New Capitals assistant GM talks Barry Trotz, prospects

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Michael Latta, shown here celebrating his first NHL goal last season, is currently a restricted free agent but was praised recently by Ross Mahoney (AP).

After 16 years running the amateur scouting department for the Washington Capitals, tasked primarily with guiding the organization through the annual NHL entry draft, Ross Mahoney knows just about everyone in the system. Here are some more of his thoughts from Monday’s teleconference, announcing his in-house promotion to assistant general manager, on various Capitals prospects:

>> Drafted 23rd overall by Washington in last season’s draft and fifth overall in the CHL import draft by Erie, the 19-year-old Andre Burakovsky tore through the OHL last season with the Otters, recording 87 points in 57 games. He has plans to attend this summer’s Capitals developmental camp, where an opportunity to impress the new regime of Coach Barry Trotz and rookie general manager Brian MacLellan awaits.

“I’m excited to see how he does at training camp,” Mahoney said. “I’ve always said, these players determine where they end up. If they come in and have good camps, that probably determines whether they go back to juniors for more seasoning or whether they go to the [AHL] or whether they make that step up to the Capitals. But Andre’s definitely on the right path. Very, very pleased with his progression. I’m really looking forward to him coming to training camp and seeing how he does.”

Provided Burakovsky misses making the Capitals roster, he will still be eligible for the short trek north to Hershey. Via an interview translation from Russian Machine, Burakovsky has been nursing a separated shoulder suffered with Erie, which has limited his offseason weight-lifting to legs-only until it heals. Listed last season at 6-feet-2 and 188 pounds, Burakovsky has some work left in that department.

“The challenge for him is to get stronger,” Mahoney said. “Knowing the type of person he is, he’s working as hard as he can right now to be able to come into camp and not have strength be an issue for him.”

>> Perhaps the future along Washington’s blue line, ranked among the team’s three best prospects by Hockey’sFuture, defenseman Madison Bowey both drew rave reviews from Mahoney and turned into an example of the new assistant GM’s philosophy on development.

“For the most part we’ve been very patient with our players and their development,” he said. “That’s very important. Sometimes when you rush players into the NHL it can backfire on you a little bit as far as development .Other players are ready to handle it.

“I look at [winger] Tom Wilson and the year he had [with the Capitals]. Tom played excellent. Physically he’s very strong, so he was able to handle it. We can’t forget that some of these young men are 18, 19 years old, and they’re trying to win positions in a man’s league. Strength sometimes for the younger guys becomes an issue, but Madison will come in and he’ll make it interesting for the coaches and management.”

Currently inked to a three-year, entry-level contract, Bowey scored 60 points over 72 games with the Kelowna Rockets last season, so the production has clearly been there. But perhaps more pressing to Capitals fans are Mahoney’s broader ideas about development and the need for patience, which echo what Trotz said during his own introductory interview with the Washington media.

>> Speaking of Trotz, the small world of professional hockey connected him and Mahoney through Mahoney’s hometown of Regina, where Trotz played junior hockey for the Pats.

“Some of my players that he played with on those teams are still in town, friends of mine,” Mahoney said. “Everyone has so much respect for him, not just as a coach but as a person. He’s right, everyone has to be on the same page. It’s a team game. Everyone in the organization has to be part of that team. We want to have the success that we want. We all want to have our energies channeled in the same direction, and we’ll have good results when we do.”

>> Half of the bounty received from Nashville for Filip Forsberg two Aprils ago, Michael Latta spent most of 2013-14 with Hershey, but was called up to the Capitals for 17 games, where he averaged 7:43 minutes on the ice uneventful possession numbers (48.2 Corsi-for, 46.2 Fenwick-for, per Hockey-Reference). He is a restricted free agent after his three-year, entry-level contract expired. A minimum qualifying offer of $605,000 would retain his rights, and MacLellan said the two sides have begun contract negotiations.

“Michael’s done well,” Mahoney said. “He had a good year in Hershey. I thought he played well when he came up and played with the Capitals. Looking for him to coming into training camp and push to be a regular for the Capitals. That should be Michael’s goal and that’s what we’re expecting.”

But was dealing Forsberg, who now grades as Nashville’s top prospect, for Latta and Martin Erat worth it?

“As an amateur, if you’re doing your job, you’re supplying players that are able to make the Capitals and you’re also supplying assets that enable the general manager to make moves they will be beneficial to the team,” Mahoney said. “As a group, as amateurs, we should be happy that we were able to provide the general manager with an asset he was able to use to make the deal.”

>> One more quote from Mahoney, on Riley Barber, a sixth-round draft pick in2 012 but currently playing for Miami (Ohio) University:

“Our scouts were really, really high on his ability to score, for one. He seemed like a natural scorer. We really liked his compete level. The games we saw, he was a very honest player. He was always willing to go to the net to score goals and make plays. His development since then has been very good.

“We like his attitude. Really like his ability to put the puck in the net and his determination to get to spots to be able to do that.”

Alex Prewitt covers the Washington Capitals. Follow him on Twitter @alex_prewitt or email him at alex.prewitt@washpost.com.
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