Hockey prospects, like the rest of the world, have had a difficult time finding work over the last 15 months. Several prospects have been sitting idle the entire time, several have wallowed away weeks in quarantine just to play in a few structured games, while other prospects have made the most of the situation and actually benefited from the abnormal environment.
As a result, we’ve seen a wide range of prospect development over the last 15 months. In this post we present our semi-annual rankings of the Washington Capitals top 25 prospects for the 2020-21 season.
Our semi-annual rankings are based on a number of player evaluation metrics. First, an aggregation of game evaluations is applied to each prospect to derive an annual development rating (ADR). Second, a projected total potential ceiling (TPC) is derived for each prospect and factored into game and statistical analysis. Finally, an NHL-readiness index (NRI) is developed for each prospect.
Each prospect ranking includes a brief blurb on annual 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.
- ADR – Annual Development Rating – a rating index for the quality of development for a player over the calendar year. It takes into account the quality of play and amount of play over the course of the calendar year.
- TPC – Total Potential Ceiling – This calculated rating accounts for the future potential, or ultimate ceiling for each prospect.
- NRI – NHL Readiness Index – This value provides an overall score for the current readiness of each player to begin play in the NHL. (1 = not ready, 10 – ready now).
TOP 25 Washington Capitals Prospects – June, 2021
Connor McMichael – McMichael had an incredible development year. At one point last fall he was facing a mandatory return to the OHL, due to regulations defined between the NHL, AHL and CHL, and the NHL’s collective bargaining agreement. This would have been a step sideways for McMichael, as he had already achieved what he could at the CHL level last season. However, because of the COVID pandemic and the subsequent shutdown of the OHL, McMichael was allowed to play in the AHL, and he excelled. McMichael led the Bears in goals and points, was named AHL Player Of The Week, named to the AHL All-Rookie Team and selected to the AHL’s North Division All-Star team all in the last two weeks of the AHL season. Spencer Carbery said in his end-of-season media availability that McMichael is ready for the NHL step.
Martin Fehervary – Fehervary was primed for a chance at making the the Capitals’ roster last season. But with the acquisition of Zdeno Chara, Fehervary was relegated to the AHL again this season. As a result his ADR rating is relatively lower, but he still had a successful campaign. He is ready for a shot with the Capitals again this fall. Capitals GM Brian MacLellan said in his end of season media availability that the Capitals are depending on him to make the roster. Look for him to replace Chara, should the veteran officially move on from the Capitals.
Alex Alexeyev – Alexeyev had a tremendous development year. Last summer it looked as though he would be getting set to return for his second season in the AHL, which would have been a good plan. But because of COVID and the shutdown of the AHL, Alexeyev was allowed to play a full season in the KHL and he benefited greatly from the change in plans. After a slow start, Alexeyev worked his way up to the top pairing for Salavat Yuleay Ufa, and would even spend a portion of the season playing on the right side. He ended the season as arguably the best blueliner for Salavat. The year in the KHL also toughened Alexeyev up. He played the entire season without significant injury, which had been an issue in the past. There is really little negative to say about Alexeyev’s developmental year. He is close to fighting for a roster spot in Washington.
Aliaksei Protas – Protas’ development over the past year closely mirrors that of Alexeyev as far as overall value and experience. Protas also added time with the Belarus National team at the World Championship immediately following the conclusion of the AHL season. He played an entire season in the KHL with the Dynamo Minsk, centering the third and fourth lines, but made his way to the top line after demonstrating a confidence boost towards the end of the season and in the postseason. He was named best rookie of the first round of the playoffs. He then joined the Hershey Bears for his first taste of pro hockey in North America. You would be challenged to pack more hockey into a 12-month span.
Zach Fucale – Chalk another one up for Capitals scout Danny Brooks. Fucale, an offseason free-agent signing that came out of nowhere during the offseason, quietly climbed through the ranks in the Capitals farm system (South Carolina, Hershey) before ultimately being called up to the Capitals’ taxi squad at the end of the season. Fucale was excellent in goal all along the way. He led the AHL in Goals-Against Average (1.80), was second in the AHL in Save Percentage (.832) behind former SC Stingray Logan Thompson, and finished the season in Hershey going 16-6-1. He may have a chance at playing time next season with the Capitals, depending on how the Seattle expansion draft unfolds.
Brian Pinho – Pinho’s season was marred by injury and extended inactive time on the Capitals taxi squad, so his overall annual development rating (ADR) is relatively low. When healthy and playing, Pinho continued to improve his game, which included two games with the Capitals this season. Pinho excelled in his brief time with the Bears this season, recording eight goals and four assists in just 10 games. Pinho has achieved what is needed in the AHL, it’s just a question of whether he will eventually find a spot on the Capitals roster.
