NHL.com is providing in-depth prospect analysis for each of its 31 teams throughout August. Today, the Washington Capitals.
In the pursuit of the Stanley Cup during the past few seasons, the Washington Capitals traded young talent and draft picks for players who could provide immediate help. The most recent example came on Feb. 27, when they traded 22-year-old forward Zach Sanford and a first-round pick in the 2017 NHL Draft to the St. Louis Blues for defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk.
Though trades have depleted the pool of prospects, Washington does have some young players who could contribute this season.
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Here are the Capitals' top five prospects, according to NHL.com:
1. Ilya Samsonov, G
How acquired: Selected with No. 22 pick in 2015 NHL Draft
Last season: Magnitogorsk (KHL): 27 GP, 15-3-5, 2.13 GAA, .936 save percentage, 2 SO
Samsonov will remain with Magnitogorsk this season, but the Capitals hope to sign him when his Kontinental Hockey League season ends so he can come to North America in the spring and begin getting acclimated. The plan is for the 20-year-old to be in training camp with the Capitals next season.
Samsonov (6-foot-3, 200 pounds) played well last season in the KHL and helped Russia win the bronze medal at the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship by going 3-3 with a 2.11 goals-against average, .930 save percentage and two shutouts in six games.
Projected NHL arrival: 2019-20
2. Jakub Vrana, LW
How acquired: Selected with No. 13 pick in 2014 NHL Draft
Last season: Washington (NHL): 21 GP, 3-3-6; Hershey (AHL): 49 GP, 19-17-36
The departures of Marcus Johansson (traded to New Jersey Devils) and Justin Williams (signed with Carolina Hurricanes) have created a top-six forward opening for Vrana, but he'll have to earn the spot. The 21-year-old went through highs and lows last season, going from playing in 21 games with the Capitals to being a healthy scratch for Hershey in the American Hockey League playoffs.
Although Vrana (6-0, 195) showed flashes of NHL-level offensive skill and speed during his initial call-up in December, he seemed to lose focus after he was sent down and was criticized by Hershey coach Troy Mann for a lack of consistency in his compete level and defensive play.
Projected NHL arrival: This season
3. Lucas Johansen, D
How acquired: Selected with No. 28 pick in 2016 NHL Draft
Last season: Kelowna (WHL): 68 GP, 6-35-41
The younger brother of Nashville Predators center Ryan Johansen focused more on defense last season, and his offensive production dropped from 2015-16 when he had 49 points (10 goals, 39 assists) in 69 games. He will turn 20 on Nov. 16, which makes him eligible to play in the AHL this season instead of having to return to Kelowna if he doesn't make the Capitals.
With Washington looking internally to fill the holes at defenseman created by the departures of Karl Alzner (signed with the Montreal Canadiens), Shattenkirk (signed with the New York Rangers) and Nate Schmidt (selected by the Vegas Golden Knights in the NHL Expansion Draft), Johansen (6-2, 176) will get a good look in training camp and it wouldn't be a surprise if he's called up after getting some pro experience.
Projected NHL arrival: This season
4. Madison Bowey, D
How acquired: Selected with No. 53 pick in 2013 NHL Draft
Last season: Hershey (AHL): 34 GP, 3-11-14
Bowey was on the verge of getting a chance with the Capitals last season before a lacerated ankle tendon sidelined him for more than two months. The 22-year old was healthy by late in the season and had four points (two goals, two assists) in 10 games during the AHL playoffs.
Bowey (6-1, 195) moves the puck well and as a right-hand shot could be a fit on the third pair with veteran defenseman Brooks Orpik.
Projected NHL arrival: This season.
Video: CAR@WSH: Bowey ties the game late with a blast
5. Shane Gersich, LW
How acquired: Selected with No. 134 pick in 2014 NHL Draft
Last season: University of North Dakota (NCAA): 40 GP, 21-16-37
After leading North Dakota with 21 goals and 37 points as a sophomore last season, the speedy Gersich, 21, might have had an opportunity to play for the Capitals this season if he turned pro; however, he decided to stay in college. General manager Brian MacLellan said Gersich (5-11, 175) was the best player on the ice at development camp in June.
Projected NHL arrival: Next season