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Washington Capitals Prospects: Season in Review, Part 2

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Wrapping up our look at how the season went for the Caps’ prospect pool outside of the AHL.

2018 NHL Draft - Round One Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images

Now that the Hershey crew is covered, it’s time to shift our focus on the team’s prospect pool outside of the AHL to Europe, Juniors, College and beyond.

EUROPE

Alexander Alexeyev, 21yo, LHD
AHL: 12GP - 2G - 7A - 9PTS
KHL: 55GP - 8G - 8A - 16PTS
6’4” 209lbs

With the the AHL on pause to start the season and the KHL not giving a shit about COVID, Alexeyev headed back to Russia to play some hockey. The KHL is the second toughest league in the world after the NHL, so for a kid that just turned 21 years old that is no easy task - but he took it on and did very well, playing on every defensive pair on both sides (although he ultimately spent most of his time on the right side). His 17:52 ice time per game was third among defensemen on his team. Those are some hefty minutes and a sign of the trust Alexeyev’s coach had in him.

Even with playing all over the lineup and being so young, he excelled as a rookie. He isn’t a purely offensive defensemen, but his 16 points were second among the defensemen on his team, the first being a 31-year-old veteran. Among all U22 defensemen in the K, he was second in points with 16, fifth in points-per-game (0.29), and first in games played.

Once his season ended in the KHL he came back over to the Bears and instantly became their number one defensemen where he looked like a man among boys. His 0.75 points per game was 6th among AHL defensemen that played at least 10 games, and tied for first among defensemen under 22. He also tied with Fehervary for first in even-strength primary points and primary points per game.

Alexeyev probably can’t learn too much more from the AHL. He’ll get his shot to make the Capitals but Laviolette loves his veteran defensemen and with Fehervary already being the one young player to make the team Alexeyev probably won’t get the minutes he deserves. He’s 21 though, so it won’t ruin his development if he spends most his season in the AHL next season.

Alexei Protas, 20yo, C
AHL: 16GP - 2G - 5A - 7PTS
KHL: 58GP - 10G - 8A - 18PTS
6’6” 214lbs

Protas took the same route Alexeyev did after the AHL season was delayed. He headed over to the KHL as a 19 year old to play in the second toughest league in the world. He played mainly fourth line time with the occasional top nine minutes. But what was impressive about his play is he played the most games (58) on his team. The coach loved him enough to always play him, it’s just odd he didn’t give him top six minutes. O wait, he did in the playoffs when Protas was moved to top line center where he posted four points in 5 games. Why the coach waited for the playoffs to give Protas top minutes is unknown and frustrating.

Despite that, this is how Protas ranked among U20 forwards in the KHL: 18 points (1st), 0.31 points per game (5th), 58 played games (1st). Like Alexeyev, what Protas did as a 19/20 year old in the KHL with his limited minutes was very impressive. Would have been interesting if he got more minutes like he did in the playoffs. He probably would have had much more impressive stats.

Once his season ended he went to Hershey as well. He got bottom six minutes like he did in the KHL and did pretty well for himself considering his minutes and the fact he already played a grueling KHL schedule. The AHL is where he will play next season and hopefully he gets top six minutes to grow his offensive game even more.

Bobby Nardella, 25yo, LHD
47GP - 4G - 27A - 33PTS
5’9” 174lbs

Maybe the most surprising player for in the Capitals prospect system last season was Nardella. He came out of nowhere posting 31 points in 41 games in the AHL, posting one of the best rookie defensemen stat lines in the league. Since the AHL was postponed this season he signed a contract to play in the SHL, considered to be the third best league in the world, and he did not look out of place.

His 33 points not only led the defensemen on his team, but his WHOLE team. This 25 year old SHL rookie led his team in points by five... that’s wild. He often led his team in ice time every night as well. His point total was fifth among defensemen in the SHL and the guys in front of him were aged 27, 28, 29, and 30 years old. His 0.7 points per game was fourth as well. All the guys in front of him were SHL vets.

The crazy thing is he probably would have had more points if he didn’t get injured. Something off happened after the 33rd game where his production kind of slowed. In the last 14 games he had 1 goal and 6 assists, which is still good but he had 24 points in 33 games before that. It was revealed after the season that he was dealing with a “major” shoulder injury to the point he couldn’t play for the Hershey Bears. Nardella was his team’s best player so they probably rode him as much as they could even when hurt.

