It’s been a while since the Caps have had a number of players in the pipeline to get excited about - and we were lucky enough to get a sneak peek at a lot of those talented kids last season. And so we ask...
Which player in the Caps’ pipeline are you the most excited to see in the NHL someday?
Luke: Ivan Miroshnichenko is the best prospect the Caps have drafted since Kuznetsov. If he pans out he’ll be a ton of fun to watch. He has top line scoring ability like Tarasenko. Outside of him I’m a big fan of Protas. I know that seems odd but something about him I just love. I think he has huge potential, the issue is where does he fit because he’s NHL ready but there’s a big forward logjam. I also like Clay Stevenson and think he will surprise a lot of people. I think he has the best goalie upside in the system since Ilya Samsonov… let’s hope that story turns out better.
Becca: I’m not going to claim to be any sort of prospect expert, but from what I’ve heard about Miroshnichenko since the Caps selected him over the summer, there’s a lot to be excited about. Big, talented Russians have done pretty well in DC over the years, so having another one pick up the torch after the greatest one hangs ‘em up would be something to see. He’s also just a great story, and seeing him make it to the NHL after what he’s been through? Heartwarming.
Bryan: I’ve slowly but surely become a Hershey Bears sicko over the course of the past few years. Some of that is a function of having lived not too far away for six years, but obviously the rest of it is about looking to the future. I’m feeling pretty optimistic about the future for these Washington Capitals and think that there are a bunch of guys who can make the jump to being full time NHL-ers (if they can overcome institutional barriers to entry.) As evidenced by my penchant for bringing him up in recaps regardless of whether or not he’s playing, and by the draft headline “Untitled Protas Piece” that has been sitting in our publishing queue since last September, I’m extremely high on Alexei Protas (or as he’s fondly known around our house “Our Big Beefy Belarusian Boy.”)
I’ll level with you: this one very much originated from passing the “eye test,” when I saw him tally three points in their 2019 preseason home opener, but while sneaky pace felt curiously dissonant from his hulking frame had my curiosity, his upward trajectory through the ranks now has my attention. Protas is developing a profile that could fit all four forward lines. He has the potential to quickly become a high 20-goal scorer (he had 24 points in 42 AHL games last year,) who can contribute on special teams, and can play both at center and on the wings, simply put there’s a lot to like. I know that there are other players in the pipeline with more high-ceiling potential than Protas, like Lapierre, Joe Snivley, or Lucas Johansen, but I believe that if given the opportunity we could see Protas become a mainstay in Washington for years to come.
Peerless: Hendrix Lapierre. More than any player in the Caps system, I think he has the potential to be the kind of player who will bring people out of their seats when he has the puck. And for a team that seems to go with the surer, more reliably solid players in the draft, he is rather rare.
J.P.: Lapierre is a great pick, and a healthy Ivan Miroshnichenko is really intriguing, but I’m really curious to see how the two young goalies, Hunter Shepard and Clay Stevenson, progress. Say what you will about the last two guys to come up through the system to man the Caps’ cage, but the organization has had a keen eye for picking and churning out NHL goalies over the last 15 years (from Varlamov and Neuvirth to Holtby to Grubauer to Vanecek and Samsonov), and with no heir apparent to Darcy Kuemper lined up, here’s hoping that one of Shepard or Stevenson will be next in line.