I want to start by saying I genuinely like Barry Trotz. I think he’s a good man and a good coach. He’s brought with him to Washington some of the brightest minds in hockey, he’s reversed a decline in the organization, and he’s helped Alex Ovechkin become a more complete player. I don’t think Trotz has gotten enough credit for that. He is exactly what fans wanted last summer: an experienced head coach.
But now that we’re more than halfway through the season, I see some worrying trends in this organization that reach all the way down to the AHL level.
It has been a pleasant surprise to see Christian Djoos, drafted by the Capitals in the seventh round in 2012, fare well in Sweden.
Boxcar stats don’t do justice to this subtle blueliner. He looks mature regardless of his ice time. During the few occasions I saw Djoos get off to a rough start in games — sometimes just because of rotten luck — he proved mental toughness in bouncing back and not letting his game fall apart.
Djoos might not wow you on any given night, but he’s always consistent with his play.
Caps prospect Stan Galiev has put the work in this season and has become a great story. After initially struggling with system play as a teenager, the 23-year-old forward has carved himself out a roster spot in AHL Hershey. Galiev is fifth on the Bears in scoring. Earlier this season he authored a brilliant streak of 8 goals in 8 games, putting him on the Caps radar as a potential call-up.
“This year I played well in the pre-season, our head coach Troy Mann, trusted me and I began to score,” Galiev said. “I get power play time, get some points. I stay healthy too. You put all that together and you can say I’ve now got confidence.”
The WHL’s Kelowna Rockets, home to the Caps’ second-round pick and World Junior champion Madison Bowey, have gone all-in on the Memorial Cup, acquiring Winnipeg Jets’ top prospect Josh Morrissey from the Prince Albert Raiders last month. Now the Rockets have made another all-star caliber addition to their already-impressive roster by trading two roster players and three draft picks for another Raider, Leon Draisaitl, third overall pick of the 2014 NHL Draft, in advance of Friday’s WHL trade deadline.
Caps prospect Madison Boweyjust won the World Junior Championship. He scored a goal in the tournament, but I was more impressed by something else: the destruction he authored at Christmastime. Bowey teamed up with forward Nick Ritchie to fire pucks at some traditional holiday favorites and put a unique spin on a hockey shootout.
On Monday night, the 2015 World Junior Championship final was held between Canada and Russia, and it was one a hell of a game. After going up 5-1, Canada gave up 3 unanswered goals to Russia in the second period. In the third, Canada bent but didn’t break, holding on until the final buzzer to win 5-4.
The chirping between Caps players was fast and furious on Twitter during the final, though mostly between roommates Tom Wilson and Michael Latta.
Capitals’ first-round pick Jakub Vrana scored two goals and one assist in five games at the World Junior Championship before his Czech Republic fell to Slovakia 0-3, failing to make the semifinals for the tenth straight tournament.
Editor’s Note — Throughout the season, Fedor will be posting scouting reports for Capitals prospects around the globe, bringing his thoughts on their performance as well as video evidence. First up is Jakub Vrana.
Washington Capitals 2014 first round pick Jakub Vrana plays for Linkoping of the SHL (Swedish Hockey League) and will play on the Czech Republic’s World Junior Championship team. He left a conflicting impression in the eight games I watched of him in October and early November. His skill was evident as he sometimes made veteran defensemen look foolish. However, he would go invisible for long stretches. On some occasions, it appeared that he let frustration get the best of him after missed opportunities on the offensive end and looked like a shadow of himself for the rest of the game. His first period was often his best as he sometimes looked tired in the second half of games and Linkoping’s coach Roger Melin would sometimes bench him in the third period. He clearly needs to be more aware defensively as sometimes he’s caught watching the play looking for a chance to get on the rush quickly instead of tracking his man in order to make sure there’s no scoring chance developing behind his back.
Still, his combination of speed and skill was too much for defensemen in this league. He also was always on the lookout to steal an errant pass or pickpocket a puck handler for a backbreaking goal. He’s not an overly physical player due to his smaller stature, but he also doesn’t put himself in bad position and get caught on big hits as well. If he can develop some consistency, he’ll be really hard to defend and potentially a game-changing player in the future.
Below the jump, I analyze every part of Vrana’s game with video evidence.
Madison Bowey and Team Canada will try to bring Wolrd Junior supremacy to Canada on home soil. (Photo: Hockey Canada)
On Friday, the 2015 World Juniors will be underway in Montreal and Toronto. Two groups of five teams will be battling for ten days to determine the strongest junior team on the planet. It’s arguably the most meaningful and most exciting annual international hockey tournament.
The Washington Capitals will not be well represented at the tournament unlike in years past. After the club decided to not release Andre Burakovsky in a controversial move, only three Caps prospects will be playing at the tournament: Canadian defenseman Madison Bowey and two Czech nationals, forward Jakub Vrana and goalie Vitek Vanecek.