But as great as all of that is, Nardella is 25 years old. That’s about the end of the road for a defensive prospect. He needs to get into the NHL now to show if he can handle it or not. If he can, the Caps will have a cheap, highly offensive player on their hand. Issue is both Fehervary and Alexeyev are ahead of Nardella on the depth chart most likely. If Alexeyev is being talked about like he’ll get just a couple games I can’t imagine Nardella will get a sniff. He’s probably closer to being part of a trade package than he is to play for the Caps.

Bogdan Trineyev, 19yo, LW/RW
KHL: 3GP - 0PTS
VHL: 22GP - 1G - 1A - 2PTS
MHL: 33GP - 15G - 15A - 30PTS
6’2” 190lbs

Bogdan had some miles traveled this season. He played 33 games in the MHL (their juniors), 22 games in the VHL (their AHL), and three games in the KHL (their NHL). That’s a lot for the kid. He didn’t blow it away in any of the leagues but wasn’t bad either. He’s still on track to possibly be a good middle six power winger. It’s going to be awhile before seeing him in a Capitals jersey if he develops properly so there’s no need to dissect his D+1 (first year after the draft) season. Once he starts, hopefully, playing consistent KHL time is when we can see how he’s developing.

Oskar Magnusson, 19yo, C/W
J20 Nationell: 12GP - 3G - 6A - 9PTS
SHL: 8GP - 0PTS
HockeyEttan: 24GP - 6G - 7A - 13PTS
5’10” 165lbs

Like Bogdan played in three leagues across Russia, Magnusson played in three different leagues across Sweden. Honestly, I do not know enough about the Swedish leagues that he played in so I can’t compare the numbers to know how he did. Hopefully next season he can stick with on league and get some consistency. You want to see him make the SHL as soon as possible, that’s when you can really see how he’s developing.

Tobias Geisser, 22yo, LHD
National League: 50GP - 5G - 17A - 22PTS
6’4” 201lbs

Geisser had a hell of season in the NL this season. Always seen as a defensive defensemen, he ripped off 22 points in 50 games played. He had all of two points (assists) in 25 games last season. Where did all those points come from!? Though it looks like he played on a pretty strong team, he was fourth in defensive points.

Either way, don’t expect Geisser to put up those type of points in North America, it just isn’t his game, but it’s nice to see him develop some of those skills. This is also assuming that he does come back to North America, the Capitals are very deep on left side. A spot could open for the Bears if one or both of Fehervary and Alexeyev make the Capitals and Johansen moves on.

Kristian Roykas Marthinsen, 21yo, RW/LW
HockeyEttan: 40GP - 14G - 7A - 21PTS
6’0” 192lbs

Unfortunately, Marthinsen opted to leave the WHL to go back to Europe to play in some league I don’t know anything about. He’s a high end shooter but he hurt his development by not staying in North America. The Capitals decided not to sign him to his entry level deal so he is not a free agent.

Sebastian Walfridsson, 22yo, LHD
HockeyEttan: 40GP - 5G - 7A - 12PTS
6’0” 203lbs

Walfridsson is a player that loves to play the body and make people pay sitting in the defensive zone. It’s a snarl that would certainly fit with the Capitals style, but the issue is he is a left handed defensemen and he’s maybe bottom of the list for the Capitals. The Capitals decided not to sign him to his entry level deal so he is not a free agent.

Martin Hugo Has, 20yo, RHD
Czech2: 4GP - 0G - 1A - 1PTS
6’4” 207lbs

Martin had the exact opposite problem as last year. Last season he played for FIVE different teams, that spanned 41 games. This season? He play for one team that played just four games. Just brutal. The good news is he ended last season playing in the OHL, where he should be. Hopefully he gets back there this upcoming season, because that will be much better for his development. He’s a big kid with two way ability. It certainly helps he’s right handed because the Capitals have only one other right hander in the system.

USHL

Bear Hughes, 20yo, C
35GP - 9G - 15A - 24PTS
6’1” 165lbs

With the WHL not starting on time due to the pandemic, Hughes went to the USHL and got consistent second line center time. He didn’t put up massive points but that’s not particularly his game. He’s an extremely hard working, physical player that you can trust in every situation. He certainly has the ability to put up points but he brings value in all the little areas. He needs to put on more weight and once he does that he’ll be even more of a puck hound. See a lot of Jay Beagle in him.

