5 Washington Capitals Youngsters To Keep An Eye On
The Importance of Youth To The Washington Capitals
Since the 2005-06 lockout, the NHL has become a league that is dominated by youth and teams building through the draft. A multitude of teams, including the Pittsburgh Penguins, Chicago Blackhawks, New York Islanders, and Los Angeles Kings have caught on to this trend first with their willingness to invest in cheap and talented young players rather than overspend in the free agent market and get stuck with huge contracts.
While there have been a multitude of teams that have invested in cheap talent with a great deal of success, there may be no team that has done it better than the Washington Capitals. Since the end of the lockout, the Capitals have made the playoffs six out of eight seasons on the back of Alexander Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Marcus Johansson, John Carlson, Karl Alzner, Braden Holtby and Mike Green who were all drafted by the organization and debuted after the lockout.
In order for the Capitals to maintain this playoff run and grow into the role of Stanley Cup winner in the future, they must continue to build from within, which will mean drafting and developing good players. Being able to draft and develop game-changers could be viewed as somewhat difficult for a team that has had to draft very deep into the first round on most occasions, but this has not been the case with the Capitals. This is because GM George McPhee and his staff have made a habit of picking high-end European talents that many teams are scared of, but that are in fact some of the best players in the draft. This habit has helped the Capitals' minor league system continue to spit out productive players to the big league club, which will continue for years to come.
With that success at drafting high end talent in mind, we have had the joy of compiling the list of the five youngsters that Capitals fans should look out for in upcoming seasons to make big impacts. Enjoy!
5. Garrett Mitchell
Garrett Mitchell is a right winger who has been playing in the Capitals minor league system for the Hershey Bears the last two seasons. During this time, he has posted 45 points in 140 games while showing an ability to play on the penalty kill with a great deal of success and a willingness to do the dirty work in the corners that NHL coaches look for. He will never be a top-six forward in the NHL, but is more than capable of becoming a third-line grinder in upcoming seasons.
4. Stanislav Galiev
Stanislav Galiev is a Russian born left-winger who was drafted in the third round of the 2010 draft by the Capitals. He is a great skater and stick-handler, and at 6-foot-2 and 180 pounds, he has the size needed to keep defenders off the puck. During the 2012-13 season -- his first pro season -- he split time between the Reading Royals of the ECHL and Hershey Bears of the AHL, becoming a point per game player in Reading but struggling mightily in Hershey. Despite his struggles at the AHL's higher level of play, he is still only 21-years old. He has time to adapt to the physical play of professional hockey and eventually become the top-six forward the Capitals expected him to be when he was drafted.
3. Tom Wilson
Tom Wilson was the Capitals' first-round draft pick in the 2012 draft and developed quickly enough to get called up during the 2013 playoffs. At 6-foot-4 and 200 pounds, he is very big and uses his body to get into good scoring areas, where he has good enough hands to score goals with consistency. He is also willing to use this body in the corners and has shown a willingness to drop the gloves in juniors. Coming into training camp, he will be fighting for a spot on the Capitals' roster but looks likely to return to the Plymouth Whalers of the OHL for the upcoming season.
2. Andre Burakovsky
Andre Burakovsky was the Capitals' first-round draft pick in the 2013 draft. A left winger who plied his trade in Sweden last season for Malmo, he is an incredibly talented player who has an incredibly accurate shot and loves to score goals. The main area that he needs to develop before reaching the NHL is in the defensive end, and he will be focused in doing this with the Erie Otters of the OHL this season.
1. Evgeny Kuznetsov
Evgeny Kuznetsov was the Capitals' first-round draft pick in the 2010 NHL draft, and has been playing in the KHL since then for Traktor Chelyabinsk. Kuznetsov is one of the most talented players that is not currently playing in the NHL, and he has earned comparisons to Evgeni Malkin for his ability. During the 2013-14 season, he will return to Traktor Chelyabinsk, but he will likely come over to Washington once his season in Russia ends.