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 NHL.com. 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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Photo: Doug Pensinger

After spending most of 2013-14 with the AHL’s Hershey Bears, Capitals’ center prospect Michael Latta is now poised to gain a full-time roster spot in Washington next season. Acquired at the 2013 trade deadline in the infamous Forsberg-Erat trade, Latta had one goal and four points in 17 NHL games last season but left a good impression, winning 52.2% of his face-offs and playing an effective, physical game on the fourth line. Latta was one of the team’s best players at drawing penalties, leading the team in penalty differential.

After signing a two-year contract on July 1st, Latta is practically guaranteed a roster spot in the NHL next season.

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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

Garrett Mitchell To Undergo Shoulder Surgery

Photo credit: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Washington Capitals prospect Garrett Mitchell is expected to miss four to six months as he recovers from shoulder surgery. According to Tim Leone of The Patriot-News, the surgery is scheduled for Thursday in Washington.

Mitchell has a torn labrum in his right shoulder. He said he’s had shoulder problems for most of the season, but the ailment was aggravated on Nov. 24 during a game against the Binghamton Senators.

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GIFs by Ian Oland

The Washington Capitals have tried to improve their physical play in recent years, adding more power forward prospects into their system. On Sunday, two of those prospects playing for the Caps’ AHL affiliate in Hershey — Michael Latta and Garrett Mitchell — combined for a big hit on Norfolk Admirals’ forward and Anaheim Ducks prospect Max Friberg. The hit was so powerful that it made the glass unhinge and fly into the Giant Center crowd.

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At first, we didn’t have video of Joel Rechlicz’s decisive shootout goal to defeat the Philadelphia Flyers 4-3 on Monday night, so we had to use our imaginations. Now, thanks to the magic of the Internet, the Capitals have graciously provided us evidence that this thing actually happened.

Rechlicz, the Caps’ fourth and final shooter, delivers the puck to crease before yanking it aside and backhanding it in– quite casually– to finalize the fight-filled fiasco of a game against the Flyers. Michael Latta and Garrett Mitchell fought earlier in the game, and we’ve got video below. We’ve also got another angle on Wrecker’s goal from RMNB reader Salvatore P., who was in Philly and was kind enough to share his view on our Facebook page.

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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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Garrett Mitchell’s Wife is a Brooks Laich Fan

Photo credit: Garrett Mitchell’s Twitter (@Mitchy1_0)

Garrett Mitchell has had a great summer, marrying his long-time girlfriend Talita.

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Varly and trainer Steve Saunders. (Photo credit: Power Train Sports Institute’s Instagram page)

It seems like such a long time ago, but a few years back the Washington Capitals would almost always have a Russian on the ice. Not Alex Ovechkin, Alex Semin, Viktor Kozlov, or Sergei Fedorov. It was Semyon Varlamov. At least, when he wasn’t struggling with groin injuries.

Varlamov, who at times looked more like an Olympic gymnast than a traditional NHL goaltender, had the talent to become the franchise’s long-term solution in net. After replacing Jose Theodore and dominating in the 2008-09 playoffs, Varlamov failed to lock down the starting position the next season. Because of injuries.

Varly’s injuries were made worse after rehab starts in Hershey. The next season, Varly battled with Michal Neuvirth for the number-one spot and again would was plagued by the same issues, again making another rehab trip to the Capitals’ AHL affiliate.

The Caps eventually dealt Varlamov to the Colorado Avalanche for draft picks during the summer of 2011, allowing the Avs to take all of the risk with Varly after his cheap entry-level contract expired. Since then, the Samara, Russia native has found his groove. After averaging 30.7 NHL-AHL appearances from 2008-11 with Washington and Hershey, Varlamov played in 53 games with Coloardo in 2011-12 and 51 in 2012-13 combined with Colorado and Lokomotiv Yaroslavl. So what changed?

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Mitchell (second to the left) and Talita (first to the right) when they first met in 2005.

Mitchell (second to the left) and Talita (first to the right) when they first met in 2005.

Photo credit: @Mitchy1_0

One week ago, Washington Capitals prospect Garrett Mitchell got hitched to his long-time girlfriend Talita in a ceremony held at Kenosee Lake, Saskatchewan. Mitchell, who has played for the American Hockey League’s Hershey Bears for the past two seasons, managed to buzz-market his team at the wedding by offering Hershey’s Kisses at a candy bar.

And now for some figurative sweetness to add of the literal kind.

Mitchell, Hershey’s most-improved player over the last two years, got an awesome gift from his friend Shae: a signed photo from Willie Robertson of Duck Dynasty fame. Robertson, the lumpy entrepreneur/duck call maker/sunglasses seller at Walmart, personalized the photo, “Garrett, Congrats on your wedding.”

Too cool.

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