Photo credit: AHL Tumblr
When the Caps traded Filip Forsberg to Nashville Predators, a divided fanbase described the return as “Martin Erat and some other guy”. That other guy, Michael Latta, is more than just an add-in for the deal.
At 21 years of age, Latta, who played for Nashville’s AHL affiliate, the Milwaukee Admirals, is nearing his NHL debut. Despite his relatively small stature (6-foot, 215 pounds), he hits hard and can drop the gloves. Latta is an agitator, which was one reason why the Caps drafted Tom Wilson last year while talented players like Teuvo Teravainen, Sebastian Collberg, and Mark Jankowski were still available.
A native of Kitchener, Latta also has some offense to go with the rough stuff. Since his debut in the AHL, he’s been slightly above the .5 point per game mark, pretty good for a player who projects to be a bottom-six NHLer. Through 118 AHL games Latta has 63 points.
Latta was limited by a wrist injury last year, but his 28 points in 51 games were good for seventh on his team in scoring. He was also second in penalty minutes, behind former NHL enforcer Zach Stortini. This year, he was third in points and first in PIMs on the Ads roster.
Latta, who was selected in the third round of the 2009 draft by the Preds, plays where he’s needed. The Caps don’t have many centermen in the system who can step up and play in the NHL. College players like Travis Boyd, Caleb Herbert, and Thomas DiPauli are years away from becoming NHL players — if they ever do. Ryan Potulny and Casey Wellman play both center and wing and, while older than Latta, haven’t been able to establish themselves as NHL players. The Bears’ first-line center is the AHL’s leading point-scorer, Jeff Taffe, who doesn’t have a contract with the Capitals. After his trade to the Caps, Latta has automatically become a #1 Caps center prospect (of course, if you don’t consider Evgeny Kuznetsov as a center, which we do not).
As the Caps acquire more highly-paid players, Latta and his cheap contract may become a boon for the team.
what else am i going to do for the rest of the day now the trade deadline is over? tough life
— Michael Latta (@Latta17) April 3, 2013