Washington Capitals Prospect Rankings: Winter 2014

Chandler Stephenson has been one of the most impressive Caps prospects this season (Photo: Derek Leung/Getty Images)

The first half of the 2013-14 season has been mostly positive for Washington Capitals prospects. Unknowns like Andre Burakovsky and Chandler Stephenson have shown real NHL potential, while the elder statesmen of the pool like Nate Schmidt and Patrick Wey, both coming off tremendous college careers, have made steps up the Caps’ depth chart.

However, top two Caps prospects will wish their first half was better: Evgeny Kuznetsov‘s injuries have limited his action and Tom Wilson has had a hard time gaining a meaningful role with the big club.

The feel-good story of the season so far has been Stephenson, who had been bugged by injuries in the past, but is now thriving in a veteran role as an offensive go-to guy for his team. I’ve got more on these stories and our full top-20 ranking below.

See our previous prospect ranking.

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  • Josh Carey

    Woo. Thank you Fedor.

  • CSA

    I’m not familiar with any organizations prospect depth chart. But we sure as hell don’t have many C’s on that list. Heres to hoping we lock up Grabo!

  • Freedoooom

    Burakovsky is the 2nd best prospect the Capitals have…

    He played better in the WJC this year than Forsberg last year, all the while Burakovsky was playing 3rd line with a coach that seemed to love to bench him.

  • JH

    No big stay-at-home d-men on the list. Can’t Kuzya play Center as well?

  • Josh Carey

    Can we expect Barber to try and play next season?

  • sam rosen

    What about garret Haar? He is wrecking in the WAHL with Portland winterhawks. Hes averaging like .7 points per game… just saying

  • sam rosen

    I meant WHL. I hate auto correct

  • Chris Cerullo

    Well Rissling is but his potential to get much better is meh

  • JH

    Good catch. But he’s clearly not going to see the inside of Verizon Center from the ice any time soon. I like our prospects. Hopefully they won’t all be traded away for Ryan Miller….

  • Fedor

    Rissling has been pointed out. Wey and Schilling, too, both are NCAA d-men, typically college d-men are less rough-and-tumble but more consistent and aware and mobile. Wey is my favourite. Also, Lewington.

    He can, but using Kuzya at center is poor asset management.

  • Fedor

    Depends fully on him. I don’t have a slightest clue, to be honest. But Miami has been far from world-beaters this year, if this could in any way affect his decision.

  • Fedor

    Haar is in that just out of top-20 category (with Galiev, Heinrich, Pinho, Deschamps). I rank him slightly below Lewington and Rissling.

  • Fedor

    Latta, Stephenson, Herbert, Sanford (the latter is I think four years away), that’s pretty much it.

  • Fedor

    My pleasure.

  • Jack Conness

    Awesome stuff Fedor. I always love reading up on the system. Great job and thanks!

  • Rob W.

    Im really excited about Bowey, Sanford is also an interesting prospect it just stinks we have to wait a while for him to develop

  • deb

    Thank you for the Hershey Bears players thumbs up..at the last Caps game I attended. I ran into a couple that felt all that Hershey has sent up are goons..I totally disagree..I feel alot of players that Hershey contributes are very talented.

  • Daniel Walker

    All the talk and the hype about Galiev for the past couple years and he isn’t even our top 20? Is it time to give up on this guy as potentially being a legitimate NHL goal scorer (or being an NHL’er at all)?

  • Fedor

    To further illustrate your point: Who’s the last goon to go through Hershey on his way to DC? DJ King was acquired from STL for Della Rovere, Aaron Volpatti was claimed from VAN via waivers, Tom Wilson never played a game for the Bears due to CHL/NHL agreement. Joel Rechlicz played in just a couple of regular season games.

  • I said in the comment thread of the Summer Prospect rankings that Barber, and Schmidt were the ones to watch… I called that one. A shame the USA didn’t have a better showing at the WJC, can’t quite blame them though, as they only had like 3 returning players from the Gold Medal team from last year.

  • Two very important questions, Fedor.

    1) Can you elaborate on what you thought of Burakovsky’s performance in the WJC’s? I thought he was one of the best players on the ice in the gold medal game. His stick handling and skating ability has seemed to really blossom over the last year.

    2) What is the deal with Tyler Lewington’s hair? He looks like George Washington.

