Sunday, August 21, 2005

The Class of 2002

If folks want to get an indication of where the Caps stand with their rebuild, then look not to Alexander Ovechkin, but to their class of 2002 prospects. For those who need reminding, these are the top prospects of that class:

Steve Eminger (1st round/12th overall)
Alexander Semin (1/13)
Jakub Klepis (1/16)
Boyd Gordon (1/17)
Jonas Johansson (1/28)
Maxime Daigneault (2/59)
Tomas Fleischmann (2/63)

When people speak of the core of prospects, this is much of it. I would think Eminger, Semin, and Gordon are all but locks to make the parent club out of camp. Klepis would not be all that much of a surprise. The others, I think, are long shots to make the squad out of camp.

But in a sense, this could be a watershed year for this class. If these players don’t show promise – in the fourth season after their selection – then one would have to wonder if the Caps’ rebuild won’t be delayed even further. Particularly for Eminger (thought to be a top-four defenseman when selected), Semin (a first line scoring winger), and Gordon (a checking center with perhaps some scoring upside), this is a year to establish a footprint.

I’m not arguing that these players will be fully-functional NHLers out of the box. In the case of Eminger, Semin, and Gordon, we’re talking about guys with only about 150 games of experience among them. For the rest, none. But this could – and frankly should – be a “leap year” for them. More than Ovechkin, more than the players picked up on the free agency wire, these will be the players to watch . . . and to watch grow.

-- The Peerless

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