We’ve gone over the first 15 of our top 25 kids in the Caps’ organization - now we crack into the top 10, starting with 10-6.
10) Ryan Chesley, RHD, 18yo, 6’0” 201lbs (previous unranked)
USHL: 26GP, 5G, 10A, 15PTS
USDP: 59GP, 12G, 17A, 29PTS
The Skinny: To be honest, I wasn’t too thrilled about the Chesley pick - but after the draft I watched and read up on him more and now I’m a much bigger fan. He’s a reliable kid with high-end skating ability, mix that with his size in terms of weight and he can lay people out. The best part of his game is his hockey brain - he just knows what to do and how to do it. His one downfall is his lack of offensive production, although you’d never know it from watching him. He has good vision, passing ability, great shot, and he can even dangle (like he did in the prospect game) but for some reason that didn’t show up on the scoresheet this past season, hence why he fell out of the first round. It could be a luck thing, or the fact he was on a stacked team and his teammates got better minutes. If Chesley can hit that offensive ceiling like he looks like he can, though, watch out.
Potential and Comparable: Chesley is a pretty safe bet to make the NHL and starts from a fairly high floor. As of now he looks like he can be a reliable second pair guy but there’s certainly room for him to go even higher if he gets his offensive game to pan out. He reminds me a lot of a thicker John Marino, or maybe a Rasmus Andersson type player - a very strong skater, smart, and physical. If Chesley ends up like either of them than that would be a great grab in the second round.
What’s Next: Chesley is off to college to play for a strong University of Minnesota team. It will have third overall pick Logan Cooley and 23rd overall Jimmy Snuggerud from this past draft leading the offense, along with four other draft-picked forwards. The defense is stacked with three second-round picks (including Chesley) and a first-round pick in Ryan Johnson. The good news is that, outside of Brock Faber, Chesley is the only other right-hander, so hopefully that means he’s getting at least second-pair time. Other good news is on the back end, not one player is older than 21 so unlike Brent Johnson’s issue with being the youngster, Chesley should get a good long look for more minutes without seniority getting in the way.
9) Vincent Iorio, RHD, 19yo, 6’3” 201lbs (Previously Ranked 13th)
WHL: 60GP, 11G, 33A, 44PTS
The Skinny: Iorio had a very good season in the WHL, and became his team’s most reliable blueliner who was able to play in all situations. It’s promising to see he has increased his point-per-game rate every year since he started in the WHL (0.1, 0.36, 0.55, 0.73). He’s big, moves well, is solid defensively, has one the best outlet passes you’ll see, and has the ability to chip in offensively (although he won’t be confused as an elite offensive player). The only real knock against him is that he’s on the older side, so he should be doing well in the WHL, especially for his size. It still shouldn’t take away too much of what he’s done.
Potential and Comparable: Iorio reminds me a lot of Brent Seabrook; a big guy that uses his physicality and defensive smarts to shut down the other teams top opponents, but can put points up when needed. Maybe a more modern example would be Brett Pesce, and if he turned into either of those he’d be a steal. A safe bet would be a reliable second pair defensemen, but he has the smarts and physical ability to be a bit more. He has a lot more to prove if he wants to turn into either of those players, though.
What’s Next: Like Martin Hugo Has, Iorio could return to Juniors, but that wouldn’t be good for his development. With his size, he’ll just push kids around and it won’t let him grow his game. The hope is he, along with Has, will be on the Hershey Bears roster next season. As of now, there is just one right-hander signed with the Bears, and that’s Benton Maass, leaving two other righty slots available for Has and Iorio. Of those three, Iorio is by far the best suited to play top pair minutes. Let’s hope that’s how it unfolds. Iorio is very mature and teachable; he would thrive in that top defensive spot, even if it came with some tough lessons.
8) Axel Jonsson-Fjallby, LW, 24yo, 6’0” 185lbs (Previously Ranked 11th)
NHL: 23GP, 2G, 2A, 4PTS
AHL : 44GP, 16G, 18A, 34PTS
The Skinny: Fjallby finally got his chance in the NHL last season and proved why he should stay. He didn’t light up the scoreboard, but he was never going to be a top point producer in the NHL - and he makes up for that lack of offense with his speed, tenacity, defensive effort, and forechecking skills. That’s why the Caps brought him up last year, and he proved to be a legitimate fourth-line player (albeit one who is still learning the game at the NHL level). His defensive impacts were strong under head coach Peter Laviolette and earned him a spot in the lineup in 23 games.
Potential and Comparable: The ceiling isn’t high for Fjallby, but it doesn’t mean he can’t a be a good NHL player. He’s more than just a fourth-liner; he’s a strong bottom-six player who can thrive in a fourth-line role, much like Nic Dowd and Garnet Hathaway. A perfect comparable is fellow Cap Carl Hagelin; perhaps not prime Hagelin, but the player Hagelin was the last couple years: a speedy, grindy, physical player that will win the puck races and battle hard. The difference is Fjallby has the shot that Hagelin does not, so expect more goals than what Carl scores now. Fjallby looks like he’ll have a bright future as a key fourth-line player that scores a handful of short handed goals a year.
What’s Next: Fjallby is probably a safe bet to make the Capitals this season. He might not be a starter but he’ll make the team to be the extra forward in case of injury. For most youngsters, I hate seeing them sit but it won’t hinder Fjallby’s development - he is what he is. Learning from the pros, even if he’s sitting, is best for him. The following season a full-time fourth-line role should open up and that’s where he can cement himself as a starter.
7) Brett Leason, RW, 23yo, 6’5” 225lbs (Previously Ranked 9th)
NHL: 36GP, 3G, 3A, 6PTS
AHL: 31GP, 6G, 7A, 13PTS
The Skinny: Leason joined a crew of rookies last season who made the jump to the NHL, and like the others, did very well defensively in the system. Leason probably wasn’t exactly NHL-ready yet, but did quite well in his limited role. He’s a big kid who has vastly improved his skating; he’s not super speedy, but after his first few steps he can get moving pretty well. He did seem a bit tentative in his first NHL appearances, and concern about making mistakes in his offensive game prevented him from taking too many chances, but if he can tap into his above-average playmaking and shot, he can show the offensive weapon he is.
Potential and Comparable: It’s hard to find a player like Leason. He kind of reminds me of Steven Lorentz in Carolina/San Jose, but the hope is that Leason has a better ceiling, as Lorentz is now 26 and has yet to leave his fourth-line role. Leason, hopefully, will start getting more middle six time because that’s where I think he can be, hovering around 30-40 points.
What’s Next: This is where it gets tough. The Caps’ forward group is quite stacked, and finding room for Leason to get more time will be very tough. He might be on that murky line of being NHL-ready but forced to cool his heels a bit until there’s room for him in the lineup. What makes that tricky is that he will now need to pass through waivers in order to go to the AHL... and it’s not definite that he’ll pass through. The Caps will have cap space for a while due to all of the players on LTIR, so they don’t have to make any desperate moves, but at some point the Caps will have to play him or risk losing him to get him back to the AHL - where in a perfect world he’ll spend one more year getting top-line minutes.
6) Ivan Miroshnichenko, LW, 18yo, 6’1” 194lbs (Previously Unranked)
VHL: 31GP, 10G, 6A, 16PTS
The Skinny: I know it seems like a reach to have a player that the Caps just drafted ranked here, but Ivan’s skill level and ceiling are just both way too high to have him any lower. He is by far the best player the Caps have drafted since Evgeny Kuznetsov back in 2010. Even after what he went through physically last season, Ivan still managed to lead the VHL (the league below the KHL) among U18 players by 11 points, and that’s with the second-ranked player having played six more games. In terms of the VHL all-time stats for U18 players, he was tied for first, and the guy he’s tied with also played 12 more games. He would have shattered the record if he had been healthy and played a full season.
Potential and Comparable: There have been comparisons to Alex Ovechkin because of his shot and physical play, but that’s an extremely optimistic and highly doubtful outcome. That doesn’t mean he won’t be a top-tier player, though (and reaching Ovechkin-esque levels is a pretty high bar for anyone). He reminds me a lot of Vladimir Tarasenko. He isn’t a player that just relies on a slapper and wrister from one area; Ivan can score from everywhere on the ice in any type of way: slapper, wrister, backhand, behind the line, etc. He’s a threat every time he has the puck anywhere on the ice, and aside from his shooting ability, he’s also an above-average passer with slick hands.
What separates him from most forwards with those skills is his high-end skating mixed with his physical play. He loves throwing the body around and can win most puck battles due to his size and ability to dig in. Maybe the best part of Ivan’s game is he’s a mature leader. On the international stage, at the age of 16, he was captaining the Russian team that had 18-year-olds on it. So throwing in all of Ivan’s traits of scoring ability, passing, physicality, smarts, leadership, it’s hard not to get excited about him. He has true top line winger with 40+ goal potential.
What’s Next: First thing for Ivan is for him to get fully healthy. He got a bill of clean health and has been hitting the ice, but it’s a tough road ahead of him with a lot of hard work. Luckily, as mentioned above, he’s a hard worker and could come back even stronger. Once he has the green light to play he’ll play in the VHL again, but if he has a chance to impress he could even get KHL time. The good news is he came over for the prospect camp for the Caps and looked like he really enjoyed himself. That’s a good sign that he might want to come over to North America as soon as possible and not put us in a Kirill Kaprizov situation.