Washington Capitals Prospects Mid-Season Top-20 Rankings – January, 2020

Twice each season we pull together all of our prospect game data, video analysis, advanced statistics and calculate a current ranking for each player in the Washington Capitals prospect pool. Analysis for our latest mid-season ranking includes all games played through January, 2020.

METHODOLOGY

Our mid-season ranking is based on a number of player evaluation metrics, including an aggregation of game evaluations and statistical analysis for each prospect in the first half of the season. In addition, projected future potential (projected upside) is derived for each prospect and factored into game and statistical analysis to determine a final mid-season evaluation score and subsequent ranking.

Each ranking includes a brief blurb on reasoning and player performance. For a more detailed breakdown of each prospect, please see our weekly and monthly prospect reports located on our “Prospects” page.


2019-2020 MID-YEAR RANKINGS

Connor McMichael – It’s no surprise that McMichael tops our latest ranking. Simply put, no other prospect is moving the ‘development-and-upside’ needles more than McMichael. After watching 24 of his games with the London Knights so far this season, a common thread has emerged from the game broadcasts, as opposing team announcers have consistently stated how much he’s improved over last season (before we started day-to-day tracking and analysis). A sizable statement considering he went in the first round (25th overall) of last year’s draft. As for game analysis, his hockey sense in the offensive zone, particular around the goal, and general confidence stands out the most, closely followed by his lightning-quick shot release, ability to read the play, net-front presence and shot accuracy. The biggest question right now is where will he land in October.

Martin Fehervary – Fehervary is still on our prospect rankings only because the Capitals are strapped for cap space and can’t afford him. We projected a year ago that Fehervary was the real deal and would be a Capitals regular very soon, and we have no reason to change our assessment at this point. He has excelled at every level he’s played at. His elite-level skating continues to impress. He’s been very responsible on the back-end and a key component to the penalty kill this season for the Bears. He was number 2 in our last ranking, and remains at that position in our mid-season ranking.

Alex Alexeyev – Alexeyev is still fairly raw, and will need a lot more development time before making a run at a blueline spot with the Capitals. He is still making quite a few errors in his own zone, particularly with assignments and passing, but his projected upside is still very readily apparent in each and every game. He will eventually get there, he just needs time to continue learning the pro game, and most likely another year in Hershey.

Aliaksei Protas – After a scorching-hot start to the season, and an above-average showing in the World Juniors, the 6’,6” centerman has cooled-off quite a bit since returning from Europe. However, after watching/tracking/assessing more than 20 of his games this season, it’s clear his projected upside remains significant, enough to hang-on to the number four spot in our ranking. His passing in the zone has improved significantly this season.

Brian Pinho – Pinho is our biggest mover in our latest ranking. His game continues to develop at decent pace, as he is now a leading scorer at the AHL level. Pinho had a quiet season last year until the final month. Since then he has been on a tear, with excellent showings in Capitals Development Camp, the rookie tournament in Nashville and Capitals training camp. He’s shown next-level skills in several facets of his game this season, is reading plays extremely well, and even contributed two shorthanded goals on the penalty kill. He is likely the Capitals’ next forward call-up at this point in the season. Pinho’s downside is his age. Already 24, he needs to have the year he’s having this season.

Garrett Pilon – After a slow start to the season, Pilon has picked-up where he left-off at the end of last season, and has already surpassed his goal total from his rookie campaign. He has next-level hockey sense and skill at reading plays, is above average at driving a line and an above average shot. He and Pinho are the Capitals’ most NHL-ready forward prospects at this point in the season. Pilon still projects as a bottom six C/W.

Vitek Vanecek – Vanecek has had a good season with the Bears so far, and just won the 2020 AHL All-Star MVP. He had a slow start to the season, so his stats don’t accurately reflect his current level of play. (like Ilya Samsonov from last season). He is definitely in the mix for backup in Washington this fall, and could see another call-up before the season ends.

Beck Malenstyn – Malenstyn will be in the mix for a bottom-six position in Washington this fall. After opening eyes in training camp and having a good showing during his brief call-up to the Capitals earlier in the season, Malenstyn is projecting to be lining up for a future bottom-six position with the Capitals. Capitals bench boss Todd Reirden loves him, which goes a long way. He’s an elite shot-blocker and key component to the Bears’ penalty kill. Additionally, Malenstyn  provides a level of grit needed for any line. His physical play is also next-level, and he is also developing into a leader in Hershey.

Axel Jonsson-Fjallby – After a false start in North America last season, and a hot start to this season in Hershey, Axel has settled into being a key player for the Bears this season. He is using his speed effectively for his checking game and shown significant improvement in his play-reading and passing since October. He’s been consistently on the edge of being worthy of a call-up to Washington. If the Capitals are interested in Axel, it might pay to give him a taste.

Shane Gersich – Gersich has spent a majority of this season in transition, modifying his game from a proposed line driver and scorer, to more of a checking player. He knows he will need to be strong along the boards, make good puck decisions in his own zone, use his speed to force turnovers, and be a strong contributor on special teams. He’s currently doing all of those things.

