NHL.com is providing in-depth prospect analysis for each of its 30 teams throughout August. Today, the Washington Capitals.
Hershey, the American Hockey League affiliate of the Washington Capitals, went to the Calder Cup Final with the youngest team in recent history but lost to Lake Erie. But the Capitals coaching staff was impressed with the progress of many prospects in their first professional season, including forward Jakub Vrana and defenseman Madison Bowey.
With the Capitals having veteran players in the NHL, there isn't a rush to move up younger players, but there is room for them to prove they belong there.
Capitals 30 in 30: Season outlook | Burning questions, reasons for optimism | Fantasy outlook
"Now we're at a point where we don't have really any rookies," Washington coach Barry Trotz said. "They've gone through at least one year, and so we want to give some opportunity to our kids. They've made great progress and I think they've earned that right to challenge for a spot."
Here are the Capitals' top five prospects, according to NHL.com:
1. Jakub Vrana, LW
How acquired: Selected with No. 13 pick in 2014 NHL Draft
Last season: Hershey (AHL): 36 GP, 16-18-34
Vrana, 20, missed more than half of Hershey's regular season with a fractured wrist but returned for the Calder Cup Playoffs and had eight goals and six assists in 21 games. Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan said he'd like to see Vrana (5-foot-11, 185 pounds) bulk up a little bit and get some more experience in the AHL before taking on a full-time NHL role, but Vrana will get a long look during training camp.
Video: 30 in 30: Washington Capitals 2016-17 season preview
"I would project [him] as a top-six guy going forward," MacLellan said in May. "I don't know that next year's necessarily the time for him, but you know, we'll take a look. I'd like to see him get games before we make that evaluation. Speed, shot, goal-scoring is there. The rest of the game, he's going to have to get better at."
Projected NHL arrival: Next season
2. Madison Bowey, D
How acquired: Selected with No. 53 pick in 2013 NHL Draft
Last season: Hershey (AHL): 70 GP, 4-25-29
Bowey, 21, impressed during his first professional season, but with seven defensemen signed to Washington's roster, it's unlikely he will play in the NHL this season. If the Capitals need a depth call-up, Bowey (6-1, 195) probably would be at the top of the list, but the plan is for him to get at least another season of AHL experience.
"Ideally, you'd like to see him playing another year in Hershey, maybe get some games next year," MacLellan said.
Projected NHL arrival: Next season
3. Jonas Siegenthaler, D
How acquired: Selected with No. 57 pick in 2015 NHL Draft
Last season: ZSC Lions (Swiss): 40 GP, 3-5-8
Siegenthaler, 19, a 6-foot-3, 220-pound mobile defenseman, will go from the Swiss League to the AHL. He was loaned to Hershey last season and had a point in six regular-season games but made the decision to return home before the Calder Cup Playoffs.
"Unfortunately, his season was long," Hershey coach Troy Mann said in July. "He was banged up from the playoffs, and the organization made the decision to start his offseason. He's got a very bright future and there's no doubt, with the way the lineup is, he'll probably start in Hershey next year."
Projected NHL arrival: 2018-19
4. Ilya Samsonov, G
How acquired: Selected with No. 22 pick in 2015 NHL Draft
Last season: Metallurg Magnitogorsk (KHL): 19 GP, 6-4-3, 2.04 GAA, .925 SV%
At 6-foot-3, 200 pounds, Samsonov, 19, is an imposing figure in net. He has two years left on his contract with Metallurg in the Kontinental Hockey League, but the Capitals hope he will be able make the transition to playing in North America as soon as next season. In his first KHL season he was a backup, but he could challenge to be the starter this season.
Projected NHL arrival: 2019-20
5. Riley Barber, RW
How acquired: Selected with No. 167 pick in 2012 NHL Draft
Last season: Hershey (AHL): 74 GP, 26-29-55
In his first season with Hershey, Barber, 22, was second in scoring with 55 points. That followed a successful NCAA career at Miami (Ohio), where he averaged more than a point a game with 123 (54 goals, 69 assists) in 116 games over three seasons.
Barber (6-0, 194) is among several players on the Bears roster expected to challenge for an NHL roster spot at training camp, but it's more likely he will end up as a depth call-up during the season.
Projected NHL arrival: This season