NHL Player Comparisons for Washington Capitals' Top Prospects
As of now, three of the Caps' four leading scorers, their top two defensive pairings and all three goaltenders are homegrown, so building his team organically has been a strength of general manager George McPhee's in recent years.
And with a nice collection of impressive youngsters currently in the pipeline, there's reason to believe that a good number of the Caps' recent draft picks will be making waves in the NHL in the very near future.
Fans always want to know what current players a prospect compares to most accurately, so here's a look at which past and present NHL standouts each of the Caps' best youngsters are most similar to.
As undoubtedly Washington's top prospect, Capitals fans can't wait for the sublimely talented Evgeny Kuznetsov to make his NHL debut.
The Russian star has continued to remain in Russia since being drafted in the first round in 2010, but Kuznetsov told KHL Fanzone (h/t Russian Machine Never Breaks) that he'd like to make the move to Washington following the end of the 2013-14 KHL season.
This means he may be available to the Caps sometime this spring.
Though his production hasn't really improved during his last three KHL campaigns, there's no denying his NHL-caliber hands, shot and speed. He's going to fit in nicely somewhere in head coach Adam Oates' top six.
Kuznetsov's next goal will be to earn a spot on the Russian Olympic squad, and there are a couple of locks for that team that the 21-year-old has a lot in common with from a talent standpoint.
NHL Player Comparison: Evgeni Malkin
Kuznetsov's 6'3" frame, big reach and playmaking abilities make him seem a lot like the Penguins star, though the former No. 2 overall pick was certainly a lot more polished at Kuznetsov's age.
Since being taken at No. 16 a year ago, Tom Wilson earned a full-time job with the Capitals out of training camp and hasn't looked out of place.
No, he hasn't done much offensively, but given his role on the fourth line, that's to be expected.
Wilson's still managed to contribute in other ways, as his physicality, tenacity and willingness to stand up for his teammates are all very encouraging signs of things to come.
Wilson showed during his time with Plymouth of the Ontario Hockey League that he's got the talent to put the puck in the net. It just may take the power forward a couple of seasons to get there at the NHL level.
NHL Player Comparison: Scott Hartnell
Like Hartnell, Wilson's got a big frame, solid hands and, most importantly, a willingness to go into high-traffic areas on the ice. Whether Wilson's offensive upside is as high as Hartnell's remains to be seen, but it is worth noting that Hartnell didn't hit the 20-goal mark until his fifth full season with Nashville.
Since earning a surprise berth in the Caps' top six in 2011-12, the former second-rounder has shown glimpses of being a solid two-way rearguard in Washington for the future.
In his first full season in the NHL, Orlov racked up a solid 19 points in 60 games. Though injuries have derailed his development to a degree, the Russian project has all the tools to contribute at both ends of the ice.
A swift skater with solid hands, the 22-year-old showed his ability to step up in clutch situations as an amateur, as Orlov starred on Russia's World Junior squad in 2011 and earned tournament All-Star recognition en route to helping his country to the gold.
Now, with Orlov appearing to be in the mix to earn a full-time position on Calle Johansson's defensive unit, this is definitely a guy to watch down the road.
NHL Player Comparison: Dmitri Mironov
A one-time Capital, Mironov was a respected two-way defenseman in the NHL for a long time and even earned a trip to the All-Star Game during his stint with Anaheim. Though Orlov's probably more physical, Mironov's solid skating ability, combined with reasonably reliable defensive abilities, makes him a relatively accurate comparison.
Anytime a guy who gets taken in the sixth round is receiving hype, you know it's because they've been playing some pretty good hockey.
And that's exactly the case with Riley Barber, who had a monster year as a freshman with Miami University last season.
Now, Barber's got 28 points in 18 games with the Redhawks and is well on his way to obliterating the already-impressive 39 points he posted last year. It is also worth noting that Barber will once again be looked upon to carry some of the weight offensively for the U.S. at the World Juniors, after the 19-year-old put up six points in seven contests en route to the gold last year.
With top-flight hockey sense, competitiveness and superb skills with the puck, Barber may turn out to be a diamond in the rough for the Caps and could one day be a top-six forward in D.C.
NHL Player Comparison: Tony Amonte
Blackhawks fans of the 1990s will remember the Hingham, Massachusetts, native for his quick hands and solid two-way game. Barber, who is almost identical to Amonte in size, has a lot of the same traits as the former 40-goal sniper, but actually may be an even better playmaker.
I'm not saying that Barber's going to have a career that even comes close to amounting to that of Amonte, but there are some similarities in their styles.
After being taken in the first round of this past summer's NHL draft, Andre Burakovsky decided to make the jump to North America after spending last season playing professionally in Sweden.
So far, the talented Austrian-born winger has opened eyes during his first season with Erie of the OHL.
In just 31 games, Burakovsky—who is the son of one of the Swedish Elite League's all-time most decorated snipers—has a very impressive 23 goals and 47 points.
Yes, one should note that he's playing for an absolutely stacked Otters team that boasts four of the OHL's top 10 scorers, but there's no denying how quickly the Swedish-trained forward has adapted to the North American game.
He may be a year or two away, but Burakovsky's got all the tools to be in the NHL not long from now.
NHL Player Comparison: Alexander Semin
Like Semin, Burakovsky's somewhat slight for his 6'2" frame, but his silky-smooth hands and shot more than compensate for his lack of an imposing physique. Semin obviously had considerably higher-end skill when he was drafted back in 2002 and was definitely more NHL-ready, but Burakovsky's strengths are similar to those of the former Capitals star. Let's just hope he's more consistent.
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