It is no secret that the Washington Capitals do not have the best prospect pool in the league. But who cares because at the end of the day, the Capitals are the Stanley Cup Champions! Regardless of the state of their prospect pool, there are still many things for Washington fans to be hopeful of about the future of their team.

In this article, let’s take a look at some of the young talent in the Capitals organization and show fans what there is to be hopeful about for the future.

Ilya Samsonov

To start off this article, let’s begin with the Capitals best prospect, Ilya Samsonov. Samsonov is a goaltender who has spent the last three seasons playing in the KHL for the Metallurg Magnitogorsk. Right there from the start, you could already start to be hopeful by the very fact that Samsonov has spent the last three seasons in the Kontinential Hockey League and is only 21 years of age. The KHL is arguably the second-best professional hockey league in the world after the National Hockey League.

Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press

Samsonov was drafted 22nd overall in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. What has raised many eyebrows about this selection as of late is the fact that Samsonov was drafted ahead of Brock Boeser of the Vancouver Canucks and Travis Konecny of the Philadelphia Flyers. Both players have already spent time in the NHL and look to have promising futures ahead of them early on.

Although it might be disappointing that the Capitals do not have Brock Boeser on their active roster, they should not be disappointed about the pick in which they made. Ilya Samsonov is a high-end goaltender. He is one of the best goaltender prospects in the entire NHL for that matter. Samsonov has put up high numbers since his first season in the KHL as can be shown in the picture below with courtesy of Elite Prospects.

Ilya Samsonov is set to play in North America this season after signing his Entry Level Contract with the Washington Capitals. As of now, it looks like Samsonov will start the season in the AHL playing for the Hershey Bears but that is not yet set in stone. If Samsonov makes a good enough impression in the preseason or if projected backup goaltender Phoenix Copley gets injured, then Samsonov might be able to start the season as the backup goaltender for the Washington Capitals. It would probably be better though for Samsonov’s development to play in the AHL as he would be playing a lot more games there then he would be in the NHL.

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Jakub Vrana

Not many players are lucky enough to win the Stanley Cup in their rookie season in the NHL. Jakub Vrana happens to be one of the lucky ones. Vrana 22, had a decent rookie season in which he totalled 13 goals and 14 assists, making for 27 points.

To some fans, that might not seem like a lot, especially after seeing rookies like Matthew Barzal, Clayton Keller, Brock Boeser, Kyle Connor, etc, put up much higher point totals and at much younger ages. What many fans are not taking into account, however, is the fact that Vrana played an average of 12:30 on the ice every night while rookies like Barzal, Keller, Boeser and Connor played about 17:00 per night on average. Washington Capitals fans have a lot to be excited about with Jakub Vrana. He is a young winger who is learning from the best in Alex Ovechkin which is certainly beneficial for the development of the young Czech winger.

Vrana is a fast winger who always appears to be in the right place at the right time. When watching Vrana, you realize that he is the kind of player that can be relied upon in almost any situation. He is always where his teammates need him to be whether that is to screen the goaltender or be ready to receive a pass, Vrana can be relied on. He showed a lot of promise this season and has surely gotten Washington fans excited about the player that he can become in the near future.

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Alexander Alexeyev

Perhaps their best draft pick in the past three NHL drafts, Alexander Alexeyev is arguably the best prospect not named Ilya Samsonov in the Capitals prospect pool. Alexeyev was drafted 31st overall in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft after a strong season with the Red Deer Rebels of the WHL. In just 45 games this season, the 18-year old Russian blue-liner recorded 7 goals and 30 assists, totalling up to 37 points.

Alexeyev added 2 goals and 3 assists (5 points) in 3 playoff games for the Red Deer Rebels as well this season. To really understand and get excited about Alexander Alexeyev, it might help to know some advanced statistics.

Prospect-Stats.com developed a metric called DEV which stands for Draft expected value. The goal of DEV is to come up with a number rating for the expected value of a prospect at the time in which they are drafted. To do this, first what is needed is to calculate a prospects chances at making it to the NHL full time which is called NHLc and how they would do if they, in fact, did make the NHL in terms of point shares which is called xPS.

Marissa Baecker/Getty Images North America

When looking at the DEV rankings for the 2017-2018 season, I was delighted and frankly surprised to see just how high Alexander Alexeyev fared on the list. In terms of percentage to make the NHL (NHLc), Alexeyev was the highest 2018 Draft eligible skater on the list and third highest in the entire CHL. Alexander Alexeyev’s NHLc is 77.03 which put him above top CHL draft picks including Andrei Svechnikov, Barrett Hayton, Filip Zadina, etc. 

His projected expected point share if he does happen to make the NHL full time (xPS) was not atop the CHL at 4.97. This should not be of concern for Washington fans considering the fact that Alexander Alexeyev is a defenseman. His DEV was the 5th best in the entire CHL and best amongst 2018 Draft eligible skaters at 3.828.

Projected first overall pick in the 2020 draft, Alexis Lafreniere finished with the highest DEV at 4.763. In the end, the model gives a final number for the pick value of a prospect. Alexander Alexeyev finished with the highest pick value in the CHL out of all 2018 draft-eligible skaters.

His pick value was 6 which was even higher then 2nd overall pick Andrei Svechnikov who’s pick value was 7. It is interesting that Alexander Alexeyev had such a high NHLc, DEV and pick value when he ended up dropping all the way to 31st overall. Regardless, he might prove to be a steal for Washington and #31 by the looks of things.

Marissa Baecker/Getty Images North America

Lucas Johansen

Washington fans should keep a look out for Lucas Johansen as he could be in the NHL sooner rather than later. Drafted in the 1st round (28th overall) in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, Lucas Johansen has made it clear that he is one the of Capitals top prospects. Lucas is the brother of Nashville Predator Ryan Johansen.

Like his brother, Lucas is a great hockey player who has the potential to become a key player for the Capitals in the future. Defence has always been the weakest part of the Capitals roster and with Brooks Orpik declining, Johansen may be given the chance to steal a spot in the starting lineup. If not, you can expect to see Johansen at least get a couple of games in the NHL this season.

In his rookie season in the AHL playing for the Hershey Bears, Johansen recorded 6 goals and 21 assists, totalling up to 27 points in 74 games this season. He was the Bears best young defenseman and fared considerably well even though the team was not strong this season. Johansen is a strong two-way defender who is not afraid to put his body on the line in order to help his team.

Nathan Denette/The Associated Press

He plays physically and does not seem to be out of place playing against older more experienced competition. Overall Lucas Johansen has the potential to be a top-4 defenseman for the Washington Capitals at the NHL level. He is a player I know that I will be keeping a close eye on this season.

The Washington Capitals may not have the best prospect pool in the league, but they do have some talented young players and prospects that will surely give fans something to look forward to in the future.

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