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Capitals Top 5 Prospects



blog-0120695001372701004.jpgMany times organizations rank their prospects based on who is the most NHL ready. This is not what you'll be reading here. I will be ranking the Washington Capitals prospects based on who I feel will have the best NHL careers, based on what I've seen thus far. Now that the Caps have a few new prospects to talk about, I figured I'd share my top 5 Washington Capitals prospects.

Take note, I'll be defining prospects as players who have played less than 3 NHL seasons, and less than 50 NHL games.

1. Evgeny Kuznetsov (KHL-Traktor Chelyabinsk) Ht:6'3 LBS:187 Nat:Rus H:L Pos:F DOB:5/19/92. 2012-2013 Stats

GP:51 G:19 A:25 Pts:44 PIMS:44

Drafted in 2010 in the 1st round, 26th overall by the Washington Capitals

To many, Kuznetsov is considered to be one of the best players in the world that's not playing in the NHL. He has become one of the best players in Russia's KHL (arguably the 2nd best hockey league in the world after the NHL) and has dominated internationally in junior play. This was his fourth year playing with Traktor and his contract will be done with the club at the end of next season. After his contract expires many Caps fans expect Kuznetsov to get his things together and rush over to D.C. to finish out the 2013-2014 NHL season, or at least be ready for the playoffs. I honestly won't be too upset if he doesn't come over right away, but we'll have been waiting for four years to see our stud prospect play in a Caps uniform.

Kuznetsov is a very dynamic offensive player. He is an incredibly smooth skater, and has an amazing pair of mits. He's very elusive, and is very tricky with the puck on his tape, especially around the net. He has a very quick release on his wrist shot and has good shot power, with very good accuracy. On breakaway's and in shootouts you can almost always count on Kuzya to score. He always seems to have a few tricks up his sleeves to give goalies fits. he's a good passer, but like his countryman Alexander Ovechkin he is a shoot first player. Kuzya isn't spectacular defensively, but he's no slouch either. The biggest thing Kuznetsov needs to improve on is his strength. Although he stands at 6'3, he is very light at 187 pounds. He can play all 3 forward positions, but expect for him to be used mostly as a center when he comes to the NHL.

What's his full potential?

Kuznetsov looks as if he will almost certainly be a 1st line forward in the NHL and could very well end up being a point per game player. Evgeny Kuznetsov (if he ever actually decides to come over) could be a star player in the NHL.

2. Tom Wilson (OHL-Plymouth Whalers) Ht:6'4 LBS:210 Nat:Can H:R Pos:RW DOB:3/29/94. 2012-2013 Stats

GP:48 G:23 A:35 Pts:58 PIMS:104

Drafted in 2012 in the 1st round, 16th overall by the Washington Capitals

Wilson is a guy Capitals fans are going to love, and fans of the other 29 teams are going to hate. After being drafted by the Capitals last year, Wilson improved his numbers tremendously in the OHL with Plymouth playing just about as many games as the previous year and doubling his point totals. Another thing Caps fans are going to love about Wilson is he is a playoff performer, something the Caps have lacked in their lineup of late. After his OHL season was over, Wilson played three games with the Caps AHL affiliate Hershey in the playoffs and scored the game winning goal in game four. And to put the icing on the cake for Wilson, he got called up to the big club for the last three games of the Caps-Rangers series. Wilson didn't put up any points but gave effective fourth line minutes and played a physical role.

Like I said earlier, Wilson is a great guy to have on your team but not a fun guy to play against. He is a player who is always going to finish off his checks, and he'll let you know about it as well. Wilson backs up his mouth with his fists without hesitation and can throw with the best of them. On offense Wilson works well in the corners and is very good in the cycle game. He isn't the greatest skater, but he gets himself into high scoring areas, and is very tough to move from in front of the net. Defensively he isn't outstanding, but isn't a liability either and he finishes off his checks in all three zones, whether it's along the boards, or in open ice. Sometimes Wilson can play a bit of an undisciplined game which can get him into trouble, and he still needs to fill out a little bit more before he is an everyday NHL player.

What's his full potential?

Wilson could top out as a top line forward in the NHL, although it is more realistic to think he'll be a 2nd and 3rd line player for most of his career. Wilson will look to battle for a spot on the Caps opening day roster this year, and don't be surprised if in a few years he ends up skating top line minutes.

3. Tomas Kundratek (AHL-Hershey Bears) Ht:6'2 LBS:201 Nat:Cze H:R Pos: D DOB:12/26/89. 2012-2013 Stats

GP:49 G:16 A:15 Pts:31 PIMS:26

Drafted in 2008 in the 3rd round, 90th overall by the New York Rangers

Kundratek was acquired by the Capitals in a trade from the New York Rangers in which the Capitals sent Francois Bouchard to the Rangers. The Caps seemed to have gotten away like highway robbers in this deal being that Bouchard has never played an NHL game and is now playing in Austria, while Kundratek has already played 30 games for the Caps, in fact if he didn't get injured last season he probably wouldn't even be on this list because he probably would have played over 50 games. But Steve Oleksy filled in and played exceptionally well and Kundratek didn't receive his spot back. Kundratek responded well by finishing the remainder of the season with Hershey until they were eliminated from the playoffs by Providence.