  • He’s only 22, unfortunate for him that he’s been bitten by the injury bug this year. In his limited ice time, he’s been okay for the Bears. He’s deadly from the “Ovi spot” on the PP too.

  • Also Grubauer’s potential is listed at “Average to below-average starter”…

    I’ll disagree there, I’ve been watching him since he played for Germany in the WJC that were held in Buffalo, I honestly believe after all is said and done he’ll be better than Holtby and Neuvirth (after a few years of seasoning in the AHL).

  • Fedor

    I think Burakovsky did well on the PP, but got too little ES TOI to make any kind of conclusion that’d be backed up by facts. Yes, he’s good with the puck on the rush — we knew that. But I didn’t see anything else standing out in his game. Good shot, good speed, good stick handling, but we knew all of that. His play for Erie could actually be more telling in other aspects of the game. For example, he skates hard to back check, I like that.

  • Fedor

    I think Neuvirth right now is below average starter, and I think Gru will be a little better than him, not as good as Holts.

    Also I think Grubi is a safe bet to actually reach the potential.

  • Josh Carey

    I’d disagree he’s better than Wilson. Unless your argument is that it goes Wilson, Burakovsky, Kuzya. Wilson would be putting up crazy numbers in the OHL if he were there, and he would have probably done the same in the WJC had he gone. Just unfortunate he is underutilized.

  • I’ve always viewed Holtby (and I’m a #1 Bears sweater short of being his biggest proponents) as above average, but shaky and can sometimes let in flukey goals. Sort of inconsistent. Grubauer on the other hand seems much more technically sound, even as being as young as he is. His play impressed me while being thrown into the starter’s role, without a full AHL season under his belt. I think Gru will fall into the above average range, he reminds me of Jimmy Howard, rather than Tukka Rask. Someone who might not win you a game, but if you surround him with a solid team he won’t lose them either.

  • Fedor
  • yv

    According to this excellent job by Fedor, Caps have set of wingers for the second line and potentially full sets for 3d and 4th lines. Kuzya would be on first LW and a lot of future bottom 4 Dmen. It is not bad for perspectives, but still again no prospects for second line center and top two-four Dmen. So, that would be a goal to find them during next draft or through trades. And this just show importance of getting Grabo to sign to hold the position until new comer(s).

  • Howard and Detroit are having an off-year, both are much better than their current standings/statistics suggest.

    Hiller is above average on a great team.

  • brian!

    Heck of a write-up, thanks for putting in the effort! Here’s hoping these guys can make a name for themselves professionally.

  • Eric Schulz

    I would guess that Wilson has the higher floor, Burakovsky has the higher ceiling, so it’s arguable. However, it seems like the ranking isn’t based on ceiling (since Sanford is at 15, Latta is at 7, despite the former having a higher potential; 2nd line vs 3rd line, respectively), but rather it’s based on how close they are to [regular] NHL action. In which case, Wilson is clearly ahead of Burakovsky; Kuznetsov is ahead of Wilson because he was READY for NHL action probably 2 years ago, he just didn’t come over.

  • Eric Schulz

    Well, it’s not like we are trying to draft guys for specific roles; you just draft the best player. So, that’s what we should keep doing. You just have to hope that somebody develops. I have a lot of problems with GMGM, but drafting isn’t one of them (beyond maybe a few nitpicks).
    Also, as far as 2nd line C, I wonder if Johansson could handle it; I would think with a top line of Kuznetsov – Backstrom – Ovechkin, we could put Fehr and Brouwer on Johansson’s wing (I’m thinking of last year’s Brouwer, not the sub-par version this year; could easily be Ward instead, if Brouwer doesn’t rebound, or Wilson may be the one to get most excited about because of upside). I’d love to keep Grabovski, of course, but I’d nominate Johansson as the 2nd choice, I think. Oh, maybe throw Erat into the 2nd line conversation?

  • Jack Conness

    That really doesn’t add up to an NHL’er. His future looks just like the stock market right now.

  • Eric Schulz

    Yeah, I would say Howard is above average; that doesn’t mean he will always have an above average year. I think he means that he’s above average overall, not just so far this year.

  • Bryan Carnahan

    Tom Wilson did play 3 games for the Hershey Bears in last season’s Calder Cup playoffs, but I get your point about him not being able to play with them during the regular season.

