Washington Capitals: Predicting the Next 5 Prospects to Make Their NHL Debuts
It has now been 10 days since the Capitals' latest young breakthrough, Cody Eakin, made his NHL debut against the Anaheim Ducks. He has already impressed and made his mark on the scoresheet, with a goal and two assists through three games. He has played so well the Caps appear to be having second thoughts about returning him to the AHL's Hershey Bears.
Speaking of the Hershey Bears, they have made a strong start to the season. The team is deep with seemingly NHL-ready talent, and the question on the minds of most Caps fans and followers is: Who will be the next player make his debut with the Caps?
5. Patrick McNeill
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Patrick McNeill has been called up to the Caps in the past, but has yet to make his NHL debut.
With the emergence of some of the young Caps in recent seasons, his debut is unlikely to come this season. For now, McNeill will likely continue to be one of the key players with the Hershey Bears, but should see his chance come with the NHL club soon.
After next season, the 24-year-old is a free agent, and if he hasn't broken through with the big league club by then, it won't at all be surprising to see him leave, much like Andrew Gordon, and sign elsewhere in the pursuit of his NHL dream.
4. Evgeny Kuznetsov
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When the Capitals drafted Evgeny Kuznetsov with the 26th overall pick in the 2010 draft, they knew they were getting a highly skilled player who had top-line NHL potential. Since then, he has developed into one of the NHL's top prospects.
While 'Kuzya' has remained covert about his NHL plans, it would be shocking if the Russian forward didn't make the jump to North America after this season. The Capitals have big plans for his future. They want him to come over, and with a team featuring Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin, and Dmitry Orlov, general manager George McPhee has plenty of bargaining power on his side.
3. Tomas Kundratek
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The midweek trade that sent Francois Bouchard to the New York Rangers for defenseman Tomas Kundratek could well turn out to be a steal for the Caps.
The Prerov-native, who was drafted in the back end of the third round of the 2008 NHL entry draft, is a physical defensive defenseman who brings a different dimension to the Caps prospect pool. He'll step in with the Hershey Bears for the rest of the year, but with a strong training camp, he could very well crack the Caps roster heading into the 2011-12 season.
There is a good chance he makes his NHL debut as an injury replacement later on this year.
2. Mattias Sjögren
Russian Machine Never Breaks
The Capitals' capture of Swedish forward Mattias Sjögren could well turn out to be the most underrated signing of the summer. The 23-year-old forward has kicked off the season with the Hershey Bears, emerging quickly as one of their more important players. He is a physical forward who could well add that final piece of grit to the Caps' puzzle that they need so much.
Should one of their bottom line forwards go down with an injury this season, Sjögren could well win a call-up. Look for him to start the 2011-12 season with the big league.
1. Dmitry Orlov
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Since being drafted in the second round of the 2009 NHL draft, Dmitry Orlov has emerged as a premier prospect for the Capitals. He stayed with the Caps out of training camp before becoming the last player to be cut—a testament to the Caps' high rating of him.
As soon as a hole opens up on the blue line, Orlov will be called up to fill it. Nobody knows how long that will be, but Orlov making his NHL debut this season seems inevitable. He'll have a battle on his hands in Camp next summer, but he is expected to come out of it with a spot on the full roster. Stardom is not far away for the young Russian.
Get all the latest news on all the Capitals prospects on Twitter at @CapsProspects