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McPhee excited over Caps' prospects

Monday, 08.25.2008 / 9:00 AM / Prospects

By Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer


Mathieu Perreault is a potential second-line center for the Caps, he tallied 114 points last season in the QMJHL.
Washington Capitals General Manager George McPhee will not hesitate to dip into an extremely talented prospect pool if needed this season. In particular, a few defensive gems are waiting in the wings.

"When we traded (defenseman) Steve Eminger at the draft, we did so knowing we did not want to carry eight defenders next season," McPhee told NHL.com. "We carried eight last season and found out that it's too hard on people. So trading Eminger will allow prospects in our system a chance to play with us."

The Capitals have four solid blueliners in their system, including Karl Alzner, the Western Hockey League Player of the Year and Team Canada captain in the 2008 World Junior Championship.

Here's a look at the Capitals top prospects entering the 2008-09 campaign.

FORWARDS

Mathieu Perreault -- While the lack of size has always been an issue, there's no questioning his heart and desire. Perreault, a potential second-line center, offers much creativity and quickness on the ice. The sixth-round draft pick (No. 177 overall) in 2006 lit up the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League with Acadie-Bathurst Titan. In 2006-07, he racked up 119 points (78 assists) in 67 games and, in 2007-08, collected 114 points (80 assists) in 65 contests.

"One of the knocks against him is that he's not a big kid, but he's a very bright player and we've always said that if you're good enough, you're big enough," McPhee said.

Francois Bouchard -- Bouchard had a terrific summer camp in 2007 but McPhee said he, "thought it best he remain at the junior level before coming to the NHL since we prefer to overcook them a little bit rather than throwing them right into the mix."

He's a potential second-liner with good ability on special teams. In 2006-07, he won the Jean Beliveau Trophy as the leading scorer in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League with 125 points (45 goals) for Baie-Comeau Drakkar. Last season, he scored 36 goals, 56 assists in 68 games.

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"What impressed me most (about Bouchard) was how disappointed he was to be cut last year," McPhee said. "He really came to Washington expecting to make the hockey club right out of junior. We didn't think he was ready, but we sure liked the attitude."

Chris Bourque -- The son of Hall-of-Fame defenseman, Ray, has a solid build and a low center of gravity which make him extremely tough to defend. In 2006-07, he had a productive season with the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League, registering 25 goals and 58 points in 76 games and even made four appearances with the Capitals that season. This past season, he notched career highs in goals (28), assists (35), points (63) and penalty minutes (56) in 73 games with Hershey. According to McPhee, Bourque, a 2004 second-round draft choice (No. 33), will spend more time with the big club this winter.

Oskar Osala -- Osala, who signed a three-year entry level contract with the Capitals in June, played for the Espoo Blues in Finland last year, scoring 18 goals and 17 assists in 53 games, while earning 62 penalty minutes and was named Finland's Rookie of the Year. He finished second on the team in goals, fifth in assists and points and was tied for third in penalty minutes.

The Vaasa, Finland, native was the Capitals' fourth-round choice (No. 97 ) in 2006. From 2005 through 2007, he played with the Mississauga Ice Dogs of the Ontario Hockey League, collecting 87 points (39 goals) in 122 games over two seasons. Osala shared the tournament lead with four other players after notching five goals for Finland at the 2007 IIHF World Junior Championships.

"(Coach) Bruce Boudreau really liked him in training camp last season and was very impressed and wanted to make sure we got him signed, so he got his wish," McPhee said.

DEFENSE

Karl Alzner -- The mobile and confident blueliner will likely get an extended look during training camp in September and, depending on his performance, make the jump right to the big club. In his fifth season with the Calgary Hitmen of the Western Hockey League this past season, Alzner recorded seven goals and 29 assists in 60 games.

He was an assistant captain in the 2007 Canada Russia Super Series and was named captain of gold-medal winning Team Canada in the 2008 World Junior Championships in the Czech Republic.

Josh Godfrey -- Godfrey, whose shot from the point has been clocked at 99.7-mph, is becoming a solid offensive-defenseman in the Capitals' system. While there is concern over coverage in his own end, he tends to atone for that with his offensive acceleration. Drafted in the second round (No. 34 overall) of the 2007 Draft, Godfrey finished eighth among defenseman in the Ontario Hockey League this past season with 51 points (34 assists) in 60 games with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. He also improved to a plus-31 rating, compared to minus-2 in 2006-07.

Sami Lepisto -- He played his entire Finnish professional career with Jokerit in the Finnish League, winning a silver medal in 2005 after collecting a goal and seven assists in 12 playoff games. In the 2004 World Junior Championships in Finland, Lepisto, named a First Team All Star alongside Canadian Dion Phaneuf, had four goals and four assists in helping his country to a bronze medal. He was the fifth highest-scoring defenseman in the Finnish league in 2005-06 with 27 points (21 assists) in 56 games and was signed by the Capitals to an entry-level contract in 2007. He played in seven games for the Caps this past season and also scored a career-high 45 points (41 assists) in 55 games with Hershey of the AHL in 2007-08.

Joe Finley -- The hulking Finley, who'll enter his senior year at the University of North Dakota, was a first-round pick (27th overall) in 2005. In addition to his intimidating frame, Finley, the prototypical defensive-defenseman, offers a great work ethic and is agile. In three seasons with the Fighting Sioux, Finley has compiled five goals, 20 assists and 245 penalty minutes in 126 games. He notched career highs in goals (four), assists (11) and points (15) in 2007-08.

GOALIE

Semen Varlamov -- To some, Varlamov is often compared to one of the better goaltending prospects from Russia since Phoenix netminder Ilya Bryzgalov (chosen by the Anaheim Ducks in the second round of the 2000 Draft). He possesses size, raw skill and reflexes that project him into a strong NHL goalie. He prefers the butterfly, but has been known to change styles depending on the situation while possessing good lateral movement and a quick glove. Varlamov was the second-best goalie at the 2007 World Junior Championships, allowing just nine goals on 136 shots (1.51 GAA). Playing for Yaroslavl Lokomotiv in the Russian Super League this past season, he finished with a 2.45 GAA in 44 appearances. While he has yet to play an NHL game, Varlamov, who'll report to Hershey this year and start developing his game to the North American style, could be the replacement for Olaf Kolzig.

Contact Mike Morreale at mmorreale@nhl.com.




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You could see out there that everybody was willing to compete, to sacrifice, even blocking shots to the end. Even in the third when we were up 5-0, guys were still working hard and blocking shots That's a nice feeling also for the future.

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