Washington Capitals Top-20 Prospects: 2019 Pre-Season Rankings

The top 20 Capitals prospect list has been updated to reflect the departure of players due to free agency (Riley Barber, Nathan Walker, Aaron Ness, Jayson, etc.), additional film review and analysis and performance at the 2019 Capitals Development Camp. The NoVa Caps prospects team is please to present the 2019 Pre-Season rankings.

We have included links to each of the players season reviews and forecasts at the end of each player’s blurb. For additional information on Capitals prospects, please visit our “Prospects” page found in the top menu, or here.

1. Ilya Samsonov – G – (22) – The next in line for the starting goaltender position in Washington remains at the top of our top prospects list. Samsonov has been working out in Metallurg most of the offseason, and will look to pickup where he left off last season with the Bears. Keeping calm and positioning in the crease will continue to be his focus this fall. He will most likely get games with the Capitals this coming season. It’s just a question of how many. With Holtby in the final year of his current contract, the time is now for Samsonov. (2018-2019 player review and forecast).

2. Martin Fehervary – LD – (19) – Martin climbs the list a few spots for his recent showing at Capitals development camp, building on a full year of solid development and impressive play. Capitals Director Of Player Development Steve Richmond stated at the end of June that Fehervary is likely the prospect closest to playing NHL games. We project he will get games this fall, and land a top-7 spot sometime this season. Not bad for a kid who turns 20 in October. (2018-2019 player review and forecast).

3. Garrett Pilon – C – (21) – Pilon had an excellent year of development in Hershey last season. After a slow start in the fall, you could see the game slowly coming to him as the 2019 portion of the season unfolded. He has an excellent hockey IQ, good vision on the ice, and knows how to finish chances. With the departures of Barber and Walker, Pilon is now the Capitals number one forward prospect, and could see games with the Capitals this coming season. (2018-2019 player review and forecast)

4. Alex Alexeyev – LD – (19) – Alexeyev will make the jump from the WHL to the AHL this fall, and rightfully so. His game has been ready for the next level for some time. The Capitals number one pick in 2018 will likely earn a starting spot on the Bears blueline at the start of this season.  Alexeyev suffered quite a few injuries during his three-year stint in the WHL, (missing 37% of all WHL games due to injury) and will now be facing men, so health is a primary objective. He is still a kid, and some physical development will build his resilience. A good, healthy year of development could have him battling for a spot with the Capitals in 2020. (2018-2019 player review and forecast)

5. Vitek Vanecek – G – (23) – Vanecek was essentially tied for the 4th spot after conducting our evaluation metrics, but was ultimately given the 5th spot due to age differential and diminishing upside, when compared with Alexeyev. However, make no mistake, the less heralded netminder continues to develop and improve each season, and was the best overall goaltender in Hershey last season. On certain nights, his level of play is certainly NHL-caliber. Look for Vitek to possibly get a game or two this season with the Capitals. (2018-2019 player review and forecast)

6. Tyler Lewington – RD – (24) – Lewington registered three goals and 15 assists in 59 regular season games, which was slightly better than his 2017-18 production. He was called up to the Washington Capitals in December and, while there, played in 2 games and scored 1 goal and had 1 assist in a game where he ultimately recorded a Gordie Howe hat trick. Lewington will start the season in Hershey and will likely be the Capitals number-one callup in case of an emergency for the early part of the season. With lagging development from other blueline prospects, Lewington has somewhat quietly become an important piece to the Capitals, as well as the Bears. (2018-2019 player review and forecast)

7. Beck Malenstyn – LW- (21) – Malenstyn had a fairly impressive rookie campaign for Hershey last season. At times, starting early in the season, he would deliver a huge hit that snapped the Bears out of a dolldrum (We would later name him “Beck The Check” and “Wreck It Beck”). Malenstyn was also the Bears best player on the pnalty kill, and was a shot blocking machine. He also began to assume a leadership role, respecting the seniors, but setting a foundation for being a leader. With the departure of Barber, Walker and Ness, he will now be expected to provide leadership, in only his second year. (2018-2019 player review and forecast).

