The National Hockey League selected Pittsburgh and Washington as the combatants for the upcoming Winter Classic as both a marquee matchup of the game's greatest superstars in Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin, and also a matchup of two of the league's elite teams. The Caps and Pens are both amongst the league leaders in Wins, Points Percentage and Shot Differential. Both franchises have been terrific the last few seasons, with the Penguins logging three 100-plus point seasons over the last four campaigns with the other season being a 99 pointstheir Stanley Cup-winning campaignwhile the Capitals have been over 100 points for the last two seasons. Both teams don't show any signs of slowing down in the immediate future; however, what are the long term projections for the two marquee squads?
Washington Capitals - prospects
Looking at Washington, be it at the NHL level or coming up through the system, they have a wealth of young talent. John Carlson is one of the best young defensive players in the game with high end offensive upside and is already logging over 21 minutes per game before his 22nd birthday. Their other top defensive youngster Karl Alznerwho was arguably an overdraft at fifth overallstill projects as a an above average defensive player. Forward Mathieu Perreault has also turned out to have been a tremendous value pick as a sixth rounder, having shown above average scoring ability in the AHL that seems to be translating over to the NHL very well. Washington's 2009 first rounder Marcus Johanssonwho made the team as a 19 year oldis another promising youngster with a second line ceiling and is a treat to watch skate.
Looking outside the NHL, the Capitals have a duo of talented Russians playing in the KHL, as well as for the current Russian World Junior team: Evgeny Kuznetsov and Dmitri Orlov. I wrote some brief notes on the two in my World Junior preview for Team RussiaKuznetsov is a player that I really like. He still has a few things to address in his development, but he has the potential to be a first line player, if not an above average first line player at the NHL level if a few things go right. Other notable prospects in the system include Stanislav Galiev who was the first overall pick in the 2009 CHL Import Draft and was touted for a while as a first rounder last year before having a bad season and slipping to the third round, and Cody Eakin, who's playing for Team Canada at the World Juniors.