Capitals

Quick Links

Caps top prospects: Where does Nathan Walker rank?

nathanwalker.png
USA TODAY Sports

Caps top prospects: Where does Nathan Walker rank?

Nathan Walker has had an interesting season. He first made the Caps' team out of training camp, was placed on waivers, claimed by the Edmonton Oilers, placed on waivers again and was reclaimed by Washington and is likely on his way to Hershey after the NHL's holiday roster freeze is lifted at 12:01 a.m. on Thursday.

That's quite the journey for a young prospect.

As a small, scrappy forward and the first Australian player to play in the NHL, it is understandable why Walker has become a fan favorite. But where does he actually rank among the Caps' prospects?

SEE THE UPDATED CAPS PROSPECT RANKINGS HERE

After a strong preseason, Walker struggled in the regular season on certain aspects of his game, including wall play and transitioning the puck out of the defensive zone, skills that are particularly important for bottom-six forwards. He still needs to work on those aspects of his game, but he has shown potential as a bottom-six NHL forward.

Considering how many drafted players never make the NHL at all, the fact that Walker looks like he could potentially be a fourth line forward means something. But it's also important to remember he is not a Jakub Vrana or Ilya Samsonov. Putting those kinds of expectations on him would be unfair and would diminish his accomplishments if and when he does make the NHL.

Given his potential, if Vrana spent his career primarily as a bottom-six NHL forward, that would be a disappointment. The same would not be true for Walker.

So where does Walker ultimately rank among the Caps' prospects? Does he crack the top 10? Find out here in the updated Caps prospect rankings.

Quick Links

Should Caps' Braden Holtby, other soon-to be free agents consider skipping NHL restart?

Should Caps' Braden Holtby, other soon-to be free agents consider skipping NHL restart?

When the 2019-20 NHL season does come to a conclusion, whenever that may be, Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby will become a free agent shortly after. Holtby, one of the league's better netminders, is expected to earn a lucrative contract this offseason.

With all the moving parts to the resumption of the NHL season -- the league and NHLPA have yet to come to an agreement on a hub city (or cities)-- and the rising cases in coronavirus cases nationwide, it's unclear when the league will return. Training camps open on July 10, yet the NHL and NHLPA are in the midst of finalizing a new Collective Bargaining Agreement that has raised questions about when the games will resume.

But, when hockey does return, it's worth wondering if Holtby should consider skipping the remainder of the season. NBC Sports Washington analyst Craig Laughlin explained on The Sports Junkies Wednesday why Holtby and other soon-to-be free agents could consider opting out of the restart.

"What happens to Braden Holtby?" Laughlin said. "Does he want to risk the opportunity to play rather than risk health, even getting injured during this time when he's up for a very lucrative long-term deal? Those are the players that may have to think about the return."

CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE TO THE CAPITALS TALK PODCAST

In both the MLB and NBA, several players have decided to forgo the rest of the season due to concerns about the coronavirus. Wizards sharpshooter Davis Bertans, who is a free agent after this season, opted-out of the restart to preserve his health with a large payday looming. Several other NBA players have decided to skip out on Orlando, too. Ryan Zimmerman and Joe Ross have both declined to participate in the 2020 MLB season for the Nationals.

Yet, in hockey, it may be different. The league is resuming its season with a modified 24-team playoff, meaning there are no regular-season games remaining. With the season so close to finishing, the decision for Holtby to leave his team as they begin a Stanley Cup run could be a difficult one.

While Holtby does have personal reasons to skip out on the season's resumption, Laughlin doesn't envision him, or any other hockey players, voluntarily choosing to sit out.

RELATED: WHAT IF THE SEASON NEVER PAUSED?

"I don't think so," Laughlin said on players opting out. "I don't think that's going to happen. I think the players generally want to play. I really do think, when it's all said and done, they will all be back and participating for the Stanley Cup."

Stay connected to the Capitals with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.

MORE CAPITALS NEWS:

Quick Links

The biggest 'what ifs' for the 2019-20 Capitals' season: What if the team stuck with Copley as backup goalie?

The biggest 'what ifs' for the 2019-20 Capitals' season: What if the team stuck with Copley as backup goalie?

We are looking at some of the biggest “what ifs” for the Capitals for the 2019-20 season.

Today’s what if: What if the Caps stuck with Pheonix Copley as their backup goalie over Ilya Samsonov?

Often times the most important stat for a backup goalie is wins. With an established No.1 netminder, as the Caps have had in Braden Holtby, the most important job of a backup is to be able to step into the lineup and win games. If not, it forces a team to overwork its starter. Pheonix Copley was able to go 16-7-3 in 27 games for Washington in 2018-19 , his first full NHL season. Because of that, it would have been absolutely understandable had the team decided to use him as the backup behind Holtby again this season. As much as Ilya Samsonov has been heralded as the next starter of the franchise, he came into 2019-20 with zero NHL experience.

Yes, with Holtby on the final year of his contract, it was important to get Samsonov playing time this season, but this was viewed as a legitimate competition in training camp. What if Samsoinov just did not look ready yet?

The first thing that would have happened is the team would have had to make a move to clear salary. Copley's cap hit is $1.1 million, slightly higher than Samsonov's $925,000. With the team so close against the cap, once Evgeny Kuznetsov returned from suspension and Michal Kempny returned from injury, the team would not have had enough cap space with Copley on the roster. All this likely would have meant was seeing the Chandler Stephenson trade happen a lot faster than it ultimately did in December.

The impact may not have been all that different in terms of roster makeup, but the team likely would have struggled on the ice. This is not to disparage Copley who has proven himself to be a capable backup, but along with his strong record last season, he also had a .905 save percentage and 2.90 GAA. Those two numbers are not nearly as impressive. With the team struggling at times this season, that likely would have translated to more losses with Copley in net. Considering Washington ended up winning the Metropolitan Division by a single point thanks in large part to the NHL have to pause and then cancel the remainder of the regular season, the Caps would almost certainly be lower in the standings.

CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE TO THE CAPITALS TALK PODCAST

Perhaps Copley would have been able to improve on his numbers and overall performance in a second NHL season, but would he have been able to give Washington the 16-6-2 record, .913 save percentage and 2.55 GAA that Samsonov provided? Probably not.

RELATED: WHAT IF THE SEASON NEVER PAUSED?

That fact is that with Holtby's contract situation, we would have seen Samsonov in the NHL at some point in the 2019-20 season and the team's struggles probably would have prompted a recall as a way to shake things up while also getting a look at what he could provide in the NHL going forward.

Copley starting the season as the backup would have delayed the inevitable Samsonov call-up that had to happen this season, regardless of how well Copley managed to play behind Holtby.

Stay connected to the Capitals with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.

MORE CAPITALS NEWS: