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August 28, 2012
Top 10 Prospects
Washington Capitals

by Corey Pronman

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Full list of NHL Organizational Rankings

Washington Capitals Top 10 Prospects

1. Evgeny Kuznetsov, Center
2. Filip Forsberg, Right Wing
3. Stanislav Galiev, Left Wing
4. Caleb Herbert, Right Wing
5. Braden Holtby, Goaltender
6. Chandler Stephenson, Left Wing
7. Thomas Wilson, Right Wing
8. Cameron Schilling, Defense
9.Tomas Kundratek, Defense
10. Patrick Wey, Defense

Organizational Ranking: 14th

System Overview: Washington has a very top-heavy system, led by two elite prospects in Kuznetsov and Forsberg , a very good one in Stanislav Galiev, and an elite goalie prospect in Braden Holtby. But after the top few names, the quality falls off quickly. While the 2012 draft saw the Capitals bring in a fair amount of talent, the players either have average upside or are many years away.

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1. Evgeny Kuznetsov, Center
2010-11 Ranking: 1st
Date of birth: 05/19/1992
Age: 20
Height: 6'3''
Weight: 187
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 49 GP, 19 G, 41 P, 18:59 ATOI (Traktor-KHL)
Acquired: First round, 26th overall in 2010 by Washington

The Good: Kuznetsov is an extremely talented player who has firmly established himself as one of the elite prospects in hockey. He's a high-end skater, puck-handler, and passer who can finish as well. Combine that with his size, and Kuznetsov has just about every tool in the box to give defenders nightmares. He changes gears effortlessly, he regularly makes plus dekes with the puck, and flashes elite vision. Although he will remain in Russia for two more seasons, he could have stepped into an NHL top six right away this season.

The Bad: Kuznetsov's main issues used to be his on-ice work ethic and his defense. Those aspects of his game aren't glaring weaknesses anymore, although they could still be perceived as minor ones. Kuznetsov has been given more defensive responsibility, and has shown some effectiveness as a penalty killer.

Projection: He could be a perennial All-Star.

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2. Filip Forsberg, Right Wing
2010-11 Ranking: N/A
Date of birth: 08/13/1994
Age: 18
Height: 6'2''
Weight: 181
Shoots: Right
Statistics: 43 GP, 8 G, 17 P (Leksands-Allsvenskan)
Acquired: First round, 11th overall in 2012 by Washington

The Good: Forsberg is a very skilled all-around player. He has high-end puck skills and loves to dangle. Every time he touches the puck, he seems to create offense and defenders have to respect his skill level and give him space. He's an above-average playmaker who can move the puck around well. He also has a good first couple of steps. Forsberg plays a power style of game, with one NHL executive calling him an "instinctual physical player" who loves to engage.

The Bad: Aside from just needing to put on strength and hopefully producing better in pro hockey next season, there's no real weakness to his game.

Projection: He could be a top line forward.

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3. Stanislav Galiev, Left Wing
2010-11 Ranking: 2nd
Date of birth: 01/17/1992
Age: 20
Height: 6'1''
Weight: 188
Shoots: Right
Statistics: 20 GP, 13 G, 19 P (Saint John-QMJHL)
Acquired: Third round, 86th overall in 2010 by Washington

The Good: Galiev is a highly skilled player who has the ability to be an asset in the transition game and as a puck possessor. He's a high-end skater who can really jet through the neutral zone. Galiev also shows the ability to be a flashy player with the puck, showing impressive hands and the ability to be a quality passer, at times flashing plus ability in that area. Galiev has a very good shot and can score from a distance. He's become a more consistent player and tends to show desirable work ethic in his own end and in the physical game.

The Bad: Galiev just needs to put on a ton of strength as his frame is undeveloped.

Projection: He could be a below-average top line winger.

