We've done the Canadian capital, but now it's time for the American one. Bring on the Washington Capitals.
Tom Wilson - Plymouth Whalers
All in all, Wilson had a terrific season with Plymouth. I felt like he was one of Plymouth's most consistent forwards (even during their stretch at the beginning of the season when the team wasn't playing so hot). His confidence offensively grew a lot and he became nearly as much of a factor with the puck as he is without it. He's starting to learn how much success he can have by driving hard to the net with the puck and that few OHL defenseman can stop him once he puts his head down. I think the other noticeable improvement was his shot release. His shot itself might still lack some accuracy and strength, but I felt like he was more apt at getting rid of shots in close quarters and fending off checks better in front of the net. And of course, there's still all the positives he brings without the puck (like forechecking, physicality, pugilism, backchecking). He's a hard working guy who has a long NHL career ahead of him. The question remains, what does Washington do with him next year. I've seen some suggesting that he could crack their roster this year (especially given his cup of tea during the 2013 NHL playoffs). I personally think that would be a mistake. I think Washington needs to be patient with him to really allow his offensive abilities to blossom. If he's in the NHL now, I think he'll struggle to keep up with the pace of the game in the offensive end and I don't think his confidence with the puck (as much as it grew this year) is quite up to that level. Could he contribute in other ways? Absolutely. But in order to get the best out of him in the long run, I think he needs to be back in junior for another year. If he's back with Plymouth, I think he's got a shot at 30 goals and 70 points.
Connor Carrick - Plymouth Whalers
I was incredibly impressed by Carrick in his first year in the league. I thought he was a wonderful and key addition to Plymouth's already solid roster and he was arguably their number one defenseman this year. He plays in all situations and excels. He may not be a big guy, but he's visibly stocky and doesn't back down from anyone in the defensive end. He's feisty in front of the net and in the corners, and he'll lower the boom on you in the open ice. Offensively, he makes smart decisions with the puck and is capable of starting the breakout with a rush or a solid first pass. He's also growing as a powerplay quarterback and is learning how to use his shot as a weapon. I think the Caps have a real diamond in the rough with Carrick. Next year he'll return to Plymouth where he'll continue to play a critical role for the team. I expect him to have a big year and he should crack the 50 point plateau. He's also a serious candidate to wear the "C" for Plymouth, given his role as alternate this past year.