COLLEGE

Benton Maass, 22yo, RHD
22GP - 2G - 2A - 4PTS
6’2” 205lbs

After a fantastic Freshman year (17 points in 34 games), Maass has put up 20 points total his last three seasons (84 games) in the NCAA. He opted to go back to college for his last season. He’ll need to have an absolute monster of a season for the Capitals to probably sign him. If not, hard to see the Capitals using a contract spot on him.

Mitchell Gibson, 21yo, G
6’1” 187lbs

Due to the pandemic Gibson didn’t play a single game this season, which is a shame after a good Freshman year at Harvard. Hopefully he doesn’t lose a step when the season starts up in the Fall.

JUNIORS

Hendrix Lapierre, 19yo, C
21GP - 8G -23A - 31PTS
6’0” 181lbs
9GP 5G 7A

Lapierre had about an inconsistent season as you can have, and no I don’t mean that for production, I mean it for things out of his control. First let’s start with the best news: Lapierre stayed 100% healthy the whole season. Lapierre was considered a top 10 even top 5 talent his draft year but due to multiple head and neck injuries he slipped to the Capitals. The fact he didn’t miss a game this season due to injury is the first step in Capitals potentially getting the steal of the draft.

The inconsistencies he faces were in scheduling and position. Let’s talk about scheduling first. Due to COVID, the QMJHL moved some of its teams into a bubble. The teams spent a couple weeks playing then a couple weeks off and it switched like that through the whole season. Let me break down:

  • 10/2-10/11 - played four games
  • 11/1 - played one game
  • No games in December
  • 1/30-1/31 - played two games
  • 2/17-2/28 - played four games
  • 3/2-3/7 - played four games
  • 3/19-4/2 - played 10 games

That’s just a wild schedule that must make it difficult for any player to get any type of consistency.

But that isn’t the end of it. It wasn’t just scheduling inconsistencies but positionally as well. Lapierre is a center and started it that way, but eventually moved to the first line left wing, then spent a game as the third line center, then third line left wing, then back to top line left wing. All of that when he’s most affective as a center due to his playmaking abilities.

These aren’t excuses to cover up a bad season, he had a very good season. His 1.48 points per game was fifth in the QMJHL among U20 players, it’s just that he probably has a much better season with more consistent scheduling and sticking to center.

Next season will probably say a lot about what Lapierre’s potential will be. If he can stay healthy, stick to center and assuming there won’t be another global pandemic, he should have a monster D+2 season. He has number one center potential, it’s just a matter of proving it.

Garin Bjorklund, 19yo, G
AJHL: 4GP - 2.73GAA - .936sv%
WHL: 18GP - 2.60GAA - .921sv%
6’2” 179lbs

As stated before, anytime the Capitals draft or sign a goalie, you just have to assume they are on to something until proven otherwise. Bjorklund had a strong season in the WHL with his .921sv% was tied for third in the whole league and tied for second among all U19 goalies, the only guy better was Sebastian Cossa, who will be a top goalie taken off the boards this summer in the draft. Reminder that Holtby had a .910sv% in his D+1 WHL season. No, not saying he’s the next Holtby, but just showing you don’t need huge amazing numbers as a goalie in order to be something great. He has a couple more years in junior before going professional.

BONUS

Hunter Shepard, 25yo, G
ECHL: 20GP - 2.58GAA - .922sv%
AHL: 3GP - 1.00GAA - .969sv%
6’1” 209lbs

I’m adding this in because Shepard should be signed by the Capitals. He was signed to a AHL/ECHL deal with the Bears and Stingrays and he’s been all sorts of impressive. He had a strong start to his ECHL before getting hurt. When he got back from injury it took him a bit to get back to his usual self so his stats kind of suffered but he still put up some good numbers overall. Note that the ECHL is still playing, their season ends 6/5.

Where he really showed off was in the AHL, pitching a shutout in his first game. He only played three games for the Bears but he looked top tier. He isn’t a huge goaltender but he makes it up with his smarts and athleticism. Some team is going to sign him so it might as well be the Capitals to keep their goaltender depth strong.