Bobby Nardella – Nardella, also signed by Capitals scout Danny Brooks, saw the COVID shutdown coming and signed for a full season with Djurgarden in the Swedish Hockey League. He thrived on the team, leading all skaters in points, driving Djurgarden’s power play and providing leadership by the end of the season. The only downside for his development year was a knee injury he sustained towards the end of the season. The MRI’s have come back negative, but it was decided that Nardella not join the Bears for additional games at the end of the season. Nardella’s size will always be a concern at the NHL level, but his shot and scoring capabilities could offset that. He will get a look by the Capitals at some point in the coming season.
Garrett Pilon – It was reported that Pilon was motivated this season by not being invited to the Toronto bubble for the 2020 playoffs last fall. He met with coaches and was proactive about improving his game and it paid off. Pilon was a dominant force in the few games he did play for Hershey this season, before he was called up to the Capitals’ taxi squad, and ultimately making his NHL debut during the 2021 season. The only downside is that he sat for a majority of the season on the Capitals taxi squad.
Brett Leason – Leason had a decent start to his abbreviated 36-game AHL season, but by the end he was beginning to finally show real signs of why he was a second-round draft pick. His awareness and play-making abilities grew tremendously in the short season, and as a result, his scoring also saw a sizable increase. He also spent time with the Capitals as a “Black Ace” this season. His puck battles and passing also improved significantly this season. He ended his season fourth on the Bears in goals and fourth in total points, amassing nine goals and 11 assists. Next season will be big for Leason as he begins to focus on making the jump to the NHL.
Hendrix Lapierre – Lapiere had a difficult 2020-21 campaign, which included more than 60 days of quarantine time. He did manage to participate in Team Canada’s training camp prior to the World Juniors in December and participated in the Capitals’ training camp in January (each requiring a week of quarantine before participating). He scored eight goals and 23 assists in 21 regular season games in the QMJHL. He was fourth on his team in goals and first on his team is assists. He ranked 89th in the QMJHL in goals this season and 21st in the league in assists. Lapierre began to heat up in the postseason, adding five goals and seven assists in nine postseason games. He needs games, plain and simple. He’s played just 49 games in the last two years.
Axel Jonsson-Fjallby – Axel had his best season in the AHL this season. Bears Head Coach Spencer Carbery encouraged him to shoot more this season, and that had an affect on his overall game and resultant scoring. His shot is next-level, but he just needs to continue firing more pucks. There are rumors in the Swedish media that Axel may return home (Sweden) and play in the SHL next season, but nothing substantive has been reported by the team or by Axel. One more season in Hershey could be the best for Jonsson-Fjallby. He finished third in goals (10) and ninth on the Bears in total points (15).
Kody Clark – Clark’s promising sophomore season came to a halt on April 3 when he suffered an upper-body injury, one that caused him to miss the remainder of the season. The son of former NHL winger Wendall Clark ended the season with seven goals and two assists in 19 games played. Even though he missed nearly half the season, he finished sixth on the Bears in goals and 13th in total points. When he was healthy, Clark was showing possibly the greatest improvement between rookie and sophomore campaigns among all of the Bears’ second-year players.
Tobias Geisser – Geisser returned to play in Europe two seasons ago because there was little playing time for a young, inexperienced rookie on the Bears blueline that season. Bears Head Coach Spencer Carbery was impressed with Geisser in the time he was in Hershey, saying he learned quickly and was a fairly sharp player. The strategy seems to have paid of fairly well for the Capitals and Geisser, as Geisser solidified his game during his time with EV Zug in the Swiss League this season. Geisser’s level of play also earned him a starting spot on the Swiss National team for this year’s Worlds. The 6′-4″ Geisser will likely be in Hershey this fall and contend for a starting spot on the Bears’ blueline.
Beck Malenstyn – Malenstyn’s Achillies injury prior to the start of this season was a major setback to his development trajectory. Malenstyn, who made his NHL debut and played in three games in the 2019-20 season, was set to make a serious run for a bottom six roll on the Capitals’ roster before his injury and surgery. He missed the entire 2020-21 season, but is on track to return this fall. It will be interesting to see where Malenstyn’s game is at after a year away from the game.
Damien Riat – Riat finally made the jump across the pond this season. He showed early dominance after playing a full season in Europe prior to reporting to the Bears, but struggled as the season progressed, something that is to be expected for a rookie in the AHL. His game did show a few signs of coming alive in the last few weeks of the season. His next-level shot and skating ability was on display from the start. His sophomore campaign will tell the tale of his future in North America and with the Washington Capitals.
