Washington Capitals top prospect Evgeny Kuznetsov returned to action following KHL Olympic break on Wednesday as Traktor Chelyabinsk faced reigning champions Dynamo Moscow in a Gagarin Cup re-match. Traktor, still battling for a postseason spot, gave the champions a battle but fell 5-3 in a high scoring affair.

Despite being one of the best players on the ice, Kuznetsov was unable to snap his goalless streak, now at 12 games (his last goal came on November 28th). But at least he keeps racking up the assists.

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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. Continue Reading

Evgeny Kuznetsov scores the shootout game-winner. (Photo: Metallurg Novokuznetsk)

Last Wednesday, Washington Capitals prospect Evgeny Kuznetsov made a lot of Caps fans happy when he tweeted out his US visa application form. After three years of waiting, it seems Kuznetsov is finally ready to come to the NHL.

Caps fans, however, may have been the only ones happy about the tweet. A half an hour after publishing the photo, Kuznetsov deleted the tweet. We do not know why he took it down. It’s possible Traktor’s management and coaching staff had issues with their best player announcing his imminent departure while his team is still playing.

Over the weekend, Kuzya told Sport-42.ru that his comments about coming to America have caused backlash. He also assured fans that he would give it his all during Traktor’s hunt for the playoffs.

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Washington Capitals top prospect Evgeny Kuznetsov has had a tough time this year. Over the last few months, he’s suffered three injuries. When he’s been healthy, he’s struggled. Traktor Chelyabinsk, which played in the KHL Finals last season, is barely clinging to the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Kuznetsov remains out with a leg injury.

In a Russian language interview with Alexander Rogulev of R-Sport, the 21-year-old star said he has ended negotiations with Traktor and reiterated that this will be his last season in the KHL.

“It’s been decided for a long time now, there should be no questions,” Kuznetsov said. “I won’t even stay for $10 or $15 million. The people [in Washington] have been waiting for me for three years.”

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During an OHL game last weekend, Washington Capitals prospect Andre Burakovsky absorbed a dangerous, illegal hit from Cristiano DiGiacinto of the Windsor Spitfires. 

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Great yellow laces.  Signals, it’s signals!

Every year, we see a few European players get signed to the NHL as free agents. Recently those players have included Anton Belov, who was snagged by the Edmonton Oilers; Damien Brunner, who inked a deal with the Detroit Red Wings before moving to New Jersey; Nikita Nikitin, who was traded from the St. Louis Blues to Columbus Blue Jackets during his rookie year; Raphael Diaz of the Montreal Canadiens; and New York Ranger Mats Zuccarello. These signings aren’t the conventional path to the NHL, but they aren’t a new one either.

Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t. Because teams give up very little cap space for an entry-level contract, European free agent signings aren’t high risk. The players could always be assigned to the minors. That said, some European stars who signed NHL contracts have failed in the bigs. Roman Cervenka, for example, returned to the KHL after just one year with the Calgary Flames.

One European player who might be sought after this year is Fedor Malykhin from Avtomobilist Ekaterinburg. At the age of 23, he’s going through a breakout year, carrying his team to a playoff spot.

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2014 IIHF World Junior Championship

Photo credit: Francois Laplante/HHOF-IIHF Images

Ever since Malmo, Sweden was named host of the 2014 World Junior Championship several years ago, Swedish prospects have circled this date on their calendars, hoping they could win gold in front of their countrymen. Those are huge expectations for teenagers to bear.

On Sunday, Washington Capitals prospects Andre Burakovsky and Christian Djoos felt the stinging heartbreak that comes with those expectations being crushed in front of their hometown fans, losing in overtime of the title game. Sweden, which was arguably the most talented team in the tournament, fell to Finland in sudden death after Rasmus Ristolainen took the puck hard to the net and scored.

Many players on Team Sweden openly wept after the buzzer including team captain and former Capitals prospect Filip Forsberg. Forsberg, who was traded for Martin Erat and Michael Latta during last year’s trade deadline, was named MVP of the tournament and also to the tournament All-Star team. Though, judging by the photos, it did little to console him.

Sad Swedes are sad.

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Despite Tommy DiPauli’s attempts to tie him up, Johnny Gaudreau scores. (Photo credit: Matthew J. Lee/Boston Globe)

The latest installment of one of college hockey’s most exciting rivalries, Boston College vs Notre Dame, also known as “Holy War on Ice”, was played last night at an unusual venue. The Eagles and the Fighting Irish battled in below-freezing temperatures at legendary Fenway Park. Continue Reading

Connor Carrick rushes the puck up ice (Photo credit: Francois Laplante/HHOF-IIHF Images)

World Juniors semifinalists were determined on Thursday. Washington Capitals prospects combined for three points. Riley Barber had one assist to his name, while Andre Burakovsky recorded a pair of helpers.

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Chandler Stephenson Scores a Nifty Goal (Video)

Photo credit: Regina Pats

Washington Capitals 2012 third-round pick Chandler Stephenson of the Regina Pats scored a pretty tricky goal in Wednesday’s game against the Lethbridge Hurricanes. In the third period, with his team down 5-2, Stephenson toe-dragged the puck around a Lethbridge defenseman before blasting it top-shelf.

We’ve got slo-mo video of the goal below.

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