Latest Updates on Washington Capitals' Top Prospects
For nearly a decade, the Washington Capitals have enjoyed an embarrassment of riches as far as prospects go.
Starting with the selections of first-rounders Alex Ovechkin and Mike Green in 2004, George McPhee and his coaching staff have built a consistent postseason contender through the draft, which is a big reason why the team's earned playoff berths in each of the last six seasons.
Now, with former draftees like Ovechkin, Green, Nicklas Backstrom, Karl Alzner, Braden Holtby, John Carlson and Marcus Johansson all thriving in leading roles in D.C., the Capitals will soon look to even younger talents to begin contributing at the NHL level.
Some, like Tom Wilson, are already doing so, while many others remain either in Europe, college or the junior ranks developing. Regardless of their current locations, here's a look at what a handful of the Capitals' top prospects have been up to lately.
For three years, fans of the Capitals have been wondering when 2010 first-rounder Evgeny Kuznetsov would finally make the trip across the Atlantic Ocean, since he clearly possesses all the tools to play in the NHL today.
But for whatever reason, Kuznetsov's been hesitant to take his talents to Washington, and in the meantime, the 21-year-old's stock has only risen, as the Russian dynamo's been extremely productive at every level of play.
He's dominated at the World Junior Championships, scoring a combined 24 points in 13 games while winning a gold and a silver in two tournaments, and he earned MVP honors in 2012.
Professionally, Kuznetsov's been equally unstoppable at the KHL level and has emerged as one of the league's top offensive weapons with at least 19 goals and 40 points in each of his last two seasons.
This year, the shifty forward's been just as good for Traktor Chelyabinsk, notching five goals and a pair of helpers in his first 10 games and, perhaps most importantly, has expressed a burning desire to head to Washington at season's end.
It isn't surprising that the Capitals spent another first-round selection on a Swedish-trained forward, given the success the team has enjoyed with Johansson and Backstrom up front.
This time around, McPhee opted to take Andre Burakowsky, who, despite being born in Austria, plied his trade in Sweden with Malmo and has developed into an intriguing offensive prospect.
The son of Robert Burakowsky, who actually led the Swedish Elite League in goals and points in 1989-90, the younger Burakowsky has the hands, shot and hockey sense to be an impact forward at the NHL level. But it may be another year or two before he gets there.
So far this season, the gifted 18-year-old has been solid with Erie of the OHL, potting 10 goals and 20 points in 15 games. But given how different the North American style of play is and how relatively slight Burakowsky appears to be, he'd probably be best suited to spend an additional season with the Otters.
Seeing as Connor Carrick was taken with pick No. 137 at the 2012 NHL draft, the Illinois native wasn't really expected to make an immediate impact for the Capitals, if ever at all.
But the slightly undersized rearguard's development over the last year was too impressive for George McPhee, Adam Oates and the rest of Washington's brain trust to ignore, and that's why Carrick made his NHL debut with the Capitals on opening night this season.
No, his first taste of NHL action didn't exactly go according to plan, but Carrick did demonstrate that he's got the skills necessary to be an effective two-way blueliner, especially in the offensive zone.
His first NHL goal, a breakaway tally against the Flames, was an absolute beauty and, though his minus-two rating demonstrated that he's still got some growing to do in his own end, Carrick is absolutely a defensive prospect to keep an eye on.
Since being sent down to Hershey, Carrick hasn't exactly burned the house down statistically with two points in six games, but there's no question that the 19-year-old has come a long way in a very short period of time, especially for a fifth-rounder.
Though Filip Forsberg garnered the majority of the headlines in Washington following the 2012 draft, the Capitals obtained another blue-chipper in Round 1 in power forward Tom Wilson.
Less than 18 months later, Wilson's emerged as a legitimate everyday player for Oates' squad, which is a testament to how much the former Plymouth Whalers star has progressed since being drafted.
No, Wilson hasn't put any points on the board thus far, but he's been the sort of physical and emotional presence Washington was hoping he'd be when they snapped him up at No. 16 overall.
Despite his lack of offensive production, Wilson hasn't looked out of place in the Capitals' lineup, and he's absolutely deserved the opportunity to remain with the big club the rest of the season.
It may be a year or two before Wilson blossoms into the sort of scoring threat he was in the OHL, but regardless, he'll be a very useful forward for Oates this season.
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