Shane Gersich – Gersich was one of Hershey’s best penalty killers and was consistently deployed in shorthanded situations. Gersich finished the season with 14 points (6g, 8a in 33 games), ninth and 10th on the Bears, respectively. He continues to transition from a scorer’s roll to a line driver and defensive (bottom six) roll, and has improved his puck battles over the last two seasons.
Joe Snively – Snively had six goals and 11 assists in 30 games this season for the Bears, a step down from his offensive production last season. Snively did suffer an injury that had an impact on his overall effectiveness in the 36-game abbreviated schedule. The Herndon, Virginia native will look to get off to a good start this fall, and still has an outside shot at making a hometown appearance at Capital One Arena. The story is too good not to happen.
Martin Hugo Has – Has experienced very little structured play this season. He found a few games last winter for a smaller team in Europe prior to joining the Czech Republic”s junior team for training camp and the World Junior Championship. Other than a couple of week-long camps, Martin has been idle.
Pheonix Copley – It’s beginning to become hard to call Copley a prospect at this point. He will always figure into the goaltender mix as long as he’s with Washington, but it will always be in a depth role. He has now been passed up by Zach Fucale on the Capitals’ overall depth chart.
Mitchell Gibson – Gibson was idle for the entire year, as Harvard’s hockey season was cancelled in its entirety. He has not played a game since the beginning of March 2020. Hopefully the Capitals can get him in for development camp before Harvard restarts this fall.
Riley Sutter – Sutter got off to a good start in May with two helpers in a 4-3 overtime win over Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on May 1. One of those assists came on Kale Kessy’s tying goal in the third period. He went scoreless in his next two games. In the second of those two games, Sutter was injured and he did not play in another game. The son of former NHL center Ron Sutter did not score a goal in his sophomore season, but did finish with nine assists. His play in his own end was a lot better than his rookie season. Sutter improved to a plus-7 this season after being a minus player as a rookie. He also saw a lot of time on the penalty kill.
Bogdan Trineyev – For the regular season in the MHL, Trineyev played in 33 games, scoring 15 goals and recording 15 assists for 30 points. He also played in 22 games at the VHL level for Dynamo, scoring one goal and recording one assist. He even got into three games for Moscow Dynamo at the KHL level. Look for Trineyev to play mostly in the VHL next season, with a few more games at the KHL level.
Bear Hughes – Hughes found action in the USHL this season for the Fargo Force. For the season, Hughes had nine goals and 15 assists in 35 games played for a 0.69 points per game average. He recorded 67 shots for a 13.4% shooting efficiency.
Garin Bjorklund – Bjorklund played in two games in the month of May, winning one and losing one, but had a strong showing in both games. He stopped 62 of 66 shots faced for a .939 Save Percentage in the two games. For the season, the 18-year-old went 10-7-1 with a 2.60 Goals-Against Average and a .921 Save Percentage for Medicine Hat in the WHL.
Oskar Magnusson – Magnusson played in six games for Tyringe SoSS of the HockeyEttan League in the relegation round. He scored one goal in the game against Tranås AIF on April 2. Magnusson scored three goals in six games during the relegation round that took place in late March and April. The other two goals were in March. Magnusson played 24 games with Tyringe SoSS during the 2020-21 regular season, scoring six goals and recording seven assists. He also played with the Malmo Redhawks’ Under-20 Junior team for 12 games, scoring three goals with six assists. He played seven games with the Malmo Redhawks of the Swedish Elite League this season with no goals or assists.
OLDER PLAYERS IN THE SYSTEM
Daniel Carr – (29) Carr spent a majority of the season on the Capitals’ taxi squad. Carr is an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season.
Phil Maillet – (28) Maillet had a good showing for the Capitals this season, and was a key compnent for the Bears when he was in Hershey. He is an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season.
Mike Sgarbossa – (28) – Sgarbossa also had a decent season with the Capitals, but spent most of his time on the team’s taxi squad. He is also an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season.
Cameron Schilling – (32) Schilling had an excellent season for the Bears. He was fifth overall on the team in points, and the highest scoring defenseman for Hershey. He is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season.
Paul Ladue – (28) LaDue had a decent year in Hershey. He is also an unrestricted free agent after the season.
NOTE: The Capitals maintain the rights to Sebastian Walfridsson and Kristian Roykas-Marthinsen until June 1, 2021.
The following is a summary table for the top 25 Washington Capitals prospects for the 202-21 season.
By Jon Sorensen