Save for Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom is the best player on the Washington Capitals – and it’s been that way for some time. Seeing him on crutches, then, after undergoing arthroscopic hip surgery in late May was an unwelcome sight for Caps fans. On Wednesday, after four months of recovery, Backstrom practiced with his teammates for the first time since the operation — albeit in a non-contact jersey. Still, the star center who didn’t miss a game last season is likely to miss this year’s opener, though the a quicker return that some feared.

“There’s no timetable,” Capitals head coach Barry Trotz said when asked when Backstrom might get back into game action or lose the non-contact jersey. “Whenever he’s ready, he’s ready. I consider Nick a franchise player and you never put a franchise player at risk. When he’s ready, he’ll be ready. That will be determined by our medical staff, his doctor and more importantly, Nick himself.”

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Photo credit: Chris Gordon

At this year’s Development Camp, the Capitals have shied away from the myriad of scrimmages they held under past regimes, teaching the invitees rather than pitting them against each other.

“We’re doing developing more than we are evaluating,” General Manager Brian MacLellan said. “This has been more education, more development stuff.”

Nevertheless, the team still hosted a big scrimmage at the end of camp, the anchor of the team’s annual summer fanfest. With one big chance to impress Washington’s brass, the players turned in a barnstorming, high-energy game.

One casualty of the chippiness was Chandler Stephenson‘s smile. The third-round pick lost parts of two false teeth when he was high-sticked by Marcus Basara during three-on-three play.

“I didn’t see the stick but just felt my head go back,” Stephenson said. “My front four are already fake. It’s going to be interesting to see what mom says.”

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Capitals Rookie Camp Begins Today

Andre Burakovsky during last year’s rookie game. (Photo: Chris Gordon)

Preparation for 2014-15 NHL season begins this week as rookie camps kick off around the league. Capitals’ camp will start today, and will end next Tuesday with a 3PM rookie game that has been held every (non-lockout-shortened) year since the Caps’ re-build.

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Washington Capitals Prospect Rankings: Summer 2014

Andre Burakovsky is the best Caps prospect yet to play a game with the big club (Photo: Elsa/Getty Images).

With rookie camp upon us, RMNB presents the new edition of its semiannual prospect rankings.

Prospect rankings factor in a player’s potential, his probability to reach his ceiling (including an assessment of that player’s adaptation to NHL’s style of play), and physical and mental maturity.

The Caps prospect pool is considered top-heavy, with four Caps prospects ranked in top-50 league-wide by both Corey Pronman and However, there’s believed to be a significant drop-off in talent after that. While Capitals management has tried to make their prospect pool deeper, they’ve still got work to do. The Caps are considered thin at center in particular, underlined by auditioning their two top wingers for a center slot.

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On Wednesday, Washington Capitals third-round pick Chandler Stephenson played in his first game as a Hershey Bear. His team battled the Norfolk Admirals, with whom they were tied in points for eighth and final postseason spot but held the tiebreaker, on the road.

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Capitals Sign Prospect Chandler Stephenson

Photo credit: Keith Hershmiller/Regina Pats

The Capitals have signed forward Chandler Stephenson to an entry-level contract. According to a report by the Regina Leader-Post, the three-year contract is worth $925,000 per season, the maximum an NHL rookie can get.

Stephenson was originally considered a left winger, but he impressed at center for the Regina Pats of the Western Hockey League and for the Caps during last preseason. After missing time due to injury in the 2012-13 season, Stephenson had a huge breakout this year with 30 goals and 59 assists in 69 games, leading his team and finishing 14th in the league in points (89). He played in all situations for the Pats, logging a lot of ice time especially late in games.

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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

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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Washington Capitals prospects Madison Bowey and Chandler Stephenson have been named to Team WHL for upcoming games against Team Russia in the annual Subway Super Series to be played in late November. A roster is not yet finalized: just one goaltender, seven defensemen, and 14 forwards have been selected.

Some players only play in just one game of the series, while others– those with a better shot of making the World Juniors squad– will get a two-game audition against one of the world’s best junior teams. Last year, the WHL’s roster consisted of 29 players: two goaltenders, nine defensemen and 28 forwards.

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Tom Wilson and Madison Bowey during Caps Development Camp in July. (Photo credit: Chris Gordon)

[Editor’s Note: Fedor has reported on Washington Capitals prospects for RMNB for the last three years. This year we’re proud to introduce his prospect rankings. The rankings will be updated three times during the season– with the goal of updating you on how prospects are or not progressing. The first edition of the rankings come on the second day of Rookie Camp, as Caps prospects jockey for position within the organization.]

The Washington Capitals have re-stocked their prospect pipeline over the past two NHL drafts, giving fans a wealth of new players to get excited about in addition to a few solid free-agent prospects signings.

The 2012 Draft is turning out be a sterling spot on George McPhee’s resume. After picking Filip Forsberg and Tom Wilson in the first round, GMGM made a few strong picks in the latter rounds with Thomas DiPauli, Connor Carrick, Riley Barber, and Christian Djoos– all of whom have been invited to their junior national team camps and left good impressions.

Depth on defense is an area of strength for this crop of talent, with more than a few prospects ready to compete for roster spots as soon as they open.

Below, check out inaugural edition of the RMNB prospect rankings.

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