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31 in 31

Top prospects for Washington Capitals

Samsonov, Alexeyev each could crack NHL roster this season

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

NHL.com is providing in-depth prospect analysis for each of its 31 teams throughout August. Today, the top five prospects for the Washington Capitals, according to NHL.com.

 

[Capitals 31 IN 31: Season preview | 3 Questions | Fantasy breakdown | Behind the Numbers]

 

1. Ilya Samsonov, G

How acquired: Selected with No. 22 pick in 2015 NHL Draft

Last season: Hershey (AHL): 37 GP, 20-14-2, 2.70 GAA, .898 SV%

Samsonov experienced some growing pains in the first three months of last season in the American Hockey League, adapting to the North American game after playing three seasons with Metallurg Magnitogorsk in the Kontinental Hockey League. But the 22-year-old raised his game to another level from Jan. 12 on, going 15-3-2 with a 1.78 GAA, a .930 save percentage and three shutouts.

"He has all the tools: athletic, size (6-foot-3, 200 pounds), competes, likes to play the game, likes to learn," Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan said. "I think he's on a good path here. He's gotten better. I think the first half was a big adjustment and a real good reset for him to realize that it's not going be easy, that he's going to have to work for it."

Although Pheonix Copley is Washington's backup, it's likely Samsonov and Vitek Vanecek (No. 39 pick in 2014 NHL Draft) will each make his NHL debut at some point this season so the Capitals can evaluate their goaltending future with No. 1 Braden Holtby in the final season of his contract.

Projected NHL arrival: This season

Video: 31 in 31: Washington Capitals 2019-20 season preview

 

2. Alexander Alexeyev, D

How acquired: Selected with No. 31 pick in 2018 NHL Draft

Last season: Red Deer (WHL): 49 GP, 10-33-43

Alexeyev will turn 20 on Nov. 15, so he is eligible to play in the AHL this season. A two-way defenseman with good size (6-4, 196), offensive skill and skating ability, Alexeyev has Washington excited by his development last season in the Western Hockey League, as well as his potential.

Alexeyev will get a good look in training camp, but the Capitals' depth on defense likely will keep him in Hershey to begin the season.

"We don't have to rush him. We're lucky," Washington director of player development Steve Richmond said. "And who knows? He could play games this year (in the NHL) if he keeps progressing."

Projected NHL arrival: This season

 

3. Martin Fehervary, D

How acquired: Selected with No. 46 pick in 2018 NHL Draft

Last season: HV-71 (SHL): 45 GP, 1-6-7

Unlike Alexeyev, who played the past three seasons in the WHL, Fehervary (6-2, 194) might need some time to adjust to the North American game after playing in the Swedish Hockey League last season. But the Capitals also are high on Fehervary, who turns 20 on Oct. 6, after seeing him look comfortable playing against men while representing Slovakia at the 2019 IIHF World Championship for the second straight year.

"I think he's got a chance to play in the NHL this year," Richmond said. "He's a great skater. He works hard on the ice and off the ice. He's smart. I think he's really close."

Projected NHL arrival: Next season

 

4. Connor McMichael, F

How acquired: Selected with No. 25 pick in 2019 NHL Draft

Last season: London (OHL): 67 GP, 36-36-72

The first forward selected by the Capitals in the first round of the NHL Draft since Jakub Vrana (No. 13) in 2014, McMichael (5-11, 174) is coming off a breakout season in the Ontario Hockey League; he had 56 more points than the 16 he had in 60 games for London and Hamilton as an OHL rookie in 2017-18. A left-hand shot center who is reliable in the defensive zone, the 18-year-old will continue his development this season with London, where he'll be coached by former Washington center and coach Dale Hunter.

"To get to the next level, he's got to improve on everything he's doing, but right now, there's no significant holes where you go, 'If he doesn't work on this, he'll never play,'" Richmond said. "I think he's just a solid player, great attitude, a good kid."

Projected NHL arrival: 2021-22

 

5. Brett Leason, F

How acquired: Selected with No. 56 pick in 2019 NHL Draft

Last season: Prince Albert (WHL): 55 GP, 36-53-89

After being passed over in the 2017 NHL Draft and 2018 NHL Draft, Leason (6-4, 200) was eighth in WHL scoring last season, averaging 1.62 points per game, and second with 25 points (10 goals, 15 assists) in 22 playoff games.

A raw talent, the 20-year-old is expected to spend this season with Hershey.

"I think he needs a year, maybe more, in the AHL, but he's a guy that can show good improvement," MacLellan said.

Projected NHL arrival: Next season

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