Over the years, the Caps have had a history of developing excellent goaltenders. Semyon Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth often come to mind, not to mention the Caps current goaltending tandem in Braden Holtby and Philipp Grubauer. With the expansion draft looming, the Capitals could potentially lose Grubauer to the Las Vegas hockey club due to the fact that Las Vegas general manager George McPhee drafted Grubauer while he was GM of the Caps. Although it would be a major loss, the Caps have a lot of talent between the pipes in various leagues. Ilya Samsonov, Vitek Vanecek, and Adam Carlson have played extraordinarily well for their respected clubs, and seeing as Braden Holtby is only twenty seven years old, the Caps may have to make some difficult decisions down the road in respect to their goaltenders. So let’s begin assessing the Caps goalie prospects so far this season.
Ilya Samsonov: The 2015 first round draft pick has looked nothing short of fantastic so far in his KHL Career. In 32 games in the KHL, Samsonov has a goals against average of 2.14, with a save percentage of .923. His record in those 32 games is 13 wins, 4 losses, and 6 overtime/shootout losses. So far this season, Samsonov hasn’t lost in regulation, posting a 7-0-3 record. Long story short, the kid is a special talent that may eventually replace Holtby as the teams starting goalie in the future. It is too soon to tell, but the Capitals may have the best goalie prospect in the NHL. I haven’t been able to watch him as of yet, but at this years World Junior Championships, I look forward to watching him backstop team Russia in their quest for the gold medal.
Vitek Vanecek: So far this season, Vitek has been a pleasant surprise. In 5 games in the AHL, the 2014 second round draft pick is 2-2-1, with a goals against average of 2.22, and a save percentage of .923. For the Hershey Bears, Vanecek is splitting games with Joe Cannata, performing very well in this role. I like to compare Samsonov to Varlamov, and Vanecek to Neuvirth. Ultimately, I think Samsonov has more promise and is more likely to be the goalie of the future with the Capitals. With that being said, Vitek Vanecek is doing his absolute best to prove himself as a promising goalie prospect. Even though he’s only appeared in 5 games, Vanecek has made a seamless transition to the AHL. He was Hershey’s best player in a couple of the games he played. The future is bright for the Czech goaltender, and hopefully he keeps up the good work.
Adam Carlson: Little was known about Adam when he signed with the Capitals this past spring. He only played one season in college hockey, posting fairly impressive numbers as a freshman. This season in the ECHL, Carlson has only appeared in 4 games, posting a goals against average of 2.36 and a save percentage of .920. He’s currently 1-2-0, but has performed very well overall. Remember how I compared the last two prospects to former Caps goalies? Well, I’d compared Carlson to a Pheonix Copley. Solid prospect that has potential be a reliable backup at the NHL level.
Overall, the Caps have to be very happy with their goaltending depth in the prospect pool. And with Braden Holtby only being twenty-seven, the Caps are set for at least another decade with solid goaltending. Eventually, I think the Capitals are going to have to trade at least one of these prospects due to the fact that Holtby is still going to be in his prime while one of these goalies will be ready to make the roster as a backup to start. This is a great problem to have. Remember how T.J. Oshie was acquired? Pheonix Copley was traded with Brouwer and a third round pick to St. Louis. That just goes to show how important it is to have a deep prospect pool. In terms of goaltending, the Caps are pretty set.
By Keyvaun Pourmokhtari
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