  • Fedor

    Yeah, thanks for the correction. Forgot about the spring try-out.

  • Fedor

    I think I can easily name 10 goalies better than Howard. Let me try: Lundqvist, Quick, Rinne, Rask, Miller, Niemi, Price, Bishop, Varlamov, Bobrovsky. Then there are Anderson, Crawford, Mason.
    Everything from 10 to 20 in the NHL is pretty much average, mathematically.

  • Fedor

    The ranking is based on combination of potential and probability of reaching potential. You brought a good example. Sanford has a high ceiling, but I don’t think his odds to reach it are very low. Meanwhile, Latta is almost there. And that makes difference.

  • Eric Schulz

    To me, 14 and above is “above average.” Obviously, if I think a guy is right at 14, I may not call him above average, but I don’t think I’d go as wide as 10-20. I wouldn’t go above average, average, below average; I’d go elite, above average, average, below average, bad.
    I feel like I’d rather have Howard than Niemi, Bishop, Crawford, or Mason, at least for this year (not taking into account age, since I feel like Bishop can still get better). Not so sure about Bobrovsky either; I’d like to see a bit more of a track record of success before I feel confident.

    Also, before this year, I don’t think you would’ve put Varlamov above Howard; are you willing to trust that 55-some games is more indicative than the entire rest of their careers? Rinne is injured right now; I’d rather have Howard.

  • Eric Schulz

    My point with Rinne being injured is that it’s a fluid list. I hate hyperbole more than anyone else (according to announcers, everybody in the NFL is either the best, one of the best, or one of the most underrated. Nobody is bad, overrated, or even average), but in this case, I don’t have a problem with perhaps a few more than 14 guys being called above average, even though it may not seem logical; few guys are so consistently good that they have a 4+ year stretch as a top-10 or better goalie. Besides, even “average” isn’t as straight-forward as you may presume. If you find the league average save percentage (even just for starters), you may find more, or less, than 15 guys above that. To me, when I call a guy “above average,” I mostly mean that the team he is on is not worried about upgrading. To some degree that may be not terribly accurate, if you want to quibble with semantics here, but I think “above average” connotes, properly, that it would be hard to upgrade on him, whereas “average” implies that you could find a guy to replace him easily (so should not overpay), and “below average” means it’s a problem that needs to be fixed.

  • Fedor

    I always thought Howard is quite a bit overrated to be honest, or rather benefitting from a team that has been making playoffs every year he’s there.

  • Eric Schulz

    He’s pretty clearly on a very good (and well coached) team, so perhaps. Without watching them more closely, I figure I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. There aren’t a heck of a lot of writers/analysts in hockey that I trust are great enough at evaluating these things (the bigger ones take in too much, and the ones that follow certain teams tend to be biased, understandably so; perhaps my own ego prevents me from trusting some too. For instance, I trust Robert Mays’ and Bill Barnwell’s football knowledge enough that if my own judgement disagrees with theirs, I will re-evaluate and likely change my opinion. I’m more knowledgeable about hockey, so less trusting in most areas). But I don’t know, I tend to listen, overall, to less hockey stuff now (sticking mostly to this blog, and watching games, because I can’t find a lot of really great stuff that I like), so I can’t talk as knowledgeably about over- or underrated. I’d say the problem, as far as his overall ability, is where you’d place him. If, for instance, you cut all starting goalies into 3 tiers, I’d probably have him in the 2nd, but on the higher level of that 2nd. I can understand calling him “average” because he’s in the middle tier, but I think he’s most similar to perhaps Antti Niemi or Corey Crawford, as far as you can win a Cup with him, not “because of” or “in spite of” him. If a guy is a legit starter like that, I tend to say “above average” because there are a lot of “starters” that aren’t of that caliber, but start due to teams that don’t have any other option, and there are really more than 30 starters, if you count 1A/1B situations (I’d say St Louis qualifies). I tend to count all NHL goalies more than just starters, because not all teams have legit starters; I’d guess about half to a third of the teams in the league don’t have a guy who is clearly the man; perhaps I’m giving him too much credit there. Also, with me it’s hard to remove context and contract. I believe he’s fairly paid, so as far as bang for the buck, he’s probably above average.

  • Eric Schulz

    On 2nd look, he may be a little overpaid. 3 of the last 4 years he’s had a save percentage at or above .920 though. I’d say that’s above average.