Updates on Washington Capitals Prospects at the 2014 World Junior Championships
The Washington Capitals have, at least recently, a long history of players who have made names for themselves at the World Junior Hockey Championships. This edition of the storied tournament is no different.
Fans of the Caps obviously remember the heroics of Alex Ovechkin, Karl Alzner, Nicklas Backstrom and John Carlson at past WJC gatherings. Despite the apparent lack of top-flight star power, the 2014 rendition has shown that Adam Oates has a number of promising young weapons on their way to Washington.
Unlike former No. 16 overall selection Tom Wilson, many of Washington's top youngsters are shining brightly on a big stage in Malmo, Sweden, which has to be very encouraging for George McPhee and his staff.
Heading into the medal round, here's a look at how the Caps' best WJC participants have stacked up thus far.
Not viewed as a top-end first-rounder less than a year ago, Andre Burakovsky has more than proved that George McPhee (and his scouting staff) made a good decision when they tabbed the Austria native as the team’s No. 1 selection in 2013.
The son of one of the most decorated snipers in Swedish Elite League history, Burakovsky has demonstrated his potential during the early stages of the 2014 WJC as the Erie Otters forward notched a hat trick, en route to Player of the Game honors against Norway.
No, the opponent wasn’t exactly elite, but after putting up two points against Canada in a pre-tournament clash, Burakovsky is clearly a prospect to keep an eye on.
Blessed with a quick shot, silky hands and decent speed, there’s no reason he won’t be a valuable offensive contributor within Adam Oates’ lineup as soon as next season.
So far, he’s got a trio of goals and five points in total. If the Swedes are intent on winning it all on home soil, he’ll have to do more since he’s arguably the most lethal sniper on the roster.
After receiving an early-season audition with the big club, Connor Carrick has settled in nicely with Hershey. Since then, he has established himself as a vital member of Team USA’s defense corps.
As Capitals fans saw on Carrick’s beautiful breakaway goal against Calgary during his three-game cup of coffee in Washington, this is a rearguard with remarkably shifty hands and offensive instincts.
He’s put up solid numbers at every level and has continued to do so with the American squad at the 2014 WJC, with three assists through his first three outings.
Yes, Carrick’s got to become more refined in the defensive zone, but that being said, he’s got all the tools to be a productive two-way threat at the NHL level in the very near future.
His unfortunate breakaway miss against Canada was a tough pill to swallow for the Illinois native, but there’s no doubt he’ll be raring to go for the medal round.
Though considerably less talked about in comparison to fellow Swedes and former Washington first-rounders Andre Burakovsky and Filip Forsberg (dealt to Nashville last season), Christian Djoos has emerged as a promising young prospect in his own right.
A steady two-way rearguard with solid, if unspectacular, skating and mobility, Djoos’ development is actually ahead of what one would have expected when he was taken during Round 7 of the 2012 NHL draft.
As a key cog on a vaunted Swedish squad, Djoos has demonstrated that he’s more than capable of handling the most talented opponents of his age group. Hopefully he’ll carry the confidence gained from this tournament over to his performances with Brynas of the SEL.
Both his father and uncle enjoyed lengthy careers in Sweden, but if he continues to improve his play with the puck, as well as his skating, Djoos could be a late-round diamond in the rough for Washington.
The captain of one of the tournament favorites, this Miami RedHawks standout has been stellar during his second appearance at the World Juniors.
Thus far, Barber has tallied four goals and five points, and he has once again been a big factor in the American offense. Given his performance both last year and during his collegiate campaign in 2013-14, we should probably expect more from the skilled forward.
That being said, Barber’s mettle was on display during his country’s heralded clash against Canada on New Year’s Eve, as the Michigan native tallied the game’s first goal on a clever wraparound.
No, he hasn’t been the U.S.’ top offensive producer to this point. But, there’s no disputing that if this team is going to at least reach the championship game, Barber’s going to have to carry a lot of the weight up front, as he did last year (three goals and six points in seven games).
Regardless of whether Barber’s able to lead the United States to another championship at arguably the most consistently competitive level of international play outside of the Olympics, the former sixth-rounder has furthered his status as a potential gem for the Caps.