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Caps have two of the 50 top NHL goalie prospects


Caps have two of the 50 top NHL goalie prospects

Braden Holtby has locked up the crease for the Caps and the team locked him up for five years, but it seems he may have plenty of competitions coming up behind him in the organization.

Greg Balloch of "In Goal Magazine" compiled a list of the top 50 NHL goaltending prospects and it appears the Caps are well stocked. By his definition, a prospect is a player who is 25 years old or younger, has played in 10 NHL games or less and was drafted or signed by a professional club i.e., not a free agent.

Two Caps prospects make the list with Ilya Samsonov at No. 3 and Vitek Vanecek at No. 19.

The Caps raised a lot of eyebrows in June when they selected Samsonov with the 22nd overall pick in the draft. With Holtby only 25 and coming off a season in which he established himself as one of the NHL's top netminders, why use a pick on another goalie? Balloch offers some insight as to what makes Samsonov worth the pick:

By all reports, Samsonov is something special. He provides an interesting mix of a large frame, and an exciting, aggressive style that forces shooters to make the first move. He’s flashy, confident, and looks to have all of the tools needed to become a starting goaltender in the NHL. After spending a year in the MHL, the Capitals are hoping that he plays a large role with Magnitogorsk’s KHL team in 2015-2016 – which would be the best for his development. With Vasilevskiy making a name for himself in North America only three seasons after being drafted, expect Samsonov to follow a similar timetable.

One little quibble with this analysis is that Samsonov is under contract for three more years in Russia. By the time that contract is up, he will have no experience at all with hockey in North America at any level. He will not even challenge for a spot with the Caps until after those three years are up and even then he may end up spending some time in the AHL, though the transition to North American hockey is not as difficult for goalies as it is for skaters.

By that point, Holtby will be 29 and entering the fourth year of his new five-year deal. You certainly hope that Holtby would have a few years left of playing top-level hockey, but if Samsonov is NHL ready at that time, this can make for either an intriguing goalie tandem or one heck of a trade asset.

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The future for Vanecek is a bit more cloudy. Balloch writes:

Physically he does everything quite well – he’s a strong, effective skater that doesn’t struggle with the mental side of the game like a lot of young goaltenders. The downside is on the technical side of things. He is still very inexperienced, and he struggles with understanding which situations he wants to use certain save selections. Working with Mitch Korn should help him figure out the direction he wants to go in. Korn will have a closer eye on Vanecek this upcoming season as he is slated to begin the year at the ECHL level. 

This is going to be an important year for Vanecek. The Caps can not have been thrilled with his lackluster showing in the World Junior Championship for the Czech Republic (.871 save percentage, 4.31 GAA). Getting him in North America is huge as it will allow Korn and the Caps to help him develop. He needs to show progress at the ECHL level. Not that the NHL future of a 19-year-old rests solely on this one season, but it can provide a litmus test for just where he stands in terms of his development.

Both Justin Peters and Dan Ellis, the two goalies expected to play for Hershey this season, have one year remaining on their respective contracts. There will be an opening there next season. If Vanecek isn't ready to step into the AHL at that point, that's a bad sign.

The Caps nearly had three goalies make Bolloch's list as Pheonix Copley, the goalie prospect included in the trade with St. Louis for T.J. Oshie, came in at No. 11. After the Caps drafted two goalies in the past two years, the writing was on the wall for the 23-year-old. The trade allows him a better avenue to reach the NHL, something that seemed unlikely if he remained in the Capitals' organization.

For those wondering why Philipp Grubauer is not on the list, he has played in 21 NHL games (20 regular season and one playoff) which means he did not qualify under Balloch's definition. It would be interesting to see just where he would have ranked among the 50.

Despite two highly rated prospects, the Caps are actually not the team with the brightest future in net. With both the No. 1 and No. 4 prospect as well as No. 49., the Winnipeg Jets seem to be the most well stocked. Connor Hellebuyck, a fifth-round pick in the 2012 draft, is the top prospect on the list.

MORE CAPITALS: Projecting the Caps' lineup: Offensive lines

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Capitals' T.J. Oshie had so much fun golfing, drinking through shirt again at celebrity golf tournament

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Capitals' T.J. Oshie had so much fun golfing, drinking through shirt again at celebrity golf tournament

Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo may have won the American Century Championships celebrity golf tournament this weekend, but T.J. Oshie definitely had the most fun.

Using the Modified Stableford scoring format for the tournament — which included several pro and retired athletes, such as Steph Curry, Aaron Rodgers, Larry Fitzgerald, Carson Palmer, Charles Barkley and Joe Pavelski — Oshie finished with 11 points, tying for 48th with NFL Hall of Famer Tim Brown and Golf Channel host Lisa Cornwell. 

