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The Capitals’ Top 25 Under 25: 2020-21, Part I

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A look at the top 25 players in the Capitals organization under the age of 25, starting with numbers 25 through 11.

NHL: Preseason-Chicago Blackhawks at Washington Capitals Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

With training camp (allegedly) just a month away, it’s time once again to look at

In creating this list, we looked at two factors: the prospect’s potential and the prospect’s proximity to making it to the NHL. So a player like Beck Malenstyn may not have as high a ceiling as Oskar Magnusson, but is closer to making the NHL roster and thus is ranked higher.

Players that graduated: Brian Pinho, Zach Fucale.
Players that weren’t qualified: Eric Florchuk, Alex Kannok-Leipert
Retired: Connor Hobbs

Let’s start with 25 through 11.

NOTE: ages listed are the players’ age before October 1st, 2020.

25) C/RW, Riley Sutter, 20yo, AHL (Previously ranked 14th in 2019-2020)

The strong drop in ranking for Sutter isn’t technically his fault. He started the season with a lengthy injury and when he did return he was given fourth line time inconsistently. It’s hard to produce with that prerequisite, proven by the fact he scored just four points in 25 games for the Bears. But not all hope is lost, he’s still a reliable versatile player with size, skill, and decent speed. He probably won’t be anything great but still has a shot at being a bottom six player that uses his size and smarts to be effective.

24) RW, Kody Clark, 20yo, AHL (Previously ranked 18th in 2019-2020)

Both Sutter and Clark started the AHL season the same: hurt. When they both came back they got very limited time so it’s hard to really critique their seasons. But I’ve never been a fan of Clark. There were much better players on the board when he was selected in the second round; so I am a bit biased. But he does have good size and a really good shot. The issue is finding him more ice time on the Bears to prove me wrong. Hershey has always leaned more towards winning than developing. Clark needs top six time to really prove his worth and he’ll have to start hot to get that time this upcoming season.

23) LHD, Lucas Johansen, 22yo, AHL (Previously ranked 5th in 2019-2020)

Heck of a drop in rankings for Johansen. After having a very strong rookie AHL season Johansen has been injured the last two seasons playing only 54 of the 138 available games. So the drop in ranking isn’t technically his fault. The Capitals re-signed him this summer to a one year deal, probably saying “stay healthy and show you’re worth it or you won’t be re-signed”. All hope shouldn’t be given up on Johansen. He had top four ability before the last two seasons, so if he can stay healthy and show he hasn’t missed vital development time there could still be a future for him. It probably won’t be with the Capitals since he’s now fifth in left handed defensive prospect depth chart, but a future nonetheless.

22) G, Mitchell Gibson, 21yo, NCAA (Previously ranked 23rd in 2019-2020)

After having a rough D+1 (draft plus one) year in the USHL, Gibson had a very good Freshman season in the NCAA. He started out very strong and slowed down a bit due to injury but still finished with a good .916sv%, which was fourth among Freshman in the NCAA. Gibson is a really steady, positional goaltender that plays similar to Braden Holtby. Obviously, he has a lot more to prove to reach that level but he’s looking good so far.

21) RHD, Martin Hugo-Has, 19yo, OHL (Previously ranked 21st in 2019-2020)

Martin had a wild season last year. Including tournaments, he played on seven teams, and of course Covid-19 cut his season short as well. He played 62 games and the most he played for one team was just 20 games. It could not have been easy for him at all to adjust to any one team to get consistency. He even jumped from Europe to the Ontario Hockey league, which is never easy with the language and ice size difference. He finished the year with the Guelph Storm and the plan for now is for him to return next season which is great news for his development. He’s still raw but has a great toolkit that could turn him into a good bottom four defensemen.

20) C/LW, Shane Gersich, 24yo, AHL (Previously ranked 12th in 2019-2020)

Gersich didn’t make the big leap that many thought he would this past season in the AHL (18 points in 54 games), but what we know is the Capitals front office really likes him. They seem him as speedy bottom six winger that can really help out on the penalty kill. It’s far away from the top six 20 goal scoring winger that was once anticipated but he was a fifth round pick so if the Capitals can get any type of NHLr out of Gersich it’s a win. It would be nice to see him have a bit more offensive impactful season with his speed and shot. Don’t be surprised if he gets a call up this upcoming season.

19) LW/RW, Bogdan Trineyev, 18yo, MHL

Bogdan is a big boy that, like most players his size, is very raw. There’s a lot of potential with them but if they can’t improve the tools they have they tend to bottom out as low tier players. Bogdan uses his smarts offensively to read plays to know where he can use his size. He loves to be around the net and winning those corner battles to get the puck to his line mates. He doesn’t have any one great offensive ability but they are average to above average, and mixing that with his size makes him a hard to handle. He could be a very good power forward with middle six ability if everything breaks right. So far in the MHL this season has a 10 points in 10 games so he’s off to a good start. He was even called up to the KHL and has played two games. In the VHL (basically the Russian AHL) he’s had a goal and an assist in eight games.