Brett Leason – Leason’s projected upside is the primary reason he is still in our Top 10. His history of being a late bloomer also helps his ranking. So far this season, however, Leason has not be able to acclimate to the pro (AHL) game. To the Bears’ and Capitals’ credit, he has been tried at every imaginable position, in every possible situation in hopes of sparking his game, but to no avail, as Leason still draws the occasional healthy scratch. He looks uncomfortable over the puck and has had a wild shot (2.0%) more often than not. Let’s hope he catches fire in the back end of this season, like Pinho did last year.

Martin Hugo Has – Has has been moving up through the ranks this season, playing in three different leagues and for four different teams. It’s all positive as the organization continue to find challenging play for the 6′,4″ right-handed defenseman. He is on track to be in Hershey in September. That’s fast-tracking.

Joe Snively – Snively has been possibly the biggest positive surprise to the Capitals’ prospect pool in the last 12 months. The free-agent forward signed with the Capitals last spring and hit the ground running in Hershey. Snively had worked his way to the top-line in Hershey before sustaining an upper-body injury. We can’t wait to see more from Snively, and expect a call-up at some point, if for nothing more than a tip of the hat to the local home town hero. Snively, and fellow Capitals free agent signee Bobby Nardella (both signed by Capitals scout Danny Brooks) have been huge contributors to the Bears this season.

Mitchell Gibson – Gibson, along with Snively, may be the biggest pleasant surprises in the first half of the season. Gibson has shown signs of putting together a complete shutdown frame. His weakest point so far is playing in back-to-back games, as he tends to get torched on the second night.

Damien Riat – After missing two months of the season due to symptoms related to a concussion he sustained on November 2, Riat is starting to show positive signs, as his scoring has picked up dramatically in the last few weeks. He needs to make a major push the second half of the season as he will be without a contract once his season with EHC Biel-Bienne concludes. Reports out of the Riat camp have surfaced stating that he has received offers for next season, but that he is waiting for Washington before he decides. The hour is growing late for Riat as far as a future with the Capitals. He had an impressive training camp and pre-season game with the Capitals.

Riley Sutter – Sutter was impressive before being injured in the rookie tournament in early September. Sutter has shown positive signs in the 17 games he’s played so far this season for the Bears. He could very well threaten the Top 10 in our next prospect ranking, if he can stay healthy and get game experience down the stretch with the Bears.

Erik Florchuk – “Flowzy” has surged offensively since being traded from the Saskatoon Blades to the Vancouver Giants earlier in the month. You can’t help pull for this kid, the very last player selected in the the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. His next goal is to find a regular spot in Hershey next season.

Bobby Nardella – Both Snively and Nardella were free agent acquisitions late last spring, signed by Capitals scout  Danny Brooks, and both have been impressive. The Bears’ power play struggled mightily last fall, which coincided with an injury sustained by Nardella. The Bears’ power play dropped to last in the AHL. When Nardella returned, the Bears scored a power play goal in four straight games. Bears’ Head Coach Spencer Carbery gave a lot of credit to Nardella.

Kody Clark –  Like Riley Sutter, Clark got a late start to the season due to an injury he sustained in the prospect tournament in Nashville in early September. Also like Sutter, Clark has shown some signs of already acclimating to the professional game. It will be interesting to see how the back half of the season unfolds for both Sutter and Clark.

Alex Kannok-Leipert – It’s been a relatively quiet season for the Captain of the Vancouver Giants. He has spent time on the top-line with Avalanche draft pick Bowen Byram, as well as spent time in the second pairing. Alex is in his fourth season in the WHL and will turn 20 this summer, making him eligible to play in the AHL next season. He needs a very strong finish to this season to help his cause. Will he be assigned to Hershey is the only remaining question.


OTHERS

Lucas Johansen – It would simply be inaccurate to blame injuries as the only cause of Johansen’s underwhelming showing at the AHL level. Having evaluated each and every one of his 128 games he has played for the Bears, the issues have been more directly related to his play on the ice. Too many unforced turnovers, poor exit passes and incorrect defensive reads indicate that Johansen has yet to catchup to the speed of the game at the AHL level. A trade would be best for both Johansen and the Capitals. His current deal with the Caps expires after this season.

Connor Hobbs – Hobbs suffered what is likely a season-ending injury in recent weeks. Prior to the injury he played in just 16 games recording one goal and one assist, and was a healthy scratch for a number of games.

Pheonix Copley, Christian Djoos – have spent significant time at the NHL level and were not included in this ranking.

Mike Sgarbossa, Phil Maillet and Liam O’Brien – were not included in the ranking, as they are primarily considered as Hershey Bears players. However, all three players could be considered for a future callup.


ADDITIONAL READING:

Weekly Prospect Reports

Monthly Prospect Reports

Prospect Interviews

About Jon Sorensen

Jon has been a Caps fan since day one, attending his first game at the Capital Centre in 1974. His passion for the Caps has grown over the decades, which has included time as a season ticket holder, social media and community organizer, and most recently led to the founding of NoVa Caps in 2014. Jon earned a Bachelor's of Science in Engineering at Old Dominion University, and is a Systems Engineer during intermissions, which has been instrumental in supporting his Capitals habit.
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