8. Connor Hobbs – RD – (22) – Hobbs showed decent improvement with his defensive game last season. On the offensive side, Hobbs registered three goals and 15 assists in 59 regular season games, essentially equaling his offensive production as last season. Once again, the season included a significant injury, sidelining him from December 15 to January 11, but his return coincided with the Bears impressive winning and points streak in med-January and February. Hobbs is another Capitals prospect who desperately needs just one relatively healthy season under his belt. The need for right-handed defensemen is real for the Capitals organization. It’s up to Hobbs. (2018-2019 player review and forecast)

9. Shane Gersich – LW – (22) – Gersich was extended one year by the Capitals back in May, so he is already in another contract year. Like most Bears rookies, Shane’s season started very quietly in 2018, as he began to adapt to the AHL game. Unfortunately, he never really did catch fire. In the end, the scoring really never showed up, as his finishes and shots seemed to fall short or to the side. Eight goals and 16 assists in 66 games isn’t bad by any means, but it would be nice to see much more the speedy forward. The fifth round draft pick needs to improve shot/shooting percentage and puck protection and puck control this season in Hershey. Gersich’s huge potential upside, although gradually diminishing, keeps him in our top 10. (2018-2019 player review and forecast)

10. Brian Pinho – C – (24) – The Capitals re-signed Pinho to a one year extension back on May 20th, but at 24, Pinho is already reaching a critical stage in his development. He started last season slowly, as to be expected for an AHL rookie, but appeared to have found his offensive game at the very end of the season. His scoring increased and there was a noticeable increase in his involvement with the play for each shift. Pinho’s series-winning goal against Bridgeport in the playoffs was easily the goal of the season. The start to next season will be interesting to see if he picks up where he left off. (2018-2019 player review and forecast)

11. Riley Sutter – RW – (19) – Sutter had an impressive development camp in June, scoring one of the four goals in the scrimmage on the final day, as his passing and puck movement stood out during the game. Sutter played in 38 regular season games for the Everett Silvertips last season in the WHL.  He had 14 goals and had 27 assists for 41 points overall, was +12, and also had 38 penalty minutes, before his season was ended due to injury. Sutter is projected to earn a starting right wing spot for the Bears this fall. (2018-2019 player review and forecast)

12. Tobias Geisser – LD – (20) – The 6’-4” Swiss native was named the Bears most improved player for the 2018-2019 season. In the early part of last season, Bears Head Coach Spencer Carbery commented that he was impressed how fast Geisser was learning the AHL  game. Considered a two-way defenseman, Geisser will need to improve his scoring and puck battling this coming season. He has the frame, he just needs to add a few pounds learn how to utilize it for North American hockey. (2018-2019 player review and forecast)

13. Liam O’Brien – LW – (24) – With the departure of roommate and good friend Riley Barber, O’Brien will be looked to provide and even larger leadership role this season. One could even argue O’Brien would be an ideal candidate for team Captain. O’Brien is always a candidate for an emergency call-up to Washington, if additional physical presence is required, but his window for making the Capitals on a long-term basis is closing, with his real value residing in central Pennsylvania. (2018-2019 player review and forecast)

14. Axel Jonsson-Fjallby – LW – (21) – After a false start in North America last season, in which he played just 16 games for the Bears before exercising his option to return to Sweden to play for his former team Djurgarden in the SHL, AJF will be looking to make a full-time go of it in Hershey this fall. Axel returned to Djurgarden last fall, saying he wanted to win a title. He came one win short, as Djurgarden lost in game seven of the final. Axel’s season was diametric puzzle last year, flopping in the regular season, scoring just one goal and nine assists in 26 games for Djurgarden, but opening up a can of Swedish whoop-ass in the playoffs, scoring seven goals and five assists in 19 postseason contests.  We don’t know which Axel will show up in Hershey this fall, but we can’t wait to find out. (2018-2019 player review and profile)

