NoVa Caps presents its fourth annual Top 30 Washington Capitals Prospects: Preseason Rankings. The rankings are based on a wide array of evaluation metrics from the 2017-2018 season and aimed at setting a benchmark or baseline for the coming 2018-2019 season.
We have divided the “Top 30 Prospects” preseason rankings into two separate posts, presenting 16-30 here, and the top 15 in a follow-up post. You can access all of our prospects analysis and monthly prospect reports at anytime on our “Prospects” page.
30. Kody Clark – 18-years old, RW, OHL
It’s hard to get excited about Clark considering he was a very “out of the blue pick” for the Capitals. With so many great players there for the picking in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, the Capitals took Clark with their second-round pick. The pick was valued as the worst in the draft among all teams, about five rounds too early. This could be a great thing or terrible thing. It could be terrible because it could be a waste of a very valuable mid-second round pick, but it could be a great thing because if the Capitals scouts were willing to take him so early, then maybe they see something no one else does. If that’s true, then maybe there’s more to Clark than most suspect.
29. Mitchell Gibson – 19-years old, G, NCAA
After going two full drafts without taking a goalie, the Capitals selected Gibson in the fourth-round of the 2018 draft. He was plucked from the NAHL league. It isn’t exactly a very competitive league, but it does have some good to great NHL goalies that graduated from the league. Craig Anderson, Ben Bishop (.920 save percentage), Scott Darling (.786 save percentage), Connor Hellebucyk (.930 save percentage), Jimmy Howard (3.93 goals-against average), Ryan Miller (2.39 goals-against average), Al Montoya (3.53 goals-against average), Cory Schneider (3.00 goals-against average), and Keith Kinkaid (.935 save percentage). have all come through the NAHL. Statistically speaking, Gibson had a better season then every single one of them. Last season, Gibson led the NAHL in save percentage (.935) and goals-against average (1.59). None of the above players hit that save percentage or goals against (note: some of the older goalies above played in the NAHL before save percentage was recorded so their goals-against average is listed instead). In fact, Gibson’s 2017-2018 season among goalies that played at least 40 games, ranked fifth in save percentage and second in goals-against ever in the history of the NAHL.
But, as everyone knows, goalies are fickle beings. Some of the top goaltenders in NAHL history are names that never played professional hockey after their NAHL careers. Gibson will be attending Harvard University this season, where he’ll get a much tougher challenge. Something to keep an eye on if he will be able to translate his size to the next level. He is “small” compared to a lot of goalies at 6’1″ so he’ll have to really rely on his quickness and smarts to keep improving. A good thing going for the Capitals is they have hit home runs the last two times they selected goaltenders in the fourth-round: Braden Holtby and Philipp Grubauer. Will Gibson follow in their footsteps?
28. Liam O’Brien – 24-years old, C/LW, AHL
The Capitals re-signed forward Liam O’Brien to a one-year, two-way contract worth $650,000 on July 13 of this year. You may recall that O’Brien became a restricted free agent (RFA) back on July 1 and was the only Capital to file for salary arbitration. His hearing was scheduled for July 23 in Toronto.
After being called up by the Capitals in November, O’Brien did fairly well when he returned to Hershey on November 11th. O’Brien finished the AHL season with 17 goals and 9 assists in 69 games played for the Bears, essentially matching his numbers from his previous career-best season of 2016-17, where he posted 10 goals, 20 assists for 30 points. However, O’brien’s time to make the jump to the Capitals is quickly diminishing. At 24, with the players ahead of him, and the scarcity off open forward positions with the Capitals, O’Brien will need to have a scorching 2018-2019 season if he wants to catch the attention of the Capitals.
Liam O’Brien will be a valued asset in Hershey this fall, adding much-needed senior leadership for this fall’s sizable influx of young prospects.
27. Steven Spinner – 22-years old, RW, NCAA
Spinner finished the 2017-2018 season with 10 goals and 10 assists in 35 games played, for a .57 points per game average. He registered 72 shots for a 13.9% shooting percentage and was a minus-11. Spinner will be a senior this fall. Spinner will return to Nebraska-Omaha for his senior season this fall. Both Spinner and the Capitals will need to make decisions next spring regarding the future path of the forward-prospect.
