Former Caps defenseman John Erskine didn't get the best goodbye in team...
Caps Prospects Shine at Memorial Cup
While the Caps’ season ended a couple weeks ago, three of their prospects were still competing for the Memorial Cup of the Canadian Hockey League.
Kootenay Ice’s Cody Eakin (C, drafted 85th overall in 2009), Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors’ Brett Flemming (D, drafted 145th overall in 2009) and Saint John Sea Dogs’ Stanislav Galiev (LW, drafted 86th overall in 2010) all advanced, with their teams, to the tournament that hosted the best of each major Canadian hockey league. Kootenay came as the Western Hockey League Champions, Saint John was the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League Champions and while Mississauga lost the Ontario Hockey League Championship to the Owen Sound Attack, it’s the host team so the Majors made it to the tournament.
Owen Sound finished the tournament in fourth, Kootenay finished third and Galiev and Flemming battled it out for the title. The Saint John Sea Dogs were able to beat the Mississagau St. Michael Majors 3-1 to become the 2011 Memorial Cup Champions Sunday night.
Here’s a progress report and recap of each prospect’s fantastic and productive season:
Cody Eakin is the little ginger that could, and did. When he didn’t make the Caps roster right out of camp, he was sent back for his presumed last year of juniors. This season he had to prove he was ready and he certainly did. He spent his regular season split between the Swift Current Broncos and the Kootenay Ice. The blockbuster trade that sent him to Kootenay involved the Ice giving up five current players and three draft picks, just for him. Undoubtedly, the better portion of his season came with Kootenay. Eakin is a smart forward with good hands. He knows where the puck is and, even if he’s not on the score sheet, he’s creating traffic and making plays possible. He’s a two-way player that, with a little bit of skill sharpening will do well in the NHL.
He tied for 12th place in goals in the WHL for the regular season and tied 11th in points. In the playoffs, he tied for second in points in the WHL and fifth in goals.
With Kootenay, in the regular season, he proved to be an integral part of the team as he finished first overall in points and tied for first in goals with Matt Fraser. In the playoffs, he tied for first in points and goals.
There’s no doubt that Eakin will be coming to training camp this year with the Caps. He’s free to play with Washington, Hershey (AHL), East Carolina (ECHL) or anywhere else the Caps choose to send him. But it would be unlikely to see him in an Ice jersey when October rolls around.
Flemming is on the smaller side when it comes to defensemen (5’11”), but that certainly didn’t stop him this season. His 79 regular season penalty minutes show that he’s certainly capable of being physical when he needs to be. He’s able to join the rush, but at the same time knows when to stay back and hang around the point. He’s got a clean, hard shot that he’s not afraid to unleash. With Mississauga, he played on the penalty kill and power play and logged plenty of ice time. In fact, Flemming was arguably one of the team’s core defensemen. He got in his opponents’ faces and had an eye for the puck. If John Carlson is Mike Green version 2.0, then, despite his size, Flemming should be considered version 3.0.
Flemming finished the regular season with an OHL-leading +/- of plus-60 and tied for 49th overall in points. In the playoffs, he tied for 11th in points and first on his team in +/-.
On the Majors, he finished sixth in points during the regular season and fifth during the playoffs.
Flemming, in the same draft class as Eakin, doesn’t have to play in juniors next year, but his size and his position might prevent him from moving on. Defensemen, in general, take a little longer to mature. At this point, he’s a development camp veteran and if he can prove himself this year in development camp and again in training camp (assuming he gets called back), there’s a good chance he could end up with the Bears in Hershey or the Stingrays in East Carolina.
If the lowlight of your entire season is being the last one cut from the Russian World Juniors team, then you’ve probably had a pretty successful season. That describes Stanislav Galiev this year. He helped lead his team to a QMJHL Championship and then continued to help them win the first Memorial Cup in team history. After winning the Cup, he tweeted that he was also the third Russian in CHL history to win the trophy. His skill has been compared to Alexander Semin, but he shows knowledge of the game and aggression when needed. He’s got good puck handling skills. Sure, he suffers from the Russian toe drag syndrome, but with one more year of junior eligibility, he should be put right and become just the kind of young firepower the Caps need on their team.
Galiev finished the regular season 18th in points in the QMJHL and tied for eighth in goals behind teammates Jonathan Huberdeau and Zach Phillips, and in front of Tomas Jurco and Nathan Bealieu, all of which are top prospects in this year’s NHL draft. In the playoffs Galiev was consistent, finishing fourth in points and tied for fourth in goals.
Amongst his teammates, he finished fourth in points and third in goals during the regular season, but stepped it up in the playoffs to finish second in both points and goals.
Galiev still has a season of junior eligibility and won’t be playing professional hockey unless he makes the Caps roster right out of camp. At this point, that seems unlikely, but there’s no harm in giving him another year to grow. Galiev has the opportunity to try out for the Russian World Juniors team again and, potentially, play alongside fellow Russian Caps prospect Evgeni Kuznetsov who was one of Russia’s heroes at the last tournament. Galiev is right where he needs to be in development, and one more year certainly wouldn’t hurt his preparation for the pro leagues.