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4. Caleb Herbert, Right Wing
2010-11 Ranking: Unranked
Date of birth: 10/12/1991
Age: 20
Height: 5'11''
Weight: 193
Shoots: Right
Statistics: 41 GP, 14 G, 33 P (Minnesota-Duluth-WCHA)
Acquired: Fifth round, 142nd overall in 2010 by Washington

The Good: Herbert is an above-average skater who generates good explosiveness from his first few steps and can get to a desirable top speed. He's light on his feet and can really be a pain to check because of his shiftiness. Herbert has good hands and shows some flash with his individual moves along with good hand-eye coordination while moving at top speed. I like Herbert's hockey sense off the puck, and while I've seen him be just an average passer, I've heard scouts praise his offensive vision as a major strength.

The Bad: Herbert's size is a notable hindrance, and because I don't see him as a player who will really bang bodies in the pro game, I think he's replacement level in that area. He doesn't have a really dynamic offensive element you would want from a smaller forward.

Projection: He could be a below-average second line winger, maybe even an average one.

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5. Braden Holtby, Goaltender
2010-11 Ranking: 5th
Date of birth: 09/16/1989
Age: 21
Height: 6'2''
Weight: 203
Catches: Left
Statistics: 40 GP, .906 SV% (Hershey-AHL)
Acquired: Fourth round, 93rd overall in 2008 by Washington

The Good: When I asked one scout to describe Holtby's pure skill set, the scout simply said, "He's amazing". Holtby has high-end athletic tools with really active limbs, showing the ability to move laterally really effectively while also having the ability to consistently stop pucks that he does not square up. His reflexes are as quick as you'll get in a young goalie and he can make the second save very well. He should make a legitimate bid for the starting job in Washington from day one this upcoming season.

The Bad: Holtby can be a little too energetic in net which can lead to poor positioning at times or bad decision-making. His rebound control still isn't all that great, either. His performance in the AHL this season was also somewhat concerning.

Projection: He could be a starting goaltender.

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6. Chandler Stephenson, Left Wing
2010-11 Ranking: N/A
Date of birth: 04/22/1994
Age: 18
Height: 5'11''
Weight: 192
Shoots: Right
Statistics: 55 GP, 20 G, 42 P (Regina-WHL)
Acquired: Third round, 77th overall in 2012 by Washington

The Good: Stephenson is a good skater with a solid top gear, nice acceleration, and impressive balance. He's got a ton of puck skills, arguably high-end in that area, and can dazzle observers with his style of play. Stephenson has the impressive offensive brain to be a creative puck-handler, but he also has good overall offensive instincts to make plays to his teammates and make good off-the-puck reads. He can play center and wing effectively.

The Bad: Stephenson is a smaller player who needs to put on strength and he really doesn't play a physical style with effectiveness and tends to be more of a perimeter player. His production this year was somewhat underwhelming for a player with his skill set.

Projection: He could be a below-average second line forward.

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7. Thomas Wilson, Right Wing
2010-11 Ranking: N/A
Date of birth: 03/29/1994
Age: 18
Height: 6'4''
Weight: 203
Shoots: Right
Statistics: 49 GP, 9 G, 27 P (Plymouth-OHL)
Acquired: First round, 16th overall in 2012 by Washington

The Good: Wilson is as elite a physical player as they come, with a big frame that is quite advanced strength-wise for a player his age. He's a player who loves to lay crushing hits and play the game with an edge. Wilson has decent hands, and while he's not a true offensive creator, he can make some plays. He can be very effective when it comes to protecting the puck in the cycle or getting his sticks in the crease as he's a good net front player.

The Bad: Wilson is a fine skater for his size, but on a neutral scale he could get a little quicker. He also isn't a real instinctual offensive player in terms of creativity or vision although he can make the basic plays fine.

Projection: He could be a great third line winger.

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8. Cameron Schilling, Defense
2010-11 Ranking: N/A
Date of birth: 10/07/1988
Age: 23
Height: 6'2''
Weight: 197
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 39 GP, 1 G, 14 P (Miami University-CCHA)
Acquired: College free agent

The Good: Schilling is a solid to above-average skater who is pretty mobile in every direction and gets good acceleration off his first step. He's a solid defensive defender who closes his gaps well, is a good pokechecker, and plays a pretty good physical game in terms of pinning his checks or separating them off the puck. He looked pretty effective in his brief AHL stint after signing as a free agent. He could be NHL-ready right away or within a very short amount of time.

