The Washington Capitals can always trade some of the prospects in their farm system to acquire veteran NHL players.
But here is why Filip Forsberg is the one prospect the Washington Capitals must hold on to.
Forsberg is ranked tenth among the Top 100 NHL Prospects, according to Hockey Prospectus.
Hockey's Future gave Filip Forsberg a prospect talent score of 8.0, which is equivalent to players such as Patrick Marleau, Jason Spezza and Mike Richards, according to the website's player system rating rules.
And The Hockey News described Forsberg's career potential in his player profile as that of a "talented scoring winger with good upside."
But why should Filip Forsberg be the one prospect the Washington Capitals must hold on to?
After all, he is not even ranked first among the Top 10 Prospects in the Washington Capitals system, according to Hockey Prospectus. That title belongs to Evgeny Kuznetsov, who is currently playing for Traktor Chelyabinsk of the KHL and is 10th in the league in points.
Filip Forsberg is actually ranked second on the Hockey Prospectus list, and is currently playing for Leksands of the Allsvenskan in Sweden.
What about a prospect who has been developing in the system longer than Forsberg, such as Stanislav Galiev? The Capitals drafted Stanislav Galiev 86th overall in 2010, and he is currently playing for the Reading Royals, the Washington Capitals' ECHL affiliate. Galiev is listed as the third best prospect in the Capitals system by Hockey Prospectus.
Or perhaps another prospect from the same 2012 Draft class as Filip Forsberg, like Tom Wilson? The bruising winger was selected with the 16th overall pick, after Forsberg had been selected 11th. Wilson ranks seventh on the Hockey Prospectus list of Top 10 Prospects in the Capitals' system.
Who is the one prospect the Washington Capitals must hold on to?
It is not imperative for the Washington Capitals to hold on to these three prospects because each member of this group has a varying degree of uncertainty associated with his development.
Tom Wilson "is a high risk, high reward draft pick," according to Eric Scheib of Hockey's Future. The Hockey News supports this assessment, stating in Wilson's player profile that he "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."
Stanislav Galiev is not quite ready for the NHL either. Eric Scheib of Hockey's Future writes "the Russian winger has shown signs that he has top six line potential in the NHL and how well he transitions this season will determine how soon he gets there."
And Evgeny Kuznetsov "can get a little moody at times, and can go stretches where he is neutralized by the opposition," according to his player profile at The Hockey News. The description of Kuznetsov's flaws adds that "he needs to improve his focus and game-to-game consistency in order to maximize his assets."
But Eric Scheib of Hockey's Future touches on an even bigger reason why Evgeny Kuznetsov is not the one prospect Washington must hold on to:
The young Russian could come to the NHL and immediately be placed on one of the Capitals top two forward lines. However, he does not appear to be NHL bound anytime soon, with his plans to stay in the KHL through 2014. Though the continued delay in coming to the NHL should be a concern for the Capitals, the organization seems willing to wait and see on their former first round pick.
Despite showing a willingness to wait, General Manager George McPhee must be wary of Evgeny Kuznetsov, lest he follow the same career trajectory as fellow Russian and KHL standout, Alexander Radulov.
Will Evgeny Kuznetsov ever play in the NHL?
Drafted 15th overall by the Nashville Predators in 2004, Alexander Radulov played 145 regular season games for Nashville from 2006-08, totaling 44 goals and 95 points. But Radulov then spent the next four seasons in the KHL. General Manager David Poile, formerly of the Washington Capitals organization, waited patiently for Radulov to return, and he did just that in March 2012, just in time for the playoffs.
But as Dmitry Chesnokov of Puck Daddy reported at the time, the KHL gave Alexander Radulov permission to leave for the Nashville Predators because they knew he would return in short order. And Radulov did return, signing a four-year KHL contract in June 2012.
Yes. Kuznetsov, Galiev and Wilson all have tremendous upside. But they all have significant downsides as well.
Filip Forsberg does not present the Washington Capitals with the same conundrum.
Corey Pronman of Hockey Prospectus said about Forsberg that "aside from just needing to put on strength and hopefully producing better in pro hockey next season, there's no real weakness to his game."
And Eric Scheib of Hockey's Future had this to say about Filip Forsberg:
Forsberg may not be far away from being NHL ready. He would immediately challenge for a spot among the top six and should feel right at home with fellow Swedes, Nicklas Backstrom and Marcus Johansson. He will play the 2012-13 season in Sweden but could very well land on the Capitals roster as soon as 2013-14.
Evgeny Kuznetsov, Stanislav Galiev and Tom Wilson are the types of prospects that GM George McPhee would love to see develop into superstars. But there is a significant risk of that scenario not becoming a reality. Therefore, McPhee could be persuaded to trade away any or all of these three prospects. Trading such talented prospects would allow McPhee to either restock his farm system or overhaul his lineup in one fell swoop.
Filip Forsberg, on the other hand, is the type of prospect George McPhee should hold on to at all costs. If he does, McPhee can expect to see Filip Forsberg at the top of Washington's depth chart for years to come.