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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Flyers beat Caps 4-1, Grubauer Plays His First NHL Game

Elsa

Photo credit: Elsa

Washcaps Philaflyers. Last game good. This game less good. Make words hurt so use less. Puck not in good net. Puck in bad net. Giroux make goal. Simmonds make goal. Gagne make goal. Maxbag Talbutt make goal. Ward make goal make Bryz sad. Groooooooooooo.

Flyers beat Caps 4-1.

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Capitals Recall Philipp Grubauer from Hershey Bears

hersheybears-phantoms-feb-23-9

Photo credit: Kyle Mace of Sweetest Hockey On Earth

Bears goalie Philipp Grubauer has been called up from AHL Hershey. Braden Holtby has started the last seven games (posting a .940 Sv%), but Wednesday’s game would have been Michal Neuvirth’s most likely opportunity to start in more than two weeks. Mike Vogel reports Neuvy is ill.

This will be Grubauer’s first assignment in the NHL. Caps asistant goalie coach Olie Kolzig told RMNB last month that Grubauer is ready:

He really played fantastic. He played the way he’s played the last two years. He looks like he’s been there, done that. He’s very calm in the net. He made three or four huge saves (Saturday), was great in the shootout, and after the game you couldn’t tell it was first AHL win. He’s only lost one game in regulation since the end of November. This guy knows how to win.

Grubi will wear #31. Press relase below.

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Olie Kolzig

Photo credit: Chris Gordon

Olie Kolzig is remembered as the greatest goalie in Capitals history. A staple in Washington’s net for over a decade, Kolzig led the team to their only Stanley Cup Finals appearance and became one of the franchise’s most beloved players. These days Kolzig has a different role. In his second year as associate goaltending coach, Kolzig spends his time mentoring the club’s young netminders in both minor leagues. The influence of a veteran has apparently rubbed off on the players– Caps goalie Michal Neuvirth recently added the German goalie’s likeness to his mask, a gesture Kolzig deeply appreciated.

On Sunday, I spoke on the phone with Olie The Goalie, who was in Hershey scouting the Bears game. As the NHL season approached, Kolzig gave me his thoughts on the Caps goalie duo, the distractions Braden Holtby faced last season, and what he sees next for Alex Ovechkin. He even told me what he thought of Tom Poti‘s return to hockey and what that could mean for the organization.

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Mark French

Photo credit: Ian iPad

Over the offseason the Hershey Bears saw several key veterans sign elsewhere, such as future AHL Hall of Famer Keith Aucoin, 2011-12 AHL leading scorer Chris Bourque, and fan-favorite enforcer Joel Rechlicz. The team also had to deal with a peculiar problem due to the lockout: two head coaches, Mark French and new Caps bench boss Adam Oates. Capitals general manager George McPhee mandated that Hershey learn Oates’ new system, so that the organization’s minor league players could be used to it by the time NHL games started being played. All this change has seen the team scuffle to a .500 record through 34 games this season (16-16-1-1).

But now things are starting to look up. Before it was announced that the lockout had been lifted, Hershey had been getting its best goaltending of the year from Braden Holtby, who was recently named AHL player of the month for December. Stan Galiev, who had been struggling with his transition from junior hockey, is starting to look more comfortable on the ice and more worthy of his #29 prospect ranking from Hockey Prospectus. The organization also has a surplus of quality goaltenders in the ECHL knocking at the door of the AHL: Philipp Grubauer and 2012 seventh-round pick Sergey Kostenko.

On Saturday, after the Bears’ 3-1 loss to the Binghamton Senators, I asked French if this is the best he’s seen Braden Holtby play, if the sky is the limit for Riley Barber, and if Caps fans should be worried about Galiev’s early season struggles.

My full Q&A with French is below the jump.

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Photo credit: Mitchell Layton

Remember that possible goalie controversy? Well now there’s a new problem in the crease — and it isn’t pretty. After Tomas Vokoun re-injured his groin last week in Boston, the Caps have been forced to rely on Michal Neuvirth and call-up Braden Holtby. That’s not so bad considering Vokoun’s play before the setback. It’s Neuvy who’s hurt now, suffering a possibly devastating leg injury a quarter of the way into the second period Thursday night.

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Tomas Vokoun’s New Presidents-Themed Mask

One day after Michal Neuvirth spectacularly shut out the Winnipeg Jets, the biggest news of the day is still goaltending.

First, during today’s practice, Alex Ovechkin and Michal Neuvirth switched gear with each other. ‘Cause why not. The Great 8– sporting a goalie glove, blocker, and mask– skated to the crease and took several long-range shots from his teammates.

The other big goalie news of the day is that Swedish airbrush artist David Gunnarsson released photos of his latest project: Tomas Vokoun‘s new presidents-themed mask.

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Evgeny Kuznetsov drives hard to the net

Photo credit: BuffaloWorldJuniors.com

As we already wrote, the Caps were well represented in 2011 IIHF World Junior Championship, sporting five prospects in the tournament. Philipp Grubauer played on the weak German team and Patrick Wey had a situational role on the bronze-medal USA squad.  The other three Caps prospects played in the finals and each had great success in the tournament. So what did they do in the gold medal game? Here is our look at their best moments.

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Prospect Watch: Russians Win WJC, Eakin Gets Traded

RMNB Prospect Watch

Ed. note – Fedor Fedin and Roman Piontkovsky of GlobalCapsFans live to dish out salacious gossip about those players orbiting just out side the Capitals’ exosphere. Here is your sorta bi-weekly edition about kids in the Caps system (CHL, USHL, NCAA, KHL, TL;DR).  It’s Prospect Watch!

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The 2011 IIHF World Junior Championships, which will be held in Buffalo and Niagara Falls from Dec. 26 – Jan. 5, will feature the best of the best in junior hockey. Roman Piontkovsky, Alessandro Seren Rosso, and myself will tell you which Caps prospects will be fighting for their respective countries and what we can expect of them.

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