15. Eric Florchuk – F (19) – Eric Florchuk has been a bit of a surprise for the Capitals. The very last player taken in the 2018 NHL entry draft (round seven, number 217), Florchuk had a good showing for the Saskatoon Blades last season, and turned in a fairly decent development camp at the end of June. He also scored the game’s first goal in the annual development camp scrimmage held on June 29th. Florchuk’s plans for the fall have not been finalized, as he still has eligibility to return to the WHL, but has also show enough development, he could very easily be assigned to the squad in Hershey. Training camp will be key for him. (2018-2019 player review and forecast)

16. Lucas Johansen – LD – (21) – The hour is already getting late for Johansen, as far as his career as a Capitals defenseman. Two injury-riddled seasons coupled with lack-luster development has Lucas falling down the charts. With additional blueline talent reporting to Hershey this fall, playing time will now be a concern, unless the Capitals mandate he continues playing. Johansen has struggled to adapt to the AHL game when he does play, as overall, the game seems to be moving too fast for him. (2018-2019 player review and forecast)

17. Connor McMichael – C – (18) – We’ve only been able to review video available online, and watched him for a week at Development Camp in June, but we like what we’ve seen to this point. McMichael will likely return to the London Knights of the OHL this fall, where he will try to improve upon an impressive season, where he registered 36 goals and 36 assists in 67 games. Our new OHL prospect reporter has a lot of good things to say about Conner. More on him soon.

18. Alex Kannok-Leipert – RD – (18) – Kannok-Leipert (quietly) had a good development camp in June. He was very low profile as far as development camp media fodder and media buzz, but stood-out in the prospect game. Alex has a good bit of junk yard dog in him, and is not afraid to throw it around. He also made several nice stops on the back check during the development camp scrimmage. Kannok-Leipert is eligible to return to junior hockey for the 2019-20 season, so will likely return to the Vancouver Giants next year.  He should remain on the top defensive pairing.  There was speculation in the local papers that he could even be appointed team captain. (2018-2019 player review and forecast)

19. Brett Leason – RW – (20) – Leason is another prospect we don’t have a lot of first hand observations for, other than online video and a week of development camp in person observations. Leason looked pretty good at camp, relaxed and involved in each shift he took. He might be the best pick in the Capitals draft class, but tune in three years from now for our verdict. Leason will be a welcomed addition to the depleted Forward Corp this fall in Hershey.

20. Damien Riat  – W/C – (22) – Riat returned to the fold in June, making his first appearance at development camp since 2017, and looked good. We are putting all of the business that occurred over the past two seasons, with Riat choosing a two-year contract in the Swiss league over taking his game to North America, be he needs to be in Bears camp in the fall of 2020, or it’s over. (2018-2019 player review and forecast)


Kody Clark – RW – (19) – Clark did fairly well last season for the 67’s, rising up the line charts, making it to the top line, but an injury cut things short for him. It will be interesting to see how fast he adapts to the AHL game this fall.

Joe Snively – LW – (23) – Snively transitioned from college to the AHL and didn’t miss a beat. Only the small sample size keeps him out of our top 20.

Bobby Nardella – LD – (23) – The “Nard Dog”, like Snively, was a late/post collegiate season signing, but managed to jump into actionwith the Bears and didn’t miss a beat.

Mitchell Gibson – G – (20) – Gibson looked really good in development camp, particularly the scrimmage. It’s difficult to ascertain exactly where he fits in the Capitals master plan for netminders, if at all. But if one of the blue chippers is included in a trade, Gibson all of a sudden will gain some spotlight.

Mike Sgarbossa – C – (26) – Sgarbossa was an essential re-signing by the Capitals for Hershey, but we would love to see him get a game or two in D.C.

Blueline Battle Brewing in Bears Town
Forward Focus: A Look At The Hershey Bears Forward Corp for the 2019-2020 Season
Hershey Bears Report Cards: Player Grades for the 2018-2019 Season
Notes From the 2019 Washington Capitals Development Camp Scrimmage

By NoVa Caps Prospect Analysts Team

About Jon Sorensen

Jon has been a Caps fan since day one, attending his first game at the Capital Centre in 1974. His interest in the Caps has grown over the decades and included time as a season ticket holder. He has been a journalist covering the team for 10+ years, primarily focusing on analysis, analytics and prospect development.
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