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: DaveArt.com

A lot has changed in Washington D.C. since last season, including the goalie situation. On the first day of free agency, new Caps GM Brian MacLellan signed veteran goalie Justin Peters to be Braden Holtby‘s back-up. That means goaltending prospect Philipp Grubauer, who shined in a one-month stint with the team last December, will likely be relegated to the American Hockey League’s Hershey Bears for most of next season.

I bring that up because, um, well, this is awkward. Grubauer’s new mask from Swedish airbrush artist David Gunnarsson is 100% Caps-flavored.

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Trotz MacLellan (11 of 13)

Photos by Chris Gordon

Early Monday, the Washington Capitals announced that they had promoted Ross Mahoney, who has been the Caps’ director of amateur scouting for the past 16 seasons, to the vacant assistant general manager position.

At 1pm, Caps GM Brian MacLellan held a conference call with reporters to talk about Mahoney’s promotion, but the discussion quickly turned to everything else.

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Philipp Grubauer: 2013-14 Season Review

Photo credit: Kim Klement

At the beginning of December, Bears goalie Philipp Grubauer sunk his German claws into the Caps’ number-one spot and didn’t let go until the new year.

By the Numbers

12 Games played
92.6% 5v5 save percentage
352 5v5 shots faced
2.5 Goal support per sixty minutes
95.7% Shorthanded save percentage
70 Shots faced while shorthanded

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Photos: Andre Ringuette/HHOF-IIHF Images

Washington Capitals goaltender Philipp Grubauer hit a milestone on Sunday. The 22-year-old prospect, who will likely back-up Braden Holtby in Washington next season, won his debut on the international stage with Team Germany, a 3-2 in a victory over Latvia. Grubauer made 30 saves, defeating Tampa’s talented prospect netminder Kristers Gudlevskis in the process.

Grubauer’s role on Germany is unclear. Grubi served as a back-up to Rob Zepp in Germany’s first game of the tournament on Saturday, a 2-1 win over Kazakhstan.

Two weeks ago, Grubauer shut out Team Russia in a pre-tournament game.

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Photo: Heike Feiner/eishockey-online.com

Hershey Bear and Team Germany goalie Philipp Grubauer shut out Team Russia in a pre-World Championship exhibition game. The Germans won 3-0.

Both Alex Ovechkin and Dmitry Orlov sat out (Ovechkin’s absence was described as part of an “acclimatization and adaptation” period by the team’s spokesman), while Orlov’s omission from the line-up seemed to be a part of the rotation process that comes from having 30 players (27 skaters) on the roster. Evgeny Kuznetsov played on the team’s second line.

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For almost two months, Adam Oates rode the hot hand in net with Philipp Grubauer. Grubi was impressive in his first extended look with the big-league team, putting up a 6-5-5 record, a .925 save percentage, and a 2.38 GAA in 17 games. In fact, Grubauer dominated so much that George McPhee felt comfortable enough to fill Michal Neuvirth’s trade request, thereby slating Grubi to become the Caps’ back-up goalie for the 2014-15 season.

With more opportunity soon on the horizon, Grubauer has commissioned crazy ol’ Swede David Gunnarsson to paint him a new Capitals themed mask. There’s nothing amazing here, but the design is still pretty baller. It’s like July 4th with Capitals logos.

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Photo: Mark Buckner

(Photo: Mark Buckner)

Coming into the 2014 NHL trade deadline, some fans feared Caps general manager George McPhee would make a drastic move in the hopes of securing a playoff spot. Instead, he made three reasonable ones. The Caps got better this year without harming themselves in the future.

The biggest deal was the final one, with the Caps sending Michal Neuvirth and the newly acquired Rostislav Klesla to the Buffalo Sabres for Caps killer Jaroslav Halak and a third-round pick.

“I think we start with Neuvirth, and he wasn’t happy being a number two,” McPhee told reporters at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. “We tried to accommodate him. We brought in an experienced guy. I think it’s an upgrade on the tandem which is what we wanted to accomplish.”

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George McPhee Bruce Bennett

Photo: Bruce Bennett

On Sunday, Joe Micheletti of NBC Sports reported a quote from George McPhee that has been making the rounds. Except it’s not really a quote actually– just hearsay. According to Micheletti, GMGM said that the Washington Capitals would have ten more standings points if only they had better goaltending this season. McPhee declined to elaborate on that little piece of apocrypha on Monday, and the team didn’t get back to us when we asked about its veracity.

Katie Carrera of the Washington Post ran a wonderful piece about it on Monday. My favorite part was this quote by Braden Holtby:

“I think if we pay any attention to comments like that it brings the team apart.”

For perspective: That is a goalie talking about his employer, whose words might tear the team apart.

So… that’s not good.

I would like to set Braden’s mind at ease. If George McPhee actually said that (and I’m not sure he did), he’d be categorically wrong.

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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