Dom Lunardo | April 16th, 2020
When you think of the Washington Capitals one thing comes to mind, and that’s “The Great 8”, Alex Ovechkin. For the past 15+ seasons, “Ovie” has been the face of the Capitals franchise with 700+ goals to his name. Quite simply, Ovechkin is one of the single-greatest goalscorers in the history of the National Hockey League. He’s consistently dominant, feared amongst opponents, lethal all over the ice, and awakened a fan base in D.C. that was rather dormant before his arrival back in 2005-06. Oh, and let’s not forget that Ovechkin also spearheaded the team to their first Stanley Cup triumph two seasons ago after years and years of playoff shortcomings and disappointments.
The Capitals have had a tremendous campaign thus far and currently sit atop of the Metropolitan Division with 90 points. There is lots of talent to go around in D.C. with the likes of John Carlson, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Nicklas Backstrom, Jakub Vrana, Dmitry Orlov, and two solid goaltenders in Braden Holtby and Ilya Samsonov. Even with this star-studded lineup, the Capitals also have a pretty good core group of youngsters rising up the ranks. Not only do these prospects offer a glimpse as to what’s to come in the future, but these players also serve as “heirs to the throne” with an aging core in Washington. So what does the future look like for the Capitals and how impactful can their top prospects be at the National Hockey League level?
Number 3: Connor Hobbs, Defenseman, Hershey Bears (AHL)
Connor Hobbs starts things off at number three on our list. The Regina, Saskatchewan native, currently plying his trade for the Capitals AHL-affiliate team Hershey Bears, has taken off (performance-wise) over the past couple of seasons. Hobbs is not a flashy, offensive talent by any means, but he can lock it down defensively with the best of them. A potential top-four defenseman, Hobbs is smart in his own, end and uses his 6’1 frame to good effect when his team doesn’t have the puck. At 23 years of age, Hobbs is certain to follow the likes of current Caps d-man, Jonas Siegenthaler to the pros, as a mainstay on a very talented defensive unit in Washington. Hobbs is a born leader with a high hockey IQ that should place him in good stead throughout his playing career. Caps fans are going to love what Hobbs brings to the fold.
Number 2: Shane Gersich, Center/Left-Wing, Hershey Bears (AHL)
Next up on our list is NCAA product and Chaska, Minnesota native, Shane Gersich. Gersich rose through the ranks with U.S. National Team Development Programs (U-18s), and the University of North Dakota before being drafted in the fifth round during the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. Besides a few playoff games for the Capitals during the 2017-18 postseason, Gersich has been perfecting his craft and doing his very best to crack the Capitals lineup, while playing for Hershey over the last couple of seasons. In his toolkit, Gersich possesses good speed and is shifty and elusive in tight space, who will add good depth to the Capitals forward group. His numbers definitely don’t jump off the page, but Gersich provides good leadership and experience and will be a welcome addition to the Capitals lineup in the near future.
Number 1: Ilya Samsonov, Goaltender, Washington Capitals (NHL)
The number one prospect on our list (as if there was ever any doubt) is Russian netminder, Ilya Samsonov. When you look at the past eight to ten NHL drafts, it’s quite rare to find a general manager take a goaltender in the first round. Well, Ilya Samsonov was just too good to pass up when the Capitals selected him in the first round, 22nd overall during the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. Samsonov is quiet and steady in the crease and sees oncoming pucks really well. His rebound control has also been a lot more sound and is becoming exactly what the Capitals had hoped for in goal. At 23 years of age, Samsonov is just about ready to take the reins in goal as an everyday starter at the NHL level. In 26 games this year with the Caps, Samsonov posted an astounding 16-6-2 record to go along with a 2.55 goals-against-average, and a .913 save percentage. With current starter, Braden Holtby set to become an unrestricted free agent at season’s end the time can very well be now, for Samsonov to take over the Capitals crease. Samsonov is a special talent and all indications point to him having a long and storied career at the NHL level.
Honorable Mentions: D Lucas Johansen, D Axel Jonsson-Fjallby
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