Spinner’s goal production has steadily risen during his time at Nebraska-Omaha, but his point production has remained fairly steady. He will need a good, consistent senior season this year to continue with the Capitals, considering Washington’s growing forward prospect depth.
26. Riley Sutter – 18-years old, RW, WHL
The Washington Capitals selected 18-year-old Riley Sutter with their third-round pick in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. The 6’-2”, 201 pound center/right-winger has spent the last three seasons with the Everett Silvertips in the Western Hockey League (WHL). We present our first “deep dive” on the last of the second generation of Hockey Sutters to be drafted into the NHL. As noted, Sutter, who turns 19 on October 25th, has spent the last three seasons with the Everett Silvertips in the WHL, increasing his offensive production each successive season.
Sutter finished the 2017-2018 season with a career-high 25 goals (sixth on the team) and 28 assists (seventh on the team) in 68 games played for the Silvertips. Sutter finished sixth on the team in shots on goal with 171 and fifth on the team in power play goals with nine. He was fourth on the team in faceoff winning percentage at 52.4%.
25. Max Kammerer – 21-years old, C, DEL
The Capitals figured after they lost one German (Philipp Grubauer), they needed to grab another one, so they signed Kammerer out of the DEL (Germany’s top league). This signing went a bit under the radar but it’s one that could have some potential. Last season in the DEL, Kammerer put up 31 points in 52 games. That led the whole league for U-22 players by 14 points. Even for U-24 players he was second and for U-25 players he was third at just 21-years old. As for his team, Kammerer was the youngest player on his team yet ended up with the second-most points. The teammate that led his team was 14 years older. Since the turn of the century, Kammerer posted the 14th-best point total for U-22 players and was fifth since the turn of the decade. And for his U-21 season, his point total was good enough for ninth since 2000 and second since 2010. So it looks like there could be some potential there.
As it is with Juuso Ikonen, it’s very hard to predict how Kammerer will do in his first seasons over in North America. His point total in the DEL last season would have been worth about 25 points in the NHL, which equates to over 50 points in the AHL. It will probably take time to get used to the new league, but if he can adapt his style of play to the AHL he could have a pretty big impact with the Hershey Bears.
24. Sebastian Walffridsson – 19-years old, D, SHL
Walffridsson, 19, was a fifth-round draft pick (151st overall) by the Capitals in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. He remains unsigned by the Capitals. The 6’-0”, 192-pound left-hander has spent a majority of his career in the Swedish leagues. Walffridsson continues to develop as a two-way physical defenseman in the Swedish Hockey League (SHL). Walffridsson essentially split his season between the Super Elit League and Allsvenskan. Walffridsson ended his Super Elit season with two goals and two assists in 24 games played, while finishing with three assists in 31 games played in the Allvenskan league.
Still a project at this point, it will be at least one more year in Sweden for the 19-year-old Walfridsson, possibly two. Most consider Walfridsson a traditional two-way player, including Walfridsson himself, but it’s his defensive game that has opened eyes. His defensive game is coming along nicely, but the offensive game will need to improve before he makes his way to the States.
23. Benton Maass – 19-years old, D, NCAA
Maass, 19, was a sixth-round draft pick (182nd overall) by the Capitals in the 2017 NHL Entry draft. Maass will be entering his Sophomore season at the University of New Hampahire this fall. The 6’-2”, 198-pound Defenseman was immediately inserted into the Wildcats’ starting lineup straight out of high school, and showed well. As a Freshman, Maass played in all 36 games in the 2017-2018 season. He registered four goals and 13 assists for 17 points, tying third in assists on the Wildcats. Maass ranked third in blocked shots on the Wildcats with 44.
UNH’s head coach Dick Umile’s 28-year career behind the Wildcats’ bench ended last season (Retirement), so Maass and the Wildcats will be under an entirely new coaching staff this fall. It will be interesting to see the changes in his output that may or may not transpire as a result. Entering his Sophomore year at New Hampshire, Maass will be looked to provide more of a leadership role this fall. Look for Maass to spend time on the power play this season as well.
22. Martin Fehervary – 18-years old, D, SHL
The Capitals signed defenseman Martin Fehervary on July 1 to a three-year, entry-level contract with an annual average value of $925,000. The Capitals selected Fehervary in the second-round, 46th-overall, of the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. The team previously acquired the pick from the New Jersey Devils on July 2, 2017, when they sent forward Marcus Johansson to the Devils. The Capitals also acquired the 87th overall pick in the draft as part of the trade.
