Tuesday, September 17, 2013

One To Watch: Washington Capitals

The Capitals only had one rookie contribute much at the NHL level last season and that was 25 games from defenceman Tomas Kundratek. The former Medicine Hat Tiger was originally drafted by the New York Rangers but has worn a Caps jersey for all 30 NHL games that he has appeared in. 

Yevgeni Kuznetsov is the top prospect for the Washington Capitals but he's spending another season in the KHL before coming over to this side of the Atlantic. 

There are a number of other quality guys in the system, Tom Wilson and Madison Bowey immediately come to mind, but the franchise isn't as deep as it was a decade ago. That's probably a good thing because it should mean that there is more NHL success so they are drafting later than they had been.

2012 Choice: Braden Holtby - The former Saskatoon Blades keeper established himself as the new starter for the Caps with a strong lockout shortened season. His 23 wins were one off the league high although he managed the total playing far fewer games than the trio of goalies with 24 wins. Holtby is still young but a strong start to the year would make him a viable consideration for the 2014 Canadian Olympic team.

My 2013-14 One To Watch pick for the Capitals comes after the jump. 

Riley Barber (RW)
Miami RedHawks
6'0, 198 lbs
Drafted 167th overall in 2012

Photo: Capitals Outsider
Was last year an anomaly or was Riley Barber underrated going into the year? I ask because no one expected the Michigan product to do what he did in 2012-13 which was to lead the entire NCAA in freshman scoring.

Not only that but Barber was named CCHA Rookie of the Year, to the All-Rookie Team plus to the 1st All-Star Team. His success definitely set the bar of expectation fairly high for his sophomore year.

Adding to the intrigue is the fact that with conference realignment, Miami will play a completely new list of opponents. The RedHawks were a force in the old CCHA along with Michigan and Notre Dame but how will they fair playing a schedule against Denver, North Dakota, Western Michigan and Duluth on the like on a regular basis?

Photo: Rachel Lewis
On an individual level, Barber is one of a select few of players still eligible to return to the World Junior Championship for USA. The Americans will need Barber at his best to improve their chances of defending their 2013 gold medal. 

Barber notched 6 points in 7 games at the event in Russia last January so he'll be expected to be an offensive leader for USA this time around in Sweden. Can he rise to that challenge?
What it comes down to for me is this: I was impressed by what he did last year and I want to know if he can build off of that or not. That's why, for me, Capitals prospect Riley Barber is a solid pick for One To Watch.

Up Next: Los Angeles Kings 

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