Predicting the Next 5 Washington Capitals Prospects to Arrive in the NHL
The Washington Capitals have had a lot of success in developing impact players through the draft in recent years, and though George McPhee hasn't had the luxury of picking early very often over the past six seasons, the team's pipeline is ripe with valuable prospects.
Today's Caps feature homegrown talents such as Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Mike Green, Braden Holtby, Karl Alzner, John Carlson, Marcus Johansson and even 2012 first-rounder Tom Wilson, so needless to say, Washington's scouting staff has certainly earned its keep for the past decade.
Now, despite having dealt former No. 11 overall selection Filip Forsberg to Nashville in return for veteran playmaker Martin Erat last spring, there are still a handful of promising young talents who will head to D.C. before long.
Here's a look at when to expect the arrivals of the Caps' top prospects in Washington.
As a sixth-rounder, Riley Barber faced long odds at making the NHL when he was selected in 2012, but the Michigan native appears to have the potential to be an impact forward for the Capitals once he advances to the professional ranks.
Last season, Barber exploded onto the college scene with 15 goals and 39 points in 40 games for the Miami RedHawks, and he's been even better in 2013-14, with 24 points in 16 games.
No, Barber isn't blessed with great size, but the 19-year-old's instincts, skill and poise around the net are undeniable, and if he continues to develop, he'll be a Capital before long.
Predicted NHL Debut: 2014-15. Assuming Barber keeps piling up the points at the NCAA Division I level, and has another strong showing at the World Juniors (after winning gold last January), he'll get at least a cup of coffee in Washington next season.
As Washington's most recent first-rounder, Andre Burakovsky will certainly be given ample time to grow as a player, especially given that he's currently in his first season of North American hockey.
So far, the Austrian-born winger has been a revelation for the Erie Otters, as the 18-year-old sits among the OHL's best in both goals and points, with 19 goals and 37 points in just 26 games.
Sure, his numbers have undoubtedly been padded due to the fact that Burakovsky plays alongside some of junior hockey's most gifted offensive talents in Erie, but there's no ignoring how seamlessly he's adjusted to the North American game.
While Burakovsky has the shot, hands and skating abilities to be contribute in the near future, the Caps should allow the young forward to develop for at least one more season before throwing him into the fire at the NHL level.
Predicted NHL Debut: 2015-16. The Capitals have enough skilled European forwards to generate offense in the present, especially if Evgeny Kuznetsov comes to Washington within the next year. As a result, Burakovsky will spend next season in the OHL, which is the best option for both the club and the player.
Since being taken during Round 1 of the 2010 NHL draft, Kuznetsov has quickly become one of the game's most hyped prospects, despite opting to delay his North American professional debut.
That being said, it's tough to blame the silky Russian, as Kuznetsov is reportedly earning a cool $3.8 million a year in the KHL, which is a lot more than he'd earn on a standard NHL rookie contract.
But the former World Junior Championship MVP has indicated that he intends on making his NHL debut sooner rather than later, maybe even as soon as early in 2014.
Regardless of when he takes his game to Washington, Kuznetsov is an absolute lock to be an immediate contributor at the NHL level, as the 21-year-old has all the tools to be a first-liner for Adam Oates' squad right now.
He's been very productive in the KHL, and once he arrives on American soil, expect Kuznetsov to see top-six minutes and secure a regular spot on the power play very quickly.
Predicted NHL Debut: 2013-14. Kuznetsov's got nothing left to prove in Russia, and it seems likely that he'll find a way to join the Caps once the KHL season comes to an end.
Though the Caps have enjoyed contributions from young rearguards such as Connor Carrick, Nate Schmidt and Alex Urbom in 2013-14, Washington may have another potential top-six option on the way.
That's because the team's 2013 second-rounder, Madison Bowey, is quickly developing into a very intriguing defensive prospect with the WHL's Kelowna Rockets.
After posting respectable offensive numbers in each of his first two seasons with the Rockets, Bowey's stepped things up in a big way, as the 18-year-old has 25 points in 25 games thus far.
Equipped with a solid frame and good mobility, Bowey may materialize into a solid two-way defenseman at the next level if he continues to progress during what should be his breakout season.
Predicted NHL Debut: 2015-16. After watching Bowey assume the role of Canada's No. 1 defensive option at the World Under-18's, as well as being named Kelowna's captain, the Caps know they have a future standout here.
It's no secret that the Capitals have done well when drafting Swedish prospects, and former first-rounders Nicklas Backstrom and Marcus Johansson are prime examples of that.
And though the Caps' current Swedish standouts are both forwards, arguably the team's best-ever defenseman and current assistant coach Calle Johansson could be the perfect mentor for Christian Djoos.
Djoos, taken in Round 7 in 2012, has been a pleasant surprise for the team's scouting staff, as the 19-year-old has blossomed into a regular for Brynas of the Swedish Elite League.
Furthermore, Djoos' performance at the World Juniors showed that he's got the mettle and tools to keep up with the best young talent in the world, so expect McPhee to keep a close eye on 6'0" rearguard.
Though he'll spend at least one more season with Brynas (Backstrom's former club), Djoos appears to have a realistic shot at earning at least an audition in Washington, assuming he adds to his frame in the meantime.
Predicted NHL Debut: 2015-16. Djoos is still probably at least two years away from challenging for a spot on the Caps' suddenly crowded blue line, but he'll be there eventually. As we've seen countless times in the past, many Swedes benefit from playing bigger minutes at home before entering the NHL, so expect Djoos to spend another season across the pond.