Marcus Johansson, the Capitals’ pick at no. 24 of the first round at this past June’s Entry Draft, will captain the Swedes at the World Junior Championships at month’s end, general manager George McPhee told me at Thursday night’s Caps-Panthers’ game. Moreover, his performance with Farjestads in the Swedish Elite League (7 goals, 6 assists in his first 23 games) has been so conspicuously strong that the GM anticipates Johansson attending Capitals’ training camp next fall and being a strong candidate for a roster spot.
Johansson is just one of what looks to be a envy-inducing collection of perhaps a half dozen Capitals’ prospects likely to skate at this year’s WJC, which begins December 26 in Saskatoon and Regina.
A hopefully blushing-from-shame USA Hockey has invited John Carlson onto its pre-tournament roster after snubbing the standout defender a year ago. The right-shooting Carlson could well be a first-unit pairing on the American blueline with 17-year-old, left-shooting Cam Fowler, who’s shredding the Ontario Hockey League with Windsor this fall (3 goals, 36 assists in 30 games). Fowler is certain to be selected in the top 5 of the 2010 draft and be the first rearguard selected.
Left wing Stefan Della Rovere, captain of the OHL’s Barrie Colts and a Capitals’ 7th round selection in the 2008 draft, skated on last year’s gold medal winning Canadian World Junior team; you’d think he’d be a strong candidate to return. Della Rovere has 25 points in 26 games this season in Barrie, and a healthy 56 PIMs while skating a +12. The Colts have won 16 games in a row in the ‘O.’ Joining Delle Rovere at the Canadian pre-tournament camp will be Cody Eakin of the Swift Current Broncos of the WHL. Eakin, a center drafted by the Caps in the third round this past June, is 5th in the ‘W’ in scoring this season with 26 goals and 17 assists in 31 games. Given Mathieu Perreault’s early season showing, how strong and deep do the Caps suddenly appear down the middle?
Last but certainly not least are two locks for the Russian World Junior roster, a pair of second-round picks from the past two entry drafts and returnees from the 2009 WJC, left wing Dmitry Kugryshev and defenseman Dmitri Orlov. Kugryshev’s having another strong season under Patrick Roy with the Quebec Remparts, and Orlov, who greatly impressed at the Capitals’ Development Camp in July, is skating in his second season in the KHL, Russia’s top professional league, with Mettalurg.
This collection of young, promising talent, again clogging the ranks at hockey’s most prestigious international annual tournament, is another feather in the cap for the Capitals’ scouting regime, and most importantly, it illustrates the Caps’ success at finding notable talent in the draft where a lot of other NHL clubs don’t. If you’re an NHL club and you have three or four of your kids skating at the WJC, that suggests a pretty healthy pipeline of talent looming, but when you’re a 100-pt. NHL club and you’re sending five or six guys to the World Juniors, multiple captains among them, well, wow.