Fehervary recorded a goal and seven points in 42 games played for IK Oskarshamn in 2017-18. He had a plus/minus rating of plus-1. In the playoffs, he recorded one goal and three points in eight games played. The native of Bratislava, Slovakia represented Slovakia at the World Junior Championships and tallied one goal and two points in five games. He is listed as a 6’2” 194-pound defenseman. Fehervary is expected to report to HV71 for the 2018-19 season.
At the draft, NHL Network said during their coverage that Fehervary is strong defensively but wasn’t as strong offensively. During an interview after he was selected, Fehervary said he models his game after Capitals defenseman Michal Kempny.
21. Juuso Ikonen – 23-years old, RW/LW, AHL
Expected to be taken in the first three rounds of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, Ikonen wasn’t selected at all, to the surprise of many. In fact, the fast, highly-skilled Finnish winger was passed over in both of the following two years. He has been playing in Liiga and the SHL since then and has been doing quite well. Last season, Ikonen received the ninth-most even-strength time among forwards on his team (third-line), yet had the second-most even-strength points. He was also getting the ninth-most power play time. For a player with his skill set, why he wasn’t on the first-line or top power play unit is a head-scratcher.
By using the time averages for his team and Corsica’s league equivalents, it could be estimated that Ikonen would have scored 35-plus NHL points last season (sixth among the Capitals’ forwards) if he received top-line and top power play time. Columbus Blue Jackets forward Artemi Panarin at the same age, while playing in the KHL, averaged 40 NHL points.
And though he didn’t get the time he deserved over in Sweden, he should get top-six and top power play time, as the Bears desperately need his skill. Ikonen has been playing with men over in Europe but it’s a different game over here with the smaller rinks. He will have to use his small frame wisely (5’10” 178 lbs), but if he can get his high-end skill translated over to North America like Panarin did, then Ikonen’s name will shoot up these rankings by next summer after posting big points in Hershey.
20. Kristian Roykas Marthinsen – 18-years old, LW, SHL
It’s rare that seventh-round picks ever sniff the NHL, but the Capitals hit a home run with Christian Djoos back in 2012. It’s very doubtful they would hit another one, but there certainly is promise with their 2017 seventh-round pick in Marthinsen. The best way to describe Marthinsen’s game is that of a pure goal-scorer. Every league he has played in while in Norway and Sweden has seen him pile up the goals. Last season in the J20 Elit league, Marthinsen potted the second-most goals in the league with 23 goals in 23 games played. The player in front of him only had two more goals but played six more games. In the last 10 seasons combined in the J20 Elit league, Marthinsen ranks tenth in goals scored, fifth if one removes any player who has played more than 50 games (he played 45).
But the J20 Elit league, the second-tier Swedish junior league, isn’t exactly high-end and it’s hard to judge talent there. Luckily, Roykas was taken in the CHL Import Draft and will play in the WHL this upcoming season. He’ll join another recent Capitals seventh-round pick, Eric Florchuk, on the Saskatoon Blades. Marthinsen hasn’t turned 19 yet and still must get used to the North American game, so his first season might be quiet. If he can score goals like he did in Europe, then the Capitals may have found themselves another home run late in the draft.
19. Damien Riat, 21-years old, C/RW, Swiss
After being drafted in 2016, the feisty Swiss winger, Damien Riat, had two promising seasons in the National League (NLA) in Switzerland. Just last season he had 12 goals and 12 assists in 48 games played for his team, Geneve-Servette HC. It may not sound too impressive, but when one considers he was the third-youngest player on his team yet had the sixth most points, it looks quite good. Even more impressive, his 24 points were the best in the league for players 21 and younger by an astounding 14 points. He had seven more goals and five more assists than the next player.
It was looking promising for the 21-year-old to come over this season to play in North America, but on February 10 of this year, Riat signed a new two-year deal with another team in the NLA: EHC Biel-Bienne. It’s probably a safe assumption that the Washington Capitals wanted Riat (21), to come over to play with the Hershey Bears this fall, while Riat probably wanted to go straight to the NHL. This was reinforced by the fact that he didn’t attend the Capitals’ annual development camp this summer, nor did he participate in September’s prospect showcase.
