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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Washington Capitals defensive prospect Dmitry Orlov set his AHL high with four points (one goal, three assists) in the Hershey Bears’ 4-0 away victory over the St. John’s IceCaps on Saturday. Philipp Grubauer‘s shutout gave the Bears their first win of the season (1-2-1).

Orlov missed an NHL recall opportunity this week as a case of pink eye kept him from filling in for John Erskine. Orlov was healthy-scratched out of Friday’s Bears game as well, but after a 5-1 loss the night before, Bears coach Mike Haviland made two changes to the lineup, one of which was putting Orlov in for Tomas Kundratek.

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Who Will Be the Odd Man Out In the Caps Blueline Logjam?

Jack Hillen and Steve Oleksy are frontrunners for defensive spots on the Caps opening night roster. (Photo credit: Greg Fiume/Getty Images)

With days to go before the start of the regular season, a few questions regarding the Washington Capitals’ opening day roster remain unanswered. First among them is this: who will be the Caps bottom-pairing D-men?

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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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Photo credit: Greg Fiume

The Washington Capitals have announced that Czech defenseman Tomas Kundratek has signed a two-year contract worth $1.1 million. Kundratek played 49 games with the AHL’s Hershey Bears last season, scoring 16 goals and tallying 31 points. His surprising breakthrough resulted in an extended look in the NHL, where Kundratek played in 25 games, netting one goal and seven points.

This new deal with the 23-year-old blueliner is another example of George McPhee’s crafty management.

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Oleksy and Kundratek pose with their milestone pucks. (Photo via the Capitals’ Instagram)

Tuesday, while also a good night for the Washington Capitals, was a great one for former Hershey Bears defensemen. First, Steve Oleksy notched his first NHL point, getting an assist on Mike Ribeiro’s second period tally. Later in the period, it was Tomas Kundratek‘s turn. With the Caps down 3-1, Kundratek put Washington within one with a pin-balling shot that hit the back of the net for his inaugural NHL goal. Thanks to Eric Fehr’s magical overtime marker, Washington came back to win 4-3, beating one of the league’s top team in the Boston Bruins. Kundratek, adding to his memorable night, had an assist on the game winner.

“It’s great to comeback in a game like this against a team like this,” Kundratek said after the game. “It’s great thing for us. We’ll have to keep going after this.”

“Fans were pushing us forward,” he added. “It was unreal. It was a great crowd.”

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Braden Holtby meets Zach

Holtby skates Zachary around the ice. (Photo credit: Ann-Marie Ward)

Holtby skates Zachary around the ice. (Photo credit: Ann-Marie Ward)

Photo credit: Ann-Marie Ward

The day before the Washington Capitals played their most inspired game of the season — a 5-0 shellacking of the Florida Panthers, some special guests invaded Kettler Capitals Iceplex and raised the spirits of three Caps in particular: Braden Holtby, Jason Chimera, and Tomas Kundratek. The Caps hosted Extreme Recess Hockey in conjunction with Dreams For Kids DC, a program which allows children with physical and developmental disabilities — as well as at-risk youth — to get out on the ice and skate with the pros.

The event had a profound impact on both the children and players involved.

“It’s making me feel unreal,” Kundratek told John Walton in a team-produced video. “Kids having smiles on their faces. That’s what this is all about. This is my first time and I’m really enjoying it.”

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Tomas Kundratek celebrates his first NHL point with teammates

Photo credit: Patrick McDermott

The Caps have gone through a ton of defenseman this season — Jack Hillen got hurt, John Erskine was suspended, and head coach Adam Oates has looked for any possible combination to get the Caps out of their slump.

Since January 22nd, that has meant going with Tomas Kundratek, a 23-year-old Czech acquired in a minor league trade a little over a year ago, sometimes at the cost of guys like Roman Hamrlik. Kundratek was called up from Hershey after putting up 26 points with the Bears and being in the top five in goals among AHL defensemen.

“I coached him a little in Hershey and liked him and liked what I saw,” said Oates. “I think he’s done a great job when he’s been here so far.”

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Tomas Kundratek

Photo credit: Kyle Mace of Sweetest Hockey On Earth

November 1st marks the first day of Movember, an event where men across the globe grow mustaches to raise money to fight prostate cancer. Hockey players have been among the most avid supporters of the charity, raising thousands for research and awareness.

Almost the entire Hershey Bears team is participating this year, and some players are trying to one up each other. After Boyd Kane’s wife offered a signed team photo for any person donating $25 or more, Caps prospect Tomas Kundratek responded with his own overture.

No signed jersey or stick. Too rote. Instead, Kundratek is offering to take the fan who donates the most money out to dinner at the finest establishment in Hershey: Houlihan’s! If you’re nice, he might let you order an appetizer.

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