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Dynamic Burakovsky leads Capitals' top 10 prospects

by Adam Kimelman

With new general manager Brian MacLellan and new coach Barry Trotz, training camp will be a clean slate for the Washington Capitals.

That includes a talented group of prospects that will be looking to impress the new staff and potentially earn NHL jobs.

"With all these younger guys, they have to prove to the coaches that they deserve to stay," assistant general manager Ross Mahoney said.

Here's a look at the Capitals' top 10 prospects, according to

1. Andre Burakovsky, LW

How acquired: 1st round (No. 23), 2013 draft

Last season: 57 GP, 41-46-87, Erie, OHL

Andre Burakovsky's dynamic offensive ability has made him the Capitals' top prospect and has them hoping he might crack the top six in 2014-15. (Photo: Getty Images)

Burakovsky (6-foot-1, 178 pounds) made the transition to North America look easy last season and has given the Capitals hope they've found a dynamic young forward to add to their top-six mix as early as this season.

"We're hoping that he has that attitude that he's going to come in and compete for a spot, which he will," Mahoney said. "That'll be up to Andre to see how he does. He's only going to be a 19-year-old this coming year, but he definitely has shown that he's got the skill, the hockey sense and has some really good tools. It'll be up to him to come in and make an impression on the coaches."

Projected NHL arrival: 2014-15

2. Evgeny Kuznetsov, C

How acquired: 1st round (No. 26), 2010 draft

Last season: 17 GP, 3-6-9, Washington

After nearly four years of waiting, the Capitals finally signed Kuznetsov on March 8, and he made his NHL debut two days later. Kuznetsov, 22 (6-0, 172), showed flashes of the skill that made him a first-round draft pick, including three assists against the Vancouver Canucks in his third game. The hope is the experience he gained in his short stint last season, plus a full training camp, will pay dividends when the 2014-15 season starts.

"I think that experience last year playing the games should really be a benefit to him," Mahoney said. "I expect him to get off to a much better start this year than if he hadn't come over and played those games last year. He had that experience of playing against NHL players and playing NHL games. That's out of the way now that he had that experience toward the end of last year. We expect him to come in and play well right off the bat."

Projected NHL arrival: 2014-15

3. Riley Barber, RW

How acquired: 6th round (No. 167), 2012 draft

Last season: 38 GP, 19-25-44, Miami, NCHC

Barber, 20 (6-0, 194), continued his rapid ascent up the Capitals' prospect list with an outstanding sophomore season at Miami. Included in there was a strong showing offensively and as captain of the United States at the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship, scoring four goals in five games as the U.S. finished fifth. He'll return to Miami for his third season, but the Capitals certainly will be ready to welcome him when he decides to turn pro.

"We're really happy with his development," Mahoney said. "He had a really impressive World Juniors two years ago when he played with [Alex] Galchenyuk. I was really happy to see him again last year in the World Junior tournament, and they made him the captain of the team. I thought that spoke very highly of him and his character. He had another good tournament, he had another good season at Miami. I think Riley is progressing in the right direction for us."

Projected NHL arrival: 2015-16

4. Jakub Vrana, LW

How acquired: 1st round (No. 13), 2014 draft

Last season: 24 GP, 2-1-3, Linkoping, SWE

Vrana's skating and goal scoring are what drew the attention of the Capitals, and what could earn him an NHL job as soon as next season. Though the 18-year-old didn't fill the net during his stint in the Swedish Hockey League, he had 14 goals in 24 games with Linkoping's junior team. More impressively, he had a tournament-best eight goals in seven games to help the Czech Republic win a silver medal at the 2014 IIHF World Under-18 Championship.

"We really liked his skating," Mahoney said. "He's got very good speed; he's fast with the puck. And we really like his ability to score goals. He had eight goals in seven games in the [World U-18] tournament. The Czech team had a very good tournament and we thought he was one of the reasons they excelled this year. … Jakub (5-11, 185) is a smart player. He's got a gift, he can put the puck in the net and he skates well. He really enjoys the game."

