For the first time in a couple of years, the Caps will have some job openings when training camp opens in September. One—maybe two—of those openings could be in the bottom-six forward group.
Asked on Tuesday to name some prospects he believes could seize a spot on the fourth line, Bears Coach Troy Mann didn’t hesitate to say that he believes Nathan Walker is “as close as anybody” to being ready to make the jump from the minors to the NHL.
Walker, the Caps’ third round pick in 2014, is aiming to become the first Australian-born player to reach the NHL.
“I think when you look at our guys, Walker comes to mind,” said Mann, who is running the Capitals’ development camp this week. “He plays the game the right way. He’s a 200-foot player. He gets in on the forecheck. He has good stick detail.”
Walker posted 11 goals and 12 assists in 58 games for the Bears last season. Earlier this month, the 23-year-old winger signed a two-year, two-way contract extension that will pay him $650,000 per year in the NHL.
“I’d love to see him slide into [Daniel] Winnik’s spot, from my standpoint, because he’s really grown here the last couple of years,” Mann added.
Winnik, who was the Caps’ fourth line left wing last season, will become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.
Mann also mentioned forwards Chandler Stephenson, whom he believes is “the most physically NHL ready” prospect in Hershey, as well as Riley Barber and Travis Boyd as being in the mix to challenge for a spot in Washington this fall. Stephenson played four games for the Caps in 2016-17, while Barber saw in action in three games.
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