Earlier this week, we took a look at all the Caps’ prospects that didn’t make the top 10. Today, we’re diving into the bottom half of the top 10. Here’s a look at prospects 10 through six.
For the purpose of this series, a prospect will be defined as an under-25 player in the Capitals system who was not on the team’s roster for the majority of last season. This allows us to focus on guys who many know little about. You will not see players like Stan Galiev, Philipp Grubauer, or Andre Burakovsky on this list.
Stephenson got into nine games with the Caps last season recording no points. The 2012 third round draft pick didn’t look terribly out of place but struggled with consistent offense in both DC and Hershey. He plays the penalty kill with the Bears and is a quality faceoff man. His skill level is a bit of an underappreciated part of his game, but it needs to catch up to his quality skating.
His 200 foot game is not perfect quite yet, as the NHL game seemed to move a little too fast for him last year. However, if his game takes a step forward, it would not be surprising to see him play more games with the Caps this year. He may be the best option for a center call-up if the Caps need an energy line center for the bottom six.
Gersich is on the small side, but his game has a lot of speed to it. The Caps took Gersich in the fifth round in the 2014 draft. Coming off a National Championship with North Dakota last year, Gersich will look to improve on his nine goals. He played mostly in the bottom six for the Fighting Hawks last season and should see a bit more ice time this year with a few graduating seniors as well as the departure of Nick Schmaltz.
Gersich is fast, quick, and agile. He can quickly shift his weight and position to make other players miss. His offensive skills are strong including a lethal shot. Despite his small size, he is not afraid to enter the dirty areas of the ice. If he is able to build on last year in North Dakota and add some muscle to his frame, the Caps may wish to try and sign him sooner rather than later.
Sanford took the step last year that Gersich is hoping to take this season. With a bigger role at Boston College, Sanford raised his game. He ended the season third on the team in points and earned a contract with the Caps this summer. There’s is little doubt that Sanford will compete for call-ups with the Caps this season.
Zach Sanford has a large frame at 6’4” and has added the necessary weight needed to fill out his frame since the Caps drafted him in in the second round in 2013. He could still stand to gain a few more pounds of muscle and round out his full 200 foot game, but Sanford is already quite good in the offensive zone. His skill and size give him a decent chance at being called up to the Caps this year if they need a scoring line center fill in.
Slipping from a consensus top five Caps prospect in recent years is more about those leapfrogging Bowey and less about his own play. Bowey, drafted in the second round of the 2013 draft, led Hershey defenders last season in points, though his four goals were a bit underwhelming. His play at the defensive side of the ice improved, but there are still a couple wrinkles in his game that need to be ironed out, such as his one-on-one play.
Bowey is not small, but he isn’t a large defenseman either. His offensive skills are the best part of his game and include a good shot and great instincts with the puck. He doesn’t have a problem playing physically and has added plenty of muscle to his frame. There is a decent chance he gets his first call-up with the Caps this year, but don’t look for him to make a huge impact quite yet.
Riley Barber was selected in the sixth round of the 2012 draft. Like Bowey, his fall from a top five prospect is not of his own making. Barber came in at second on the Bears last season in points which is very impressive for a former sixth rounder in his first pro season.
Barber is not a standout skater. His shot is not the best in the system. His one-on-one skills are not all that impressive. Yet, he flat out produces. He produces by being in the right position, playing with a high hockey IQ and converting the chances he gets. Oh, and pure will. He makes others on the ice better, and he plays a full 200 foot game already. He is a gamer. This makes him a favorite to be a call-up if the Caps need a middle six winger this season.
Tomorrow, we’ll slide into the top five.
Headline photo: Amanda Bowen
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