The Bad: Schilling is an okay puck-mover, but really not an offensive defender by any means. He can be a simple outlet passer and maybe make the occasional puck carry, but he's not a player to be leaned on for offensive production.

Projection: He could be a good third pairing defender.

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9. Tomas Kundratek, Defense
2010-11 Ranking: Unranked (New York Rangers)
Date of birth: 12/26/1989
Age: 22
Height: 6'2''
Weight: 192
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 62 GP, 12 G, 25 P (Connecticut/Hershey-AHL)
Acquired: Trade from New York Rangers, drafted third round, 90th overall in 2008

The Good: Kundratek is a solid to above-average skater with pretty good four-way mobility and good acceleration who can effectively keep the play in front of him even when pressured by small, speedy forwards. He has decent hockey sense, showing the ability to make a good outlet pass and defend at a fine level in his own end. Kundratek has pro size and will use his body at a sufficient level to get forwards off the puck.

The Bad: While Kundratek will on occasion pinch up or join the rush, offense is not really his calling card. While he can move the puck, he's not a player you'll clamor to use on a power play.

Projection: He could be a third pairing defender.

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10. Patrick Wey, Defense
2010-11 Ranking: 8th
Date of birth: 03/21/1991
Age: 21
Height: 6'3''
Weight: 210
Shoots: Right
Statistics: 32 GP, 2 G, 7 P (Boston College-Hockey East)
Acquired: Fourth round, 115th overall in 2009 by Washington

The Good: Wey is a solid defensive defender who drives value for his aware own-end play and his physical game. He's a tall, built defender who closes gaps with his body and can punish forwards effectively. He has a good wingspan and can be tough to get past because of his stickchecking abilities and physical game.

The Bad: Wey isn't a good skater, with an awkward stride that doesn't generate much power. His offensive skills are fringe as well as he's a basic first pass player who shouldn't be relied on for more than that puck-moving wise.

Projection: He could be a third pairing defender.

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The Next Five

11. Riley Barber, Right Wing: Barber has decent size and speed to go along with solid hands and an admirable physical game. He was a top forward for the USNTDP this past season.

12. Zach Hamill, Center: Hamill has a ton of skill and hockey sense, but he's really inconsistent, his skating isn't good for a smaller guy, and he lacks a physical game.

13. Garret Haar, Defense: Haar has good mobility, plays the body well, and despite not always putting up good numbers, he has some puck-moving upside.

14. Brett Flemming, Defense: Flemming is a smart, tough defender with good mobility but he's a little undersized and doesn't have much upside.

15. Connor Carrick, Defense: Carrick has good speed, some puck-moving skill, and plays physical, but I'm not all that sold on his hockey sense.

The Sleeper: Christian Djoos, Defense

Between his skating, hands, and offensive sense, Djoos showed notable offensive upside when I saw him play in international competitions.

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Washington Capitals Organizational Top 10

Players 22 or under as of 09/15/2012 or still considered a prospect as defined here.

1. Evgeny Kuznetsov, Center
2. John Carlson, Defense
3. Filip Forsberg, Right Wing
4. Dmitry Orlov, Defense
5. Marcus Johnasson, Center
6. Stanislav Galiev, Left Wing
7. Caleb Herbert, Right Wing
8. Braden Holtby, Goaltender
9.Chandler Stephenson, Left Wing
10.Thomas Wilson, Right Wing

This was one of the harder organizational rankings to do thus far. I'm a big John Carlson fan, and based on his talent level and what he's shown at times in the NHL, I can completely see the argument for him ahead of Kuznetsov. However, Carlson had a concerning second NHL season, while Kuznetsov was very good in the KHL, which is a league that Hockey Prospectus' Rob Vollman has shown is really not that far off from the NHL. I could see the arguments for Stanislav Galiev ahead of Orlov and Johansson based purely on upside, but I leaned against that because of what the two former players have shown at the pro level. Orlov and Johansson had diverging seasons, as Orlov certainly trended in the right direction for a 20-year-old defenseman while Johansson struggled filling in for the injured Backstrom. I still think Johansson will be an above-average regular, though.

Corey Pronman is an author of Hockey Prospectus. You can contact Corey by clicking here or click here to see Corey's other articles.

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