Tuesday, July 17, 2007

What Do Eminger and Sutherby Have In Common?

Besides the fact that they were both re-signed today, defenseman Steve Eminger and forward Brian Sutherby have more in common. They are both former 1st round picks who started their professional careers with great fanfare and promise, only to struggle so far to live up to expectations.

Eminger, the 12th overall selection in the 2002 draft, began his Capitals career later that year at the tender age of 19. He showed that he was clearly overmatched at the NHL level, so after failing to secure a regular spot in the lineup, and playing in just 17 games with the big club, the Caps reassigned him back to Kitchner of the OHL.

Here we are five seasons later and the talented but inconsistent Eminger has yet to secure a regular spot in the lineup. In fact he was a healthy scratch nine times last season including six consecutive games back in February. Eminger has always been touted to be an offensive defenseman ever since he tallied 19 goals for Kitchner back in '01-'02. The problem is he has never shown that offensive ability at the professional level totaling only nine goals combined in the NHL/AHL.

Even though he is still only 23 years old, with the abundance of young defenseman at the Capitals disposal Steve Eminger is running out of time to live up to his potential.

It may be hard to believe, but Brian Sutherby was the Caps 26th overall selection all the way back in 2000. Over the years he has excited fans with his ability to agitate opponents and chip in key goals along the way. But nagging injuries and inconsistent play have prevented him from reaching his full potential.

After spending the entire lockout season with Portland of the American Hockey League, Sutherby put up career highs in '05-'06 with 14 goals and 30 points in 76 games. But this past year the checking line specialist failed to build on those numbers, slipping back to only 7 goals and 17 points in 69 games.

With Boyd Gordon emerging as the team's top checking line center, what role will Brian Sutherby have with this team in the upcoming season? While the Capitals brass love the intangibles he brings to the game, the 25 year-old Sutherby will have plenty to prove as he looks to fight off a number of the Capitals young forwards that look ready to try and break into the lineup.

Other Capitals News: The team has announced that it has come to terms with center Jason Morgan who spend the past season with the Minnesota Wild organization. Morgan appeared in four games with the Wild and 57 games with their AHL affiliate, the Houston Aeros, talling 12 goals and 14 assists. He should provide the Hershey Bears with some quality depth at the center position as he is described by sportsnet.ca as a player who, "Posseses sound work ethic and leadership qualities."

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