DC Sports Day

Caps Prospect Report–NCAA Prospects



This is a first in a series of Caps’ prospect reports. You may be thinking, why would a DC sports site be giving us information about players who are skating in North Dakota or in Canada, or even in Sweden. So lets clear that up quickly. We want to be the site you come to for commentary–for what you can’t find elsewhere, either we look at another angle or we are covering what others are not. In this case, we will be bringing these articles to you because, in this salary cap era, young drafted players are critical to Washington’s future success–keeping under the salary cap requires the constant influx of young, cheap players. Most of those players come from the pool of draft picks the team has rights to (that are on its reserve list). And although many fans are very aware of how the Caps’ NHL team is doing, they are less aware of who will be forging the future of the team.

Today we are giving you a report on the five Capitals’ prospects who are currently skating with college teams. All the NCAA prospects are forwards who were drafted by Washington from 2012-2014. The Capitals will hold each player’s rights until the fourth August after being drafted. For one of these prospects, Thomas Di Pauli, it means that he needs to either be signed to an entry level contract by Washington by this coming August or he will become a free agent. For the others, the Caps have several more years to sign them.

Before we give you a report on each of the five prospects, lets quickly talk about why it is advantageous for an NHL team to draft a college-bound player and also to give a caveat about it. The drafting of players is governed by the NHL Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). According to that document, if a player is “college-bound” (meaning playing high school, USHL or Junior A or B hockey), then the NHL team basically has more than four years after the draft to sign him to an entry-level contract (ELC) This is more than two years longer than a team has to sign a Canadian Hockey League or European prospect to an ELC. Obviously, this extra time is a huge advantage when looking at non-star players or those who could be stars but are late bloomers.

The disadvantage is, however, that after the four years of college, the player can refuse to sign, declare himself a free agent, and just walk away from the team that drafted him. This after the NHL team has usually invested quite a bit of time and energy in helping develop the prospect with nutrition, weight training and hockey coaching. And if you think walking away is unusual, you would be wrong. Kevin Hayes and Blake Wheeler are just two examples of recent first round selections who walked away and signed with NHL teams other than those that drafted them.

The Caps have quite a few players who took the college route on the current team, including Jay Beagle, TJ Oshie, Zach Sill, Taylor Chorney, Matt Niskanen, Brooks Orpik, and Nate Schmidt. Although none of the above skaters were drafted by Washington, there will be one or more players in that category very soon.

Thomas Di Pauli, C/LW, Notre Dame (Senior)

Drafted: 4th round of 2012

Born in Italy, Di Pauli grew up in Chicago and came up through the US National Development Team system. The National Development Team Program (NDTP) is based in Ann Arbor, Michigan and is a program that was developed to bring the finest US players to one place to give them the best training and coaching. Di Pauli was with the team for two seasons from 2010-2012, prior to enrolling in University of Notre Dame. He has played in two World Junior Championships (U18 and U20) and is currently a fourth year alternate caption of the seventh ranked Fighting Irish. Di Pauli has seven multi-point games this season, and is second on the team in scoring, posting 29 points (12 goals, 17 assists) in 30 games. He is expected to be signed by the Caps to an ELC after the season.


Shane Gersich, C, North Dakota (freshman)

Drafted: 5th round of 2014

Small, with great speed, Gersich comes out of the Minnesota high school system. After three years at Holy Family Catholic High School in Victoria, Minnesota (southwest of Minneapolis), Gersich spent a year each with the NTDP and the Omaha Lancers of the USHL. This season at the University of North Dakota, Gersich has recorded seven points (six goals, one assist). Gersich is a player that the Caps will likely watch for all four years before deciding whether or not to offer him an ELC. He needs to get stronger physically and get stronger on the puck and fully adjust to this level of play.


Brian Pinho, C, Providence College (sophomore)

Drafted: 6th round of 2013

Pinho is a Massachusetts native who played prep hockey until joining the now dormant Indiana Ice (USHL) for the 2013-14 season. After one successful season in the USHL, Pinho began his career at Providence. This season, he has skated in 30 games and posted 22 points (8 goals, 14 assists). Recently, the Friars’ sophomore has been on fire, recording 13 points in as many games since the first of the year. Included in that has been two game winning goals in the last 10 days. A good two-way forward, Pinho is developing well at Providence. He is expected to take the full four years prior to being signed to an ELC, but he is on course to be offered an NHL contract.


Zach Sanford, LW, Boston College (sophomore)

Drafted: 2nd round of 2013

One of Washington’s top prospects, Sanford has excellent size and strength, and has been very offensively productive for Jerry York’s BC Eagles. With 32 points (11 goals, 21 assists) in 30 games, and the best plus minus rating on the team (+22), Sanford is one of BC’s top players. In fact, in last week’s Beanpot Championship, Sanford had the primary assist on Alex Tuch’s winning OT goal, and then on Friday night had two goals and an assist in the drubbing of Merrimack College. It is likely that, after the season, the Caps will be talking to Sanford about leaving school before his four years are up. BC is currently ranked number 2 in the nation; should the Eagles win the national championship, Sanford may seriously consider turning pro next season.


Steven Spinner, RW, Nebraska–Omaha (freshman)

Drafted: 6th round of 2014

Another Minnesota high school product, Spinner had been the Eden Prairie HS captain in the season that the Caps’ selected him in the sixth round of the entry draft. He also briefly played in the USHL (for two teams) that season. He began his career at University of Nebraska–Omaha this past fall and has been adjusting to college play. Spinner has recorded 11 points (five goals, six assists) in 26 games and has been able to use his excellent speed at this level. He is learning to play defensive hockey and think the game through, and is expected to need the full four years prior to the Caps making a decision as to whether to offer him an ELC.