But the Capitals' winger's score didn't really matter because Oshie was out on the Lake Tahoe golf course in Nevada just having fun with his family and continuing the epic celebration as a new Stanley Cup champion. Obviously, that meant playing and chugging a beer through his t-shirt as 'We Are The Champions' played.

His brother, Taylor, was his caddy, and at one point, Oshie borrowed his brother's beer helmet while putting. He sunk it, and it was amazing.

Yeah, Oshie had a great weekend. Here's a look at some other moments from his weekend on Lake Tahoe.


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Key Caps questions: How will the Caps look different under Todd Reirden?


Key Caps questions: How will the Caps look different under Todd Reirden?

The dog days of summer are officially here, but it's never too hot to talk some hockey.

Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir and Capitals correspondent JJ Regan are here to help you through the offseason doldrums. They will discuss key questions facing the Caps for the upcoming season as Washington prepares to defend its title for the first time in franchise history.

Today's question: How will the Caps look different under new head coach Todd Reirden?

Tarik: It’s an important topic, but let’s not overthink this one. Since winning the Stanley Cup on June 7, the organization has pretty much telegraphed EXACTLY what it hopes will occur in 2018-19. Consider:

  • Todd Reirden was promoted after spending four years as Barry Trotz’s assistant, including the last two years as an associate coach with an expanded role. Reirden already knows everyone, from the players to the trainers and other support staff. He knows what buttons to push and when to push them. There’s a built-in comfort level and trust that should allow everyone to hit the ground running in September.
  • Four of Reirden’s assistants are holdovers, too. The one newcomer, Reid Cashman, is joining the group from Hershey and is a Reirden disciple. So, no adjustment period there, either.
  • Assuming restricted free agent Tom Wilson re-ups (and that would seem to be a very safe assumption), the Caps are bringing back 11 of the 12 forwards that were on the ice for Game 5 in Las Vegas. They’re also bringing back five of six defensemen. And the starting goaltender. Chemistry is a hard thing to explain and/or quantify. But you know when a team has it. And the Caps had it at the end of last year.

So if you look at what GM Brian MacLellan has been doing in recent weeks—and have been listening to what Reirden has been saying publicly—you can only come to one conclusion. The decision-makers feel they discovered the right mix of personnel and systems play at the end of the playoffs, from the defensive structure to special teams. In fact, they were first in goals per game, second-best on the power play and the fourth stingiest team in the postseason.

“Many of my [philosophies] were involved in how we were going to play, how our team was going to look, the identity that we had,” Reirden said on The Junkies recently, referring to last year’s game plan. “So, from a systems standpoint, I would say not much is going to change, at least initially, just because it seemed to work. …You’ll see much of the same.”

That doesn’t mean Reirden won’t make adjustments. He will because he’ll have to over the course of an 82-game regular season and, hopefully, another long postseason run. But it does underscore the fact that the foundation upon on which last year’s championship team was built is going to look awfully familiar. And that's clearly by design.

JJ:  The message from the Caps ever since Reirden was promoted to head coach has been one of consistency as they try to make a seamless transition to the new head coach. In that sense, we probably won't see many changes at all to start the season.

The Capitals just won the Stanley Cup and general manager Brian MacLellan worked to bring almost the exact same roster back for next season. Coming into the locker room saying there's a new sheriff in town and making drastic changes is not the way to go here

But that doesn't mean Reirden will do things the same way.

Reirden has coached at the college, AHL and NHL level. He has seen firsthand how Dan Bylsma won the Stanley Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins and how Trotz did it in Washington. He also saw what didn't work.

Reirden got to this point by developing relationships with the players. He is much more of a players' coach than Trotz and that will be evident in training camp. I also expect there will be a much greater emphasis on development. Trotz famously said to the media that the NHL was not a development league, but a performance league. I expect Reirden to take a different approach.

After failing to win with veteran-laden teams, the Caps finally hoisted the Cup last season after getting significant contributions from young prospects such as Jakub Vrana, Chandler Stephenson, Christian Djoos and Madison Bowey. Like it or not, the Caps' core will not last forever. Every year those players like Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and John Carlson get another year older. I do not believe a coach who is as good at reaching players and developing them as Reirden is will be quite as reluctant to reach down onto the farm and sprinkle youth throughout his lineup whenever the team needs a spark.

It should not be lost on anyone that one of Reirden's new assistant coaches this year will be Reid Cashman, promoted from being an assistant with the Hershey Bears in the AHL. This is all good news for players like Lucas Johansen, Jonas Siegenthaler and Connor Hobbs, the team's three best defensive prospects who are hoping to have an impact at the NHL level sooner rather than later. The Caps roster is pretty loaded, but at the very least you can expect Reirden to have a hand in helping those players along at training camp.

Ultimately, the product on the ice is going to look almost exactly the same at the start of the season with the biggest changes coming off the ice. We won't see who Reirden is as an NHL coach, however, until we let the full 82-game season play out.