Projected NHL arrival: 2015-16

5. Madison Bowey, D

How acquired: 2nd round (No. 53), 2013 draft

Last season: 72 GP, 21-39-60, plus-44, Kelowna, WHL

Shea Weber, Duncan Keith, Tyler Myers and Sheldon Souray are just a few of the defensemen to play for Kelowna of the Western Hockey League on their way to prolific NHL careers. None of them, however, scored as many goals for the Rockets as Bowey (6-1, 195) did last season, when he broke the previous mark of 19 scored by Tyson Barrie in 2009-10. He served as captain as an 18-year-old, a role he'll most likely return to this season.

"What was even more impressive for me was they had a very good team, they were ranked very high in Canada, but Madison was the captain and he was an 18-year-old and there were 19- and 20-year-olds on that team," Mahoney said. "Not only was he the captain and still one of the younger players, but he was captain of one of the best teams in the country. That speaks volumes for his character."

Projected NHL arrival: 2015-16

6. Chandler Stephenson, C

How acquired: 3rd round (No. 77), 2012 draft

Last season: 69 GP, 30-59-89, Regina, WHL

The Capitals rewarded Stephenson, 20 (5-11, 190) for his fine season with two games with Hershey in the American Hockey League at the end of the season. As impressive as it was for him to score 30 goals, what stood out was his WHL-leading eight shorthanded goals.

"He's very strong on the puck," Mahoney said. "He's got really good hockey sense. I really like the idea that he led the Western Hockey League in shorthanded goals also. That speaks pretty highly, to have that much success in the penalty kill, be able to score those goals. … Usually coaches will play very smart players on the penalty kill, and to have that success with scoring shorthanded goals shows his ability to score and his hockey sense and the speed."

Projected NHL arrival: 2015-16

7. Christian Djoos, D

How acquired: 7th round (No. 195), 2012 draft

Last season: 47 GP, 1-12-13, Brynas, SWE

About the only thing standing between Djoos and being NHL-ready is his size: he's listed at 158 pounds on a 6-foot frame. He turns 20 on Aug. 6.

"He's a very, very intelligent player," Mahoney said. "Very patient with the puck. Does a really good job on the power play. I thought he did very well on the power play last year in the World Junior tournament for Sweden. The challenge for Christian will be to continue to get stronger physically. But he's a very smart player, handles the puck really well. I really like his patience with the puck. He plays with a lot of poise, a lot of confidence. I like his ability to hang onto the puck to allow teammates to get open, or to hang onto it on the power play and allow the play to take shape and find the open man and make the right decisions. There's no panic in his game."

Projected NHL arrival: 2017-18

8. Garrett Haar, D

How acquired: 7th round (No. 207), 2011 draft

Last season: 61 GP, 7-38-45, plus-32, Portland, WHL

After two seasons at Western Michigan, Haar, 21 on Aug. 16, opted for the WHL, and the change obviously paid off when he helped Portland reach the league championship series while displaying a solid all-around game at 5-11, 194.

"It was a very good experience this past season for Garrett to be able to play on a good team with a good organization, good coaching," Mahoney said. "He played with some other pretty good defensemen. … To go four rounds [in the WHL playoffs] was good for him and his development. All those games are pretty high-intensity games."

Projected NHL arrival: 2015-16

9. Vitek Vanecek, G

How acquired: 2nd round (No. 39), 2014 draft

Last season: 38 GP, 2.64 GAA, .921 save percentage, Liberec, CZE-JR

The Capitals liked Vanecek, 18 (6-1, 180) enough to trade two picks to move up five spots and select him. He had a solid season for his club team but also shined at the World U-18 Championship in April, with a 2.74 goals-against average in seven games to help the Czech Republic win the silver medal.

"You don't advance in that tournament without having good goaltending, and we thought he played exceptional," Mahoney said.

Projected NHL arrival: 2017-18

10. Brian Pinho, C

How acquired: 6th round (No. 174), 2013 draft

Last season: 59 GP, 28-28-56, plus-29, Indiana, USHL

Pinho, 19 (6-0, 173) capped his first season in the United States Hockey League in the best way possible, scoring the game-winning goal in the third period of the final game in the best-of-5 championship series.

"We really saw a much more confident player toward the end of the year than he was at the beginning of the year," Mahoney said. "Going into the USHL last year, the early part of the season was a transition for him. I thought he adjusted really well, and after Christmas we thought he really took off, played a lot better. That was a confidence thing. … He got excellent coaching, played on a really good team, won a championship. Those are all really good learning experiences."

Projected NHL arrival: 2018-19


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