Washington Capitals: 5 Prospects Who Could Challenge for a Roster Spot
Last week, the Washington Capitals held their annual development camp, which allowed the team's management and coaching staff to get an early look at how their prospects have progressed since the conclusion of the 2010-11 Season.
While roster spots won't be determined based upon how each prospect performed at the camp, there were some players who stood out, and made cases for themselves to be considered for the Capitals' opening night roster.
Heading the team's training camp, there aren't many openings in the Capitals lineup, but there undoubtedly a handful of prospects who could make Bruce Boudreau's decisions a little bit more difficult if they have strong showings.
With that in mind, here are five prospects who could be in the running for a spot on the Capitals roster when Training Camp opens in September.
5. Stanislav Galiev
The Washington Capitals have had a great deal of success in drafting Russian players, even outside the First Round. Stanislav Galiev, the Capitals' third-round pick in 2010 may prove to be the steal of the draft if he continues to develop at the rate he's going.
Playing for the Memorial Cup Champion Saint John Sea Dogs, Galiev potted 37 goals and 65 points in 60 games, indicating that he may be ready to move on to the next level.
Whether that level is the NHL or the AHL has yet to be determined, but it's more than likely that Galiev will spend the 2011-12 Season with Hershey, unless he exceeds expectations early on.
At the Capitals' Development Camp, Galiev looked good, and scored a key goal in the final scrimmage of the week, helping his team to a 5-2 victory. While he's not the most highly-touted of the Capitals' Russian prospects, he's definitely a forward to key an eye on for the future.
4. Cody Eakin
In general, the Capitals have lacked grit during their last three postseason appearances, which is why the organization is excited about the development of 2009 third-round pick Cody Eakin.
Eakin is a tough-as-nails centerman, who is capable of both scoring goals and burying defensemen with devastating checks, which will be a welcome addition to the Capitals' lineup.
After serving as the captain of the Swift Current Broncos, Eakin was dealt to Kootenay of the WHL, and he helped them to a berth at the 2011 Memorial Cup, scoring 83 points in 56 games along the way.
On an even bigger stage, Eakin was Canada's best player at the World Juniors in January, cementing his status as one of the Capitals' top prospects. While he'll almost assuredly start this season in Hershey, if he lights it up early on, he'll be called up soon after.
He's going to be a big part of the Capitals offense at some point down the road, but he may need a year or two to develop at the AHL level before he realizes his true potential.
3. Dmitri Orlov
Like Evgeny Kuznetsov and Cody Eakin, Dmitri Orlov impressed scouts around the league with his performance at the 2010 World Juniors, as he helped Russia upset Team Canada in the Gold Medal Game.
Since then, Orlov's stock has continued to rise, as he played well in a 19-game cameo with Hershey at the tail end of last season, notching nine points on a loaded Bears team.
Like many other Russians, Orlov is gifted with the puck and is a beautiful skater, so he's going to make an impact at both ends of the ice. Though Washington appears to be loaded on defense, Orlov will be in a Capitals uniform at least once this season, barring any serious drop in his play.
Orlov has the potential to be a first pairing defenseman in Washington in a couple years' time, but given the team's depth on the blue line, he'll get all the time he needs to develop.
2. Evgeny Kuznetsov
Though Evgeny Kuznetsov did not make an appearance at the Capitals' development camp in July, he's clearly the organization's most prized prospect, and if he decides to come to the team's training camp, he'll be in the running for a spot on Washington's opening night roster.
Kuznetsov has world-class skills with the puck, and is similar to current Capitals sniper Alexander Semin in that he can change the outcome of a game with his hands and shot.
Though his skill set is comparable to that of Semin, Kuznetsov is a much better playmaker, and he uses his teammates much more effectively. He put up 32 points in the KHL last season, so he's clearly ready to make the jump to the next level, all that's left to be decided is when he makes the transition to the NHL.
He put on a virtuoso performance at the 2010 World Junior Championships, notching three assists in Russia's come-from-behind win in the Gold Medal Game over Canada, so he's proven he can produce in clutch situations.
It's likely that he'll only stay in North America for the 2011-12 Season if he makes the Capitals roster, because he's made it clear he'd rather play in the KHL than suit up for Hershey in the AHL.
1. Mattias Sjogren
Since the Capitals selected Nicklas Backstrom with the fourth overall pick in the 2006 NHL Draft, Washington has grown very fond of Swedish centermen.
That's why the Capitals took a chance on an undrafted pivot in Mattias Sjogren, who has spent the last couple of seasons playing in the Swedish Elite League.
A former teammate of center Marcus Johansson, Sjogren came very highly recommended, and he'll be given at the very least a long look during training camp.
With the Capitals' top two centers virtually set in stone, Sjogren has the opportunity to seize the role of third line center, though the spot won't be handed to him. If Brooks Laich moves back to center, he'll be competing for a fourth line job with veteran and fan favorite Jeff Halpern, so Sjogren isn't quite a lock to be on the team as of now.
However, he played well at the Capitals' development camp, notching two points in the final game of the week, so he's probably got the inside track on the third line center position.