Kundratek, in his time with the Caps thus far has looked very good. He is a smooth skating defenseman who always has his head up the ice, and as this season progressed he seemed to be more confident carrying the puck, and making passes. Kundratek also looked solid in his own zone cutting off angles and while he doesn't play an overly physical game, still was willing to throw his weight around from time to time. Kundratek seemed to improve with experience with the Bears and Caps and it seems like the only way for him to get better is to continue playing. He needs to be aware of his positioning a little more often, and realize where his teammates are when the puck is on his stick, but these things seemed to get better the more he played so hopefully these problems will fix themselves with playing time.

What's his full potential?

I think Kundratek tops out as a 2nd pairing defenseman in the NHL and could be a very effective puck moving defenseman for a long time, hopefully in Washington.

4. Andre Burakowsky (Allsvenskan-Malmo Red Hawks) Ht:6'1 LBS:176 Nat:Aut H:L Pos:LW/C DOB:2/9/95. 2012-2013 Stats

GP:43 G:4 A:7 Pts:11 PIMS:8

Drafted in 2013 in the 1st round, 23rd overall by the Washington Capitals

Burakowsky was drafted this year by the Capitals, so I haven't paid as close of attention to him as I have of other Caps prospects, as well he played in the Swedish two league so I didn't see many of his pro games, but I have seen him play a good amount internationally. The Austrian born forward plays for Sweden in international play as he moved there when he was younger. And although he didn't put up impressive numbers in the Allsvenskan (he was a 17 year old playing with men) he did put up solid numbers in U-18 play (17 points in 16 games).

Burakowsky has a very high skill level, and in fact is one of the most skilled players in his draft class. However he is a very high risk, high reward player. He has an excellent shot, and is very patient in when to pull the trigger, but has a deadly release. He has great hand eye coordination which also helps with his puck handling ability. He is also very agile, and is a very good skater. At this point in his career his defensive game is average, and he isn't very strong either. My biggest knock on him is he's a little too selfish with the puck at times and should pass, chip, or cycle instead of trying to stick handle through defenders. That being said he can play both left wing and center and he is incredibly skilled, and if he does pan out he could put up big numbers.

What's his full potential?

Burakowsky could very well end up being a top line forward, but I think he probably ends up being a 2nd or 3rd line forward in the NHL. To say the least, I am very interested to see how this pick pans out for Washington.

5. Philipp Grubauer (AHL-Hershey Bears) Ht:6'1 LBS:185 Nat:Ger H:L Pos:G DOB:11/25/91. 2012-2013 Stats

GP:28 Sv%:.919 GAA:2.25 SO:2

Drafted in 2010 in the 4th round, 112th overall by the Washington Capitals

At this point in his development, Grubauer appears to be a steal for the Caps in the 4th round. This year he played for the Caps ECHL affiliate Reading, their AHL affiliate Hershey, and even a couple games with the pro club. He played outstanding in all three leagues and if the Capitals didn't already have Braden Holtby and Michal Neuvirth between the pipes Grubauer might already be in Washington. Grubauer will more than likely start next year in Hershey as well and will more than likely be seeing more action there as the starter as well.

Grubauer is very technically sound in net and always seems to be very calm, which is always a great quality to have in a goalie. He's not the biggest goalie but he makes up for it with his reaction time. He's very aggressive and likes to play far out of his crease. He'll need to work on his lateral agility a little bit due to the faster passes in the NHL game on odd man rushes and power plays. But overall Grubauer is further along in his development than expected and could crack the Caps opening day roster in a couple of years.

What's his full potential?

I believe Grubauer tops out as a average starting goalie in the NHL. Which may not seem like much but it means he could end up being a top 15 goalie in the world at some point in his career. Although the Caps already have Holtby, you can never have too many good goalies in your system.

Honorable Mentions: Madison Bowey, Riley Barber, Michael Latta, Cameron Schilling, Stanisalv Galiev.


Recommended Comments

So is Kuznetsov planning to play for the Capitals next year? I also saw where Kundratek signed a 2 year 2-way deal. He will probably see some NHL minutes this season.

I watched Grubauer play for the Royals in a couple of games last season. He was quite fast to the puck.

Thanks Bags, I enjoyed the read.

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It depends when Kuzya's season ends in the KHL, but he could play toward the end of next NHL season and into the playoffs.

And as far as I'm concerned Kundratek is NHL ready, but Oates is infatuated with 3 RD and 3 LD, so his play time could be effected by that.

And I loved Grubauer, and although McPhee doesn't want to trade Neuvy, I think Grubauer has a better future.

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Riley Barber was drafted by the Spitfires but he refused to come and went the NCAA route. Guess we didn't offer him enough money :)

Having seen both Neuvirth and Grubauer play for Windsor, I think Grubauer has the most potential between the two youngsters. He could really, really push Neuvirth in training camp for the NHL back up position. If Holtby was ever seriously injuredl, this tandem would be a better than average 2nd option pairing. Having 3 young gifted tenders is a nice problem to have. They may eventually trade Neuv's or Grubauer, but that would be far off in the distance, no reason to get rid of depth like this to early.

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I would have kind of liked to see Barber head to the O, but he had a great freshman year so I can't really complain.

But as far as our goalie situation goes I agree. I think Grubauer ends up being the better goalie, and I'd like to see him take the #2 job from Neuvy. But it's never a bad thing to have 3 solid young guys in net. If we can get solid value I wouldn't mind trading Neuvy, but we'd have to get a pretty significant deal.

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