5 Prospects Washington Capitals Should Have Their Eye on in 2014 Draft Class
The Washington Capitals have done a remarkable job of identifying and selecting high-end talent on a consistent basis, despite rarely having selections earlier than No. 15 overall.
Though Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Karl Alzner were each among the first five players snatched up in their respective classes, George McPhee's scouting staff has still managed to help the team grab blue-chippers in the latter half of the first round, such as Mike Green, Marcus Johansson, John Carlson, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Tom Wilson.
Furthermore, the Caps have enjoyed a great deal of success in drafting outside of the first couple of rounds, and given this year's crop of prospects appears to be among the most promising in some time, Washington will have a good shot at adding a potential impact player in June.
While it'll be months before we know when the Caps will actually be called to the podium, here's an early look at five youngsters McPhee's staff should be monitoring.
One forward that will almost surely be around when the Caps are called to the podium for the first time is speedy Buffalo native Daniel Audette.
A gifted offensive player with good speed, hands and creativity, the only reason Audette is likely to slide out of the top 20 is his 5'8" frame, so he just may be worth taking a flier on.
In addition, a scout could not ask for better bloodlines, as father Donald is a former NHL All-Star who carved out a nice career for himself despite being undersized as well.
Daniel's off to a solid start this season with Sherbrooke of the QMJHL, with 34 points in 30 games, and is certainly worth keeping an eye on going forward.
The Halifax Mooseheads have been churning out top-end NHL prospects like few other programs in the Canadian Hockey League, and it looks like another first-rounder may be on the way in Nikolaj Ehlers.
This month, Ehlers was upgraded to an A-level prospect by Central Scouting, and deservedly so, as the Danish winger has torn the QMJHL apart while playing alongside this year's No. 3 overall selection in Jonathan Drouin.
With 47 points in 34 games, Ehlers has all the tools to play Adam Oates' style, as long as he adds bulk to his frame.
If he continues to put up points like he has so far, he may not be around by the time the Capitals pick in Round 1, but if he is, he's a guy that clearly fits Washington's mold.
The Capitals have had great success in drafting and developing rearguards in recent years, but they've generally turned out to be more offensive prospects (with the exception of Alzner).
In Jack Glover, Washington would be getting a 6'3" prospect with solid mobility who appears to have all the skills needed to be a puck-mover.
Last season, as a member of the U-17 NTDP squad, Glover notched 20 points in 56 games. He is off to a solid start this year (seven points in 12 games), and he's a lock to be gone by the middle of Round 2.
As arguably one of the most gifted offensive talents in this year's pool of prospects, Josh Ho-Sang of the Windsor Spitfires could potentially be one of the first 10 names called this summer.
However, concerns about his play in the defensive zone have caused some to peg him as a mid-to-late Round 1 selection.
Regardless of where you see him going, there is absolutely no denying the amount of skill and upside the former Toronto Marlboros forward possesses.
After notching 44 points as a rookie in the OHL last year, Ho-Sang has turned things up a notch this season, as he's already posted 39 in 33 games.
If he slides far enough for the Caps to take him, McPhee will have to think long and hard about taking a flier on a kid who has been on every scout's radar for years.
Between Kuznetsov, Dmitry Orlov and Alexander Semin, the Capitals have been very successful when it comes to selecting Russian skaters, even when picking outside the top 10.
This year, one of the most intriguing forwards available is Ivan Barbashev, who has put together a pair of solid seasons with Moncton in the QMJHL.
Last year, the speedy winger put up 62 points during his first season in North America, and he's been even more dominant for the Wildcats in 2013-14, with 34 points in 27 games.
However, despite being taken with the top pick in the 2012 QMJHL import draft, Barbashev has a pretty good chance of falling outside the first half of Round 1, and if that's the case, he's simply too talented to pass up.