Top 20 Washington Capitals Prospects – 2020 Preseason Rankings

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. Each January we release our mid-season ranking and each offseason we release our pre-season ranking. Analysis for our latest 2020 preseason ranking includes all games played for the 2019-2020 season.

METHODOLOGY

Our annual ranking is based on a number of player evaluation metrics, including an aggregation of game evaluations and statistical analysis for each prospect for 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 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 and annual player report cards located on our “Prospects” page.

The pause in play due to the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent re-start that included summer training camps, which allowed some prospects to participate, have required a modification to our annual post. In addition, several prospects have found playing time in Europe this fall, but unfortunately, a number of prospects may be sitting idle for several months until the CHL and AHL begin play.

For more information on Washington Capitals prospects, please visit our dedicated prospects page.


2019-2020 RANKINGS

Connor McMichael – It’s no surprise that McMichael continues to top 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 this season and all of his games at World Juniors, a common thread emerged from the game broadcasts, as opposing team announcers consistently mentioned how much McMichael had 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, particularly 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. He also plays defense. The biggest question right now is where will he land for next season.  Europe is currently the best option, as he is still too young to play in the AHL (Hershey Bears).

Martin Fehervary – Fehervary is still on our prospect rankings only because he hasn’t officially been permanently named to the Capitals roster, which should occur in November. 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, and done well in his NHL games. 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 also called up to Capitals summer training camp and played in a postseason game. 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 learning the game at the AHL level and was a healthy scratch on occasion this season. Alexeyev 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 at least another year in Hershey. Alexeyev spent a month with the big club for the Capitals summer training camp and trip to the Toronto bubble, which was very helpful in his development. It’s unclear what his next step will be, as the AHL has announced a delay in their season to the beginning of December. A KHL spot for two months would be ideal.


Aliaksei Protas –
After a scorching-hot start to the season, and an above-average showing in the World Juniors, the 6’-6” centerman 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. Protas did not participate in the Capitals summer training camp, which is unfortunate, however he did secure a playing spot for KHL Dinamo Minsk, which is already up and running, and should be a good filler until the WHL season begins. He will be in Hershey for the 2021-22 season.

Brian Pinho – Pinho is our biggest mover in this years rankings, starting with our mid-year 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 and 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. Pinho won top forward prospect honors in Capitals summer training camp by being the first forward prospect to be used in a postseasn game in Toronto. Pinho’s downside is his age. Already 24, he needs to another year like the year he had this season.

Vitek Vanecek – Vanecek had a very good season with the Bears, and  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). Vancek also spent time at the Capitals summer training camp, and was the number two netminder in the postseason due to an injury to Ilya Samsonov. He is definitely in the mix for backup time in Washington this fall.

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. Former Capitals bench boss Todd Reirden loved 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.

Daniel Sprong – Sprong’s offensive skills make him an intriguing add to a depleted forward  prospect pool. The 23-year-old has shown he can score in bunches at the AHL level, but has hindered his NHL time with his underwhelming play on the defensive end. He also has had a reputation from his previous two stops (Pittsburgh, Anaheim) as being difficult to coach. Hopefully Washington and Hershey will help correct his shortcomings.

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. Riat finally signed a deal with the Capitals and is ready to report to Hershey. He has been working out extremely hard over the summer, but did not attend the Capitals summer training camp. He has subsequently been loaned to EHC-Biehl until the AHL season begins.

Garrett Pilon – After a slow start to the season, Pilon picked-up where he left-off at the end of last season, and 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 he has an above average shot. He, Sprong and Pinho are the Capitals’ most NHL-ready forward prospects at this point. Pilon still projects as a bottom six C/W. On the downside, Pilon (with Gersich) were the only two forwards who did not make the trip to Toronto, after participating in the Capitals summer training camp.

Brett Leason – Leason’s projected upside is the primary reason he is still in our Top 15. His history of being a late bloomer also helps his ranking. However, Leason has not been able to acclimate to the pro (AHL) game, and yet to show his top-level play he demonstrated on a line with Aliaksei Protas his final season at Prince Albert. 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 drew the occasional healthy scratch. He looks uncomfortable over the puck and has had a wild shot (2.0%) more often than not. Hopefully things will turn around in his second year at Hershey. Leason did not participate in the Capitals summer training camp.