18) C/RW, Oskar Magnusson, 18yo, J20 Nationall

Oskar was a good bet to grab in the last round of the draft by the Capitals. He’s a smaller player, a buck against the trend of Capitals drafting size lately, but he plays extremely hard and loves to go to the net. He’s very smart that plays on both special teams for a reason. He’s not just smart enough to break up opponents man advantages but has the hands, shot, and passing ability to make the powerplay deadly. You can trust him to go out against the other teams top players and not just rely on him to stop them but to score on them. If he can get stronger and continues to grow his game has a legit shot at being a very good top nine player in the NHL. He could be a player that in five years people are wondering how he was taken in the last round of the draft. He has nine points in twelve games to start the season in the J20 Nationall league. He’s also gotten six games in the SHL but they’ve been as the 13th forward which means he gets barely any playing time.

17) Beck Malenstyn, 22yo, AHL (Previoulsy ranked 19th in 2019-2020)

Malenstyn had a good Sophomore season in the AHL. He was just one point shy of last years total in almost 30 less games. He even got a cup of coffee with the Capitals playing three games, almost scoring a beauty of a breakaway against the Rangers. Malenstyn’s ceiling isn’t particularly high but he has great size and speed, making him physically dominant out on the ice. He’s known as the Tom Wilson of the Bears. He should make a very effective fourth line and penalty kill player sooner rather than later. He will probably get a handful more game this season in the NHL.

16) RW, Brett Leason, 21yo, AHL (Previoulsy ranked 7th in 2019-2020)

Leason took quite a hit in rankings form last season because of his poor first year in the AHL (14 points in 50 games) though it wasn’t fully his fault. He got very little top six time with no power play time at all. He played many games on the fourth line or healthy scratched. But we can’t blame it all on circumstance, at some point he needs to take advantage of what’s been given to him. The good news is Leason is a fighter. Every off season he seems to find the area he needs to improve on to succeed and improves it. You could see it in the way he was never drafted due to skating then worked very hard to improve that now he’s pretty good at it. He is still just 21 but if he can take it to the next level he still has top nine ability in the NHL. Guys with his size, speed, and hands don’t come along often.

15) Axel Jonsson Fjallby, 22yo, AHL (Previously ranked 11th in 2019-2020)

The drop in rankings for Fjallby isn’t really because of anything he did but what others did to push up the rankings. Fjallby had a good first full season in the AHL scoring 23 points in 61 games. He’s a speedy winger that is great defensively and on the penalty kill. But don’t think he’s just good in the defensive end. He has underrated vision and a ripper of a shot. With any luck he’ll turn into what fellow countrymen Carl Hagelin is now: a very reliable defensive bottom six player that can use his speed to create offensive chances. It would be good to get Fjallby up to the Capitals soon to learn under Hagelin. So far this season in the HockeyAllsvenskan league he has eight points in 11 games. It’s unknown why he isn’t playing in the SHL, where he’s had success before.

14) LW, Joe Snively, 24yo, AHL (Previously ranked 13th in 2019-2020)

Snively had a slow start to the season last year scoring just two points in the first 15 games, but finished strong with 22 points in the last 30 games. He’s a smaller winger but he has great speed and a hard accurate shot. He is 24 years old, so this is basically the end of the road for him. He needs to have a dynamite year to convince the Capitals, or other teams, that he belongs in the NHL. His skill level could fit well in as a middle six winger in the NHL but it’s up to him to prove it.

13) C, Garrett Pilon, 22yo, AHL (Previously ranked 10th in 2019-2020)

Pilon has quietly been one of the Capitals better products since he was drafted. Every year whether in the WHL or AHL he’s improved on the previous one. In the AHL he’s been playing both center and wing, adapting where he’s needed. He’s a smart player with good skating ability, great on his edges, good vision and a great shot from in close. Hopefully he settles more into a permanent position, preferably center, but if it’s wing hopefully he stays there. He has the ability to have a great year in the AHL. The Capitals staff really like him and he has the ability to be a good middle six option for them very soon. Don’t forget he made the cut to go into the bubble so the Capitals like what he’s done.

12) LW/RW, Damien Riat, 23yo, AHL (Previously ranked 17th in 2019-2020)

Finally, Riat will make his North American debut for the Hershey Bears this upcoming season. Caps have been been waiting awhile for him. Riat is an aggressive forward that loves to shoot the puck. He’s small but plays bigger than his size. He’ll need to have a pretty quick, big impact in the AHL since he is already 23. It’s also not out of the realm of possibility that Riat himself will give himself a short leash. It took him five years to decide to come over and give North America a try. If he feels like he’s not progressing towards the NHL quickly enough he may be willing to just go back to Switzerland. If he sticks with it and has a great first year with Hershey could keep on his upside of a goal scoring middle six forward in the NHL. In the mean time, he’s playing in the NLA, one of the better men’s leagues in Europe and has seven points in six games, which is very promising.

11) LHD, Bobby Nardella, 24yo, SHL

Nardella took the AHL by storm last year scoring 31 points in 41 games, which was fourth among rookie defensemen and was also third in points per game. This season he actually transferred to the SHL, the third best league in the world, and has three points in three games while getting big minutes. The SHL will be a perfect fit for him because of his smooth skating and puck moving ability. He still needs to work on his strength and willing to battle more in his own zone, but his offensive ability is very good. He is 24, though, so if he’s going to make the NHL it should probably be sooner rather than later. A year playing against men in Sweden will be telling for him, but he’ll have to do really well to move himself up the depth chart of left handed defensemen in the Capitals organization. The good news for him he brings the offense, which the other defensive prospects don’t do.