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Rating Capitals' top prospects: Left Wing

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Rating Capitals' top prospects: Left Wing

With the Capitals’ rookie camp set to begin Sept. 12 in Ostero, Florida, training home of the Tampa Bay Lightning, we thought we’d spend this week examining the organization’s top prospects at each position. We’ll start at left wing.

LEFT WING

Liam O’Brien:

Age: 21

Ht/Wt: 6-1,205

Games: 45 (AHL)
Goals: 4
Assists: 4
Points: 8
Plus-minus: Minus-5
Penalty minutes: 121

Acquired: Signed as free agent 2014

Scouting report: O’Brien stunned just about everyone, including himself, by making the Capitals’ opening roster last season, mostly because of his feistiness and willingness to defend teammates at the drop of a glove. O’Brien does not figure to provide much in the way of offense, but he can be very disruptive with his big body checks and is capable of drawing penalties. That could be enough to keep him on the Caps’ opening roster again this October.

Nathan Walker

Age: 21

Ht/Wt: 5-10, 185
Games: 28 (AHL)
Goals: 1
Assists: 3
Points: 4
Plus-minus: Plus-2
Penalty minutes: 30

Acquired: Drafted in 3rd round (89th overall) in 2014

Scouting report: Coming off summer knee surgery, Walker is hoping to be fully cleared by the start of training camp. While he may not be able to fight as often or as well as O’Brien, Walker is just as feisty and is on a mission to become the first Australian-trained player to play in the NHL. Walker’s ceiling is not as high as other prospects and projects to be a solid AHL player.

Zach Sill

Age: 27

Ht/Wt: 6-0, 202

Games: 63 (NHL, Pittsburgh, Toronto)

Goals: 1

Assists: 3

Points: 4

Plus-minus: Minus-5

Penalty minutes: 84

Acquired: Free agent, 2015

Scouting report: Considered more a depth player than a prospect, Sill is a hard-edged utility player who can play all three forward positions. He’s coming off his first full NHL season, playing splitting 63 games with the Penguins and Maple Leafs. He has never scored more than 11 goals at the AHL level but proved last season he can be an effective agitator on the fourth line.  

Zach Sanford

Age: 20

Ht/Wt: 6-3, 185

Games: 38 (Boston College)

Goals: 7

Assists: 17

Points: 24

Plus-minus: Plus-10

Penalty minutes: 30

Acquired: Drafted in 2nd round (61st overall) in 2013

Scouting report: Sanford is expected to play at least one more season at BC but impressed the Caps’ coaching staff in last month’s development camp. He has a wicked wrist shot and uses his big body to shield the puck very well. The Caps believe that with a breakout offensive season at BC he’ll be ready to challenge for an NHL job this time next year.

MORE CAPITALS: HOLTBY SCORING AT SOME POINT?

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Brooks Orpik's time in Washington may not be over after all

Brooks Orpik's time in Washington may not be over after all

Friday's trade with the Colorado Avalanche seemed to mark the end of Brooks Orpik's time with the Washington Capitals. But that may not actually be the case.

Trading away Orpik also meant trading away his $5.5 million cap hit. That is not an insignificant amount of money especially for a team trying to re-sign defenseman John Carlson to a big-money contract.

But Orpik will not be playing out the final year of his contract in Colorado. The Avalanche placed Orpik on unconditional waivers Saturday for the purpose of a buyout, according to Sportsnet's Chris Johnston.

CapFriendly has the details of the buyout. The Avalanche will pay Orpik $3 million and take a cap hit of $2.5 million in the 2018-19 season and $1.5 million in the 2019-20 season.

So why would Colorado agree to take Orpik just to buy him out and take on dead cap space? Because by acquiring him, it lowered the cost of the Grubauer trade.

What this means for Brooks Orpik is that he will become a free agent, free to sign with anyone for the upcoming season. Including Washington.

For a 37-year-old defenseman who does not boast great mobility or speed, a $5.5 million cap hit was a bit too steep for the Caps who were very close to the cap ceiling last season and who need that extra money to re-sign their free agents. But the team did value Orpik's leadership and that could be especially important as young defensemen Madison Bowey and Christian Djoos continue developing plus prospects Jonas Siegenthaler, Lucas Johansen and Connor Hobbs all try to work themselves into contention for a spot on the NHL roster.

If Orpik does return, it will be a masterstroke for general manager Brian MacLellan. MacLellan freed up a lot of cap space to re-sign Carlson without having to buy out Orpik's contract, but could still possibly keep him on the roster at a much-reduced cost.

After a strong playoff performance, there may be other teams vying for Orpik's services next season. Getting traded to get bought out likely isn't a good feeling, but considering he just won a Stanley Cup in Washington, the defensive guru Todd Reirden is expected to be promoted to head coach and that re-signing with the Caps would mean not moving his family for what could very possibly and will very likely be the last contract of his NHL career, there are a lot of reasons why it would make sense for both the team and the player if Orpik stayed with the Caps.

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2018 NHL Draft: Caps add 7 prospects, 4 from WHL

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USA TODAY Sports

2018 NHL Draft: Caps add 7 prospects, 4 from WHL

The Caps made seven selections in the 2018 Draft this weekend. The group featured three defensemen, three forwards and a goalie. Interestingly, a couple of the picks have fathers who enjoyed lengthy NHL careers.

Meet the newest prospects:

1st round, 31st overall: D Alexander Alexeyev, WHL, 6'4", 196 pounds

The Caps' first first-round pick sine 2016, Alexeyev is a smart two-way defenseman with good size.

Read more on him here.

2nd round, 46th overall (from Florida, via New Jersey): D Martin Fehervary, Allsvenskan (Sweden), 6'2", 194 pounds

A physical style defenseman who is very strong in his own end, but does not have much offensive upside. Sort of a throwback style of play which makes him a surprise pick this high.


2nd round, 47th overall (From Colorado): F Kody Clark, OHL, 6'1", 179 pounds

Kody Clark boasts an NHL pedigree as the son of Wendel Clark, a first-round pick of the Toronto Maple Leafs who recorded 330 goals and 564 career points in 763 NHL games.


3rd round, 93rd overall: F Riley Sutter, WHL, 6'3", 203 pounds

Riley Sutter also boasts a strong NHL pedigree as the son of Run Sutter and nephew of Darryl Sutter.

Riley is a power forward who played alongside Caps prospect Garrett Pilon on the Everett Silvertips in the WHL and recorded 53 points in 68 games last season.


4th round, 124th overall: G Mitchell Gibson, NAHL, 6'1", 187 pounds

A Harvard commit, Gibson posted a 1.59 GAA and .935 save percentage in the NAHL last season.


6th round, 161st overall (from Vancouver): D Alex Kannok-Leipert, WHL, 5'11", 194 pounds

The Caps certainly saw something they liked in Kannok-Leipert as they traded up from 186 to get him. That pick, along with a sixth-round pick in 2019, went to Vancouver.


7th round, 217th overall: F Eric Florchuk, WHL, 6'2", 174 pounds

Florchuk was taken with the last pick of the draft.

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