As of right now, the situation with Riat is in the grey area. It’s hard to tell what is exactly going on. A month after Riat signed his new contract in Switzerland, the Capitals tweeted out an update for their prospects and Riat was the face of it. But as one knows, he didn’t attend the prospect camp. It will be interesting to see how this situation between a promising prospect and the team will turn out.
18. Chase Priskie, 22-years old, D, NCAA
Priskie, 22, had a solid Junior season for the Quinnipiac Bobcats, as his goal production continued to rise. He finished the 2017-2018 season with 11 goals and 14 assists in 37 regular season games. Priskie took a total of 109 shots for a 10.9 shooting percentage, which was fifth-best on the Bobcats overall, and the second-best shooting percentage for a Quinnipiac defenseman. Priskie also shined on Quinnipiac’s power play last season. Of Priskie’s 11 goals during 2017-2018, eight came on the power play, which not only led the Bobcats, but was ranked first in the nation among NCAA Division I defensemen during the regular season and placed him 11th among all skaters.
Priskie has elected to return for his senior season at Quinnipiac and will be eligible to become a free agent next summer. It’s difficult to ascertain if he will follow the likes of Thomas DiPauli and exercise his option, ultimately signing elsewhere (Pittsburgh), or if he follows the route of the likes of Shane Gersich and Brian Pinho, and sign with the Capitals at the end of his senior year. The Capitals are starting to develop a decent depth of prospects on the back-end, but there is little question Priskie could bring additional value, and potentially fight for a spot on the Capitals’ blueline in the next 2-3 years. His hockey smarts, leadership qualities and power play capabilities already give him a good fighting chance. Regardless, a big year is ahead for Priskie. The Chase is on.
17. Vitek Vanecek – 22-years old, G, AHL
Lost in all the goalie hype with the Capitals (Braden Holtby’s Cup performance, Philipp Grubauer’s trade, and the arrival of elite goalie prospect Ilya Samsonov) is the fact the Capitals have a really good goalie prospect in Vitek Vanecek. After having a promising career in the Czech Extraliga, he came over and acclimated himself quickly to the North American game, posting the second-best stats in the ECHL for all goalies under 21. The following season he posted the fourth-best numbers in the AHL for goalies under 22, though it would have been second-best if the Bears didn’t have such a rough, injury-inducing January. His numbers definitely took a hit last season, but so did the totals of stud AHL goalie Pheonix Copley, as they both had to backstop a bad Bears team with one of the youngest defensive cores in all the AHL. Now with a more mature and older defensive unit in front of him, look for Vanecek to have a huge bounce-back season.
Vanecek is a very athletic goalie who can make some highlight reel saves. He has NHL potential and will strive to not be easily forgotten in the mix of the Capitals’ great goalie future. Many will look to Samsonov this season in Hershey but don’t count out Vanecek, who could be first to be called up if injury strikes the Capitals’ netminders. In the meantime, a Vanecek-Samsonov pairing should be one of the best in the AHL this upcoming season. Bears fans should be excited.
16. Tobias Geisser – 19-years old, D, Swiss
It’s always difficult to judge European prospects that aren’t point-getters, but there’s something the Capitals really like about Geisser because they signed him to a three-year, entry-level contract in March. They love his size (6’4″ 201 lbs.) mixed with speed. There aren’t many big players that can move like him so if he can make his way to North America and prove himself NHL-worthy, he could really make an impact.
The Capitals also think there’s more to his offensive game that they would like to see more of when he goes back to play one more year in the NLA. He was once a forward, even scoring 35 goals in 30 games in his U15 game, but he was later converted to defense. He scored six points in 38 games last season but was playing against men as an 18-year-old, so finding an offensive game was tough. After his year ends in Switzerland, expect Geisser to make the jump over to North America to join the Bears.
Three of our prospect writers each developed their own top-25 prospects ranking. We then assigned points for each ranking positions for each writer, and totaled the points. (Lower score is better). For example, if a player was ranked 3rd, 6th and 4th by the writers, their total score would be 3+6+4=13. We then ranked the players from low to high scores.
PART 2 – 1-15
Part 2 of the rankings (1-15) will be be published later this weekend.
By Jon Sorensen, Diane Doyle, Luke Adomanis and Eric Lord