Prospects. It’s one of the things hockey fans love to talk about. Besides the actual games that happen during the season seemingly things that passionate fans love to talk about are prospects and cap space. Two things that for the most part mean nothing until something actually happens.
Yet, here we are today, talking about prospects.
This year the Washington Capitals ranked number twenty-eight in The Athletic’s prospect pool rankings. That obviously is not very good, but very understandable considering where the Caps are as a franchise. This is a contending team. Usually contending teams (especially teams that have been contending for a long while, like Washington) don’t have the greatest prospect pools.
That being due to trading prospects for players to help the team win now, trading picks for the same reason and having lower draft picks. Professional sports is all about winning. Why keep a player that can help you in two, three or four years when you can trade that young player for a guy who can help you win now when you have a shot?
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- Top 3 storylines ahead of Capitals Rookie Camp
- A look at the top 3 Capitals prospects heading into 2023
- Breaking down where the Capitals landed on the 2023 NHL Pipeline Rankings
While the Capitals may be farther down on a prospects ranking, they still have several guys to look forward to joining the main roster in the next year or two. Guys like Connor McMichael, Martin Fehervary and Alexander Alexeyev, with other guys still having plenty of NHL potential.
When talking about prospects and when they should get their shot in the NHL there is usually a bit of a tug of war, or a balancing act you have to consider. You want the young player to play against the competition that he should be playing against, but you don’t want to rush him into the highest level.
If you rush a kid into NHL action it can hurt development. Then again, if you don’t give prospects a chance, you’re potentially just wasting everybody’s time. Why keep prospects down a level if they have little to learn, wasting both the teams and the players time.
The timing to play some prospects in Washington seems to be perfect if you ask me. This Capitals team is still a very good team. This is one of those teams that will surely make the playoffs, barring something or multiple somethings going very wrong, and will use the 82 game season to prep for the playoffs.
This is still a pretty deep team as well. When looking at CapFriendly you can count twelve Capitals forwards who are clearly everyday NHL players. That leaves room for exactly zero prospects up front.
On defense it’s a bit of a different story. I can only see four guys who are clear NHL players, maybe more depending on how Trevor van Riemsdyk and maybe Michal Kempny play early on in the year. That still could leave one maybe two spots on D open for prospects. Possibly a chance for Fehervary or Alexeyev.
We talked about the balancing act earlier. You don’t want to rush them, but if they can play, let them play. I really tend to fall on latter part of that last statement. Especially if the circumstances are right. I believe the Capitals current situation is perfect for playing some prospects.
The way I see it now is this. There is or should be very little pressure on these prospects right now. We’ve already talked about it, this is a very good Capitals side. They shouldn’t have the pressure to come in and make a huge difference. That’s what you want when introducing a player to the show. Go in and play your game and prove yourself.
On top of that, IF they do play well and force themselves into an every game player, then great, what’s the problem there? Sure, there might not be a spot for them at the moment, but I’m guessing I’m not alone in the opinion that it’s better to have too many good players than too few.
If they play and they show they need some more time in the minors then that’s fine. They are not counted on right now anyways. Playing in the NHL can show what they need to work on more and they can go and improve on whatever they need to in the American Hockey League.
Capitals General Manager Brian MacLellan said after last years first round playoff exit that the team will look to get younger this coming season. Sticking to his word there would be wise.
In my opinion, now is the perfect time to play your prospects. Don’t wait until you need them. Play them now, get them experience while the team is good. Have them hang around the great and experienced veterans and have them learn from guys like Ovechkin, Backstrom, Eller, Oshie, Carlson and Orlov.
If they perform above expectations, then terrific. If they show they are not quite ready, then it’s not a big deal. The team doesn’t need them right now anyways.
It’s the perfect time to introduce some youth and play the prospects in Washington.