly raw in terms of his development, Soberg shows a lot of promise."
Mattias Sjogren is an enigma to both the Washington Capitals and their fans.
Signed by the team in 2011 as an undrafted free agent, Sjogren failed to make the Capitals roster at training camp for the 2011-12 season. The native of Landskrona, Sweden began the season with the Hershey Bears, but then returned to Sweden after only 19 games. The decision drew the ire of Capitals General Manager George McPhee:
It’s probably a mistake. He needs to develop here and wasn’t prepared to make the commitment to do so. When we signed him, we told him we had a job available and promised him we’d give him a look this year. His training camp wasn’t good enough to keep him at the start of the year and he was developing OK, but I guess he got impatient and decided to go home. And if you’re going to quit on us you might as well go.
But much to the surprise of everyone following the saga, McPhee did not quit on Mattias Sjogren. In fact, the Caps recalled Sjogren April 10, 2012, and he was even made eligible for the playoff roster.
McPhee knows what he has in Mattias Sjogren. According to his player profile on The Hockey News, Sjogren has the career potential to be a "versatile depth forward," and that he "owns a big body and plays a sound defensive game. Can line up either at center or wing. Can be trusted in key situations because he is a heady player." Sjogren is currently listed as eighth on the Capitals' depth chart at the center position, ahead of prized prospect Caleb Herbert.
The biggest mystery surrounding Mattias Sjogren is not his ability, but whether or not he wants to showcase that ability with the Washington Capitals. As Eric Scheib of Hockey's Future writes, "Sjogren's future in the NHL is very much in his hands."
Stanislav Galiev was selected in the third round of the 2010 NHL Draft, with the 82nd overall pick. The native of Moscow will turn 21 years old Jan. 17 of next year, and was recently demoted to the Reading Royals of the ECHL after beginning the 2012-13 season with the Hershey Bears of the AHL.
Galiev is a very good prospect, as Hockey Prospectus ranks him third on their list of Washington Capitals' Top 10 Prospects and 29th on their list of Top 100 NHL Prospects. Corey Pronman of Hockey Prospectus explains that Galiev is talented in several key areas of the game:
Galiev is a highly skilled player who has the ability to be an asset in the transition game and as a puck possessor. He's a high-end skater who can really jet through the neutral zone. Galiev also shows the ability to be a flashy player with the puck, showing impressive hands and the ability to be a quality passer, at times flashing plus ability in that area. Galiev has a very good shot and can score from a distance. He's become a more consistent player and tends to show desirable work ethic in his own end and in the physical game.
But there is a significant drawback. At 6'2", 187 pounds, Galiev is rather slight. His player profile at The Hockey News explains that Galiev "lacks strength and stamina, and is also somewhat fragile in terms of his propensity to get hurt. Therefore, he needs to bulk up and add muscle mass for his 6'2" frame."
If Galiev can add the requisite strength, then his career potential according to The Hockey News is to be a "talented winger with good upside."
Tom Wilson is the second of two Washington Capitals prospects to play for the Plymouth Whalers of the OHL, joining defenseman Connor Carrick on the Nov. 29 edition of the 2012-13 Washington Capitals Prospect Report. Through 16 games with Plymouth, Wilson has four goals and 14 assists to go with 37 penalty minutes. Last season with the Whalers, Wilson played 49 games and scored nine goals with 18 assists, also totaling 141 penalty minutes.
Selected by the Washington Capitals with the 16th overall pick in the 2012 NHL Draft, "Tom Wilson is a high-risk, high-reward draft pick" according to Eric Scheib of Hockey's Future. Wilson's player profile at The Hockey News echoes that sentiment:
Has great size and strength, plenty of snarl to his game, as well as good offensive instincts. Can score goals and set up linemates, but he does his best work when utilizing his big frame to create space for teammates. Will also drop the gloves and he's a big open-ice hitter...Definitely needs more work on his puck skills. Must also continue to work on his skating stride, as well as his overall defensive play, in order to maximize his National Hockey League upside. Otherwise, he may wind up as a bottom-six forward at the highest level.
But Eric Scheib states that the reward for drafting Tom Wilson could be significant, as "he has been compared to Milan Lucic and the Capitals are banking that he will find enough offensive touch to be a similar threat. He will play this season in Plymouth, but could compete for an NHL job as early as 2013-14."
Washington Capitals fans should be salivating at the thought of such an intimidating presence joining their team, quite possibly the next time they step on the ice.
Evgeny Kuznetsov is a blue-chip prospect.
Hockey Prospectus ranks him fourth among the Top 100 Prospects in all of hockey.
And The Hockey News defines his career potential as that of a "talented scoring forward with good upside."
But there is significant downside as well. The Hockey News states on his player profile that Kuznetsov "can get a little moody at times, and can go stretches where he is neutralized by the opposition. So, he needs to improve his focus and game-to-game consistency in order to maximize his assets."
Kuznetsov has also shown a reluctance to play hockey in North America, which is unfortunate, since the NHL plays hockey in North America.
Evgeny Kuznetsov is currently playing for Chelyabinsk Traktor of the KHL in Europe. Through 29 games, Kuznetsov has 10 goals and 16 assists for 26 points, with an average time on ice per game of 20:29. As of Dec. 2, Kuznetsov ranks 17th in the KHL in assists and 16th in points. And before the season began, Kuznetsov signed a two-year deal in the KHL, guaranteeing he will be in the league through 2014.
George McPhee is taking a gamble by waiting on Evgeny Kuznetsov to leave the KHL and join the Washington Capitals. But if Kuznetsov does join the team, McPhee and the Capitals will hit the jackpot.