A few days back J.P. linked to a couple things by Corey Masisak. The first included Corey's belief that Carlson has surpassed Alzner. The second was Corey's top 5 prospect tweet. That got me thinking about which Caps prospect I think are most valuable. (Ok, you got me, I already think about that on my own constantly.) I'm going to submit my list, but I'm going to include top ten. The criteria is anyone listed on HockeysFuture's prospect list. (A boon for the Chris Smith Lobby!) I'd include criteria for valuing players, but we all know everyone is going do whatever they want anyway.
1) Karl Alzner
2) John Carlson
The only question here is whether it's Alzner or Carlson that comes first. These two are the class of the farm system. Alzner gets the nod for a couple of reasons. First, he has the potential to be the best defensive player we have on the team, hands down. Schultz is good, but the way Alzner skates and thinks the game puts his ceiling much higher. Carlson may end up being great offensively, but it's not likely that he'll ever seriously threaten Mike Green. Carlson is going to be a stud for a long time, and having a second defenseman that can move the puck up ice and confidently play with it in his own end is going to be great. He also has the potential to be a more traditional PP QB with a huge point shot. Obviously either may not reach their potential, but on a team with this much offensive firepower you can't overstate the importance of a stud who makes his name keeping pucks out of the net, so I'll go with Alzner. The second reason is that he'll stay cheaper for longer. On a team that's going to be paying the Young Guns (or at least three of them) big dollars for many years it's important to keep a constant supply of cost-controlled players. Carlson is going to score more and thus get a bigger raise sooner.
These two come next because of scarcity. 2C is the position that looks most suspect long term, and it's a position that's costly to continue to fill via free agency. Johansson gets the nod because he's younger, and far ahead on the development curve. Playing in the SEL as a teenager is an incredibly impressive feat (remarkably remarkable?). He also has spent time at wing and center, and wore the C internationally. With his youth, quicker development, versatiliy, and intangibles you have to give him the nod. Oh, and he's a little bigger. MP has shown that he can be an effective NHL player. Now he needs to show he can do it for 82+ games a year. This off-season will be a big one for him, hopefully he comes to camp and opens eyes. If he hadn't have shown some promise with his cup of coffee he would have fallen below the goalies. Next year probably won't be the year that one of these guys fills our 2C hole, but I think 2011-12 is realistic, if hopeful.
There's bound to be a lot of disagreement over these boys, and perversely if there weren't so many of them any of them could have been higher. The fact remains that these guys are all still young goalies and far from proven; and the real value the Caps have is in the numbers more than the individuals. Varlamov gets the nod because he's still young so hopefully the injury stuff goes away, but it's a huge concern. He's still the best one right now, and the most athletic so he has the highest upside. If he doesn't get and stay healthy, he's going to start dropping quickly. Holtby gets the next spot because he's proven to be a workhorse for a few years now and he has absolutely lit up the AHL and ECHL to date. He also is a couple years behind the other two, so we can give him a couple more years before having to make a decision with him. He really makes Neuvirth more expendable right now. Neuvirth is still a solid prospect, but he's on a parallel track with a better player and has another hot on his trail.
He's nowhere near the most skilled of our prospect pool, but he's a one of a kind in our system. His toughness and intangibles are well known around these parts. How many dudes celebrate their birthday with a bare knuckle fight? Sure, there are guys with better upside, but if you all recall DMG's stance on Ryan O'Reilly leading up to the draft, that's where I'm coming from. To paraphrase, we don't need the game breaker at this point, we need a guy that will work his ass off, do the little things, and is a safe bet to be an NHL player. That's how I see SDR.
9) Oskar Osala
Between a slow season for OO and big seasons from Laich and Fehr (particularly in front of the net) OO has slipped further than he would have at the start of the season. He's still the best bet to be a big power forward for the Caps, and no team can have too many of those guys, but his skating is still a question and he hasn't dominated the AHL as I'd hoped the former RoY from Finland would.
10) Dmitri Orlov
You can never have too many good D that can skate and play with the puck, and that's Orlov's game. He's also the best player left. If we didn't already have Green and Carlson the hype and excitement for Orlov would be even higher. Let's just hope the KHL doesn't rub off on him too much.
Honorable Mention: Cody Eakin