InGoal Magazine released its Top 50 NHL Goaltending Prospects for the 2015-16 season. The Washington Capitals were well represented, featuring two draft picks in the top 20.
InGoal evaluated the prospects based on factors such as age, talent ceiling, current development situation, reputation, and how close they are to being NHL-ready. The list is generally unfriendly to younger, recently-drafted goalies. However, Caps prospect Ilya Samsonov, who became the first goaltender drafted in the first round since Tampa selected fellow Russian Andrei Vasilevskiy 19th overall in 2012, bucked that trend and was ranked third. It seems experts are very, very high on Ilya.
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. Signing him should not be a challenge, contrary to any of the rumours that may be out there.
Samsonov made his first KHL start over the weekend winning 5-2.
— Igor Eronko (@IgorEronko) September 20, 2015
Czech netminder Vitek Vanecek, whom the Caps selected in the second round of the 2014 NHL Draft, was ranked 19th. This despite some struggles last season.
The Capitals went somewhat off the board at the 2014 draft when they took Vanecek 39th overall, but it’s clear why they see such high potential in him. 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. At 5-foot-11, he’s not a big, hulking goaltender by any stretch – but any goalie that can combine the ability to track the puck with great athleticism should have success at the NHL level.
Vanecek is expected to start the season with the ECHL South Carolina Stingrays.
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