Martin Hugo Has – Has (pronounced ‘Hash’) has been moving up through the ranks this season, playing in three different leagues and for six different teams. It’s all positive as the organization continues to find challenging play for the 6′-4″ right-handed defenseman. He is on track to return to OHL Guelph when the season resumes in December.

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 scorer, to more of a line-driver and checking player. He knows he will need to be stronger 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. In the end, Gersich showed improvement during the AHL season. Unfortunately he did not make the trip to Toronto after participating in the Capitals summer training camp. His deal is also up, so it will be interesting to see where things go from here.

Joe Snively – Snively was one of the biggest positive surprises 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 was also a pleasant surprise this season. Gibson has shown signs of putting together a complete shutdown game. His weakest point so far is playing in back-to-back games, as he tends to get torched on the second night. Gibson has potential to make the Capitals, but has confirmed his comittment to finishing his four years at Hardvard (smart kid).

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. At just 5′-9″, Nardella is an interesting watch next season in the AHL.

Tyler Lewington – Lewington remains of value to the Capitals organization, as he is an experienced, physical player and capable of being an emergency call-up. At age 25, the upside for Lewington is waning, and his contract is up. But don’t be surprised if the Capitals re-sign Lewington, as he provides value to both Hershey and the Capitals.

Riley Sutter – Sutter was impressive before being injured in the rookie tournament in early September. Sutter has shown positive signs in the games he played for the Bears, but just needs more ice time. He could very well threaten the Top 10 in our next prospect ranking, if he can stay healthy and get game experience during the 2020-21 season.

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 next season unfolds for both Sutter and Clark.


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 catch up 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 a season-ending injury. 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. Hobbs current deal expires after this season.

Pheonix Copley – 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 call-up.


ADDITIONAL READING:

Weekly Prospect Reports
Week 26 Report (03/09 – 03/15)
Week 25 Report (03/02 – 03/08)
Week 24 Report (02/24 – 03/01)
Week 23 Report (02/17 – 02/23)
Week 22 Report (02/10 – 02/16)
Week 21 Report (02/03 – 02/09)
Week 20 Report (01/27 – 02/02)
Week 19 Report (01/20 – 01/26)
Week 18 Report (01/13 – 01/19)
Week 17 Report (01/06 – 01/12)
Week 16 Report (12/30 – 01/5)
Week 15 Report (12/23 – 12/29)
Week 14 Report (12/16 – 12/22)
Week 13 Report (12/09 – 12/15)
Week 12 Report (12/02 – 12/08)
.Week 11 Report (11/25 – 12/1)
Week 10 Report (11/18 – 11/24)
Week 9 Report (11/11 – 11/17)
Week 8 Report (11/4 – 11/10)
Week 7 Report (10/28 – 11/3)
Week 6 Report (10/21 – 10/27)
Week 5 Report (10/14 – 10/20)
Week 4 Report (10/7 – 10/13)
Week 3 Report (9/30 – 10/6)
Week 2 Report (9/23 – 9/29)
Week 1 Report (9/16 – 9/22)

Monthly Prospect Reports
March – No Report (Play suspended)
February
January
December
November
October

Prospect Interviews
Martin Fehervary
Alexander Alexeyev
Beck Malenstyn
Riley Sutter
Joe Snively
Connor McMichael
Aliaksei Protas
Mitchell Gibson
Riley Sutter

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.
This entry was posted in News, Propsects and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Top 20 Washington Capitals Prospects – 2020 Preseason Rankings

  1. Anonymous says:

    Still dont understand the 2nd pick on Clark

  2. Jon Sorensen says:

    Players that have currently found temporary work outside of North America: Damien Riat (EHC-Biehl), Aliaksei Protas (Dinamo Minsk) and Tobias Geisser (EV-Zug). All expected to report to North America when season starts.

Leave a Reply to Jon Sorensen Cancel reply