2015 NHL Draft Preview: Washington Capitals, By George Foussekis


It is an exciting time of year for hockey fans as the 2015 NHL Draft is right around the corner in a matter of days.  The Washington Capitals are coming off a season that was deemed pretty successful by many, but there is still the hope that the club can go further in the postseason.

Under Barry Trotz, the Capitals have established a more defensive structure.  The signings of former Penguin blueliners Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen last summer also solidified that new philosophical change for the Capitals.

But while the Capitals defended well most of the season, there were times when they struggled to score goals.  Yes, Alex Ovechkin led the entire league in goals with 53 goals.  But after Alex Ovechkin, the Capitals were starved for goal scoring. To put things into perspective, the Capitals next top producer in goals was Troy Brouwer, who had 21 goals.  When Alex Ovechkin was not scoring, and the powerplay was not clicking, the Capitals were way off and were not productive on the score sheet.

Addressing the Needs

The Capitals had a revolving door of top line right-wings throughout most of the season.  Tom Wilson, Marcus Johansson, Jay Beagle, and Joel Ward all took part in the top line right-wing carousel.

This glaring hole in the lineup is something that needs to be filled by the Washington Capitals.  Filling this hole will be no easy task for GM Brian MacLellan.  He is going to have to do his homework into trying to find a permanent stable solution.

This brings us back to the 2015 NHL Draft.  Can Brian MacLellan find what he is looking for via the trade route?

There are a lot of names in this year’s “trade” rumor mill.  Phil Kessel, David Backes, TJ Oshie, Patrick Sharp, and Kyle Okposo are just some of the names that have been circulated around.  Whether the rumors are true or not, these players could all come to Washington and be productive.

The Cost

Obviously, quality top line right-wing players do not grow on trees.  The price to acquire these players is usually astronomically high.  But is it worth the high cost to try and fill a glaring hole in the lineup?

I am sure most Capitals fans are in agreement that the club is in “win-now” mode since Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom are in the primes of their careers.  The best chance for the Capitals to take a serious run at the Stanley Cup is the next 3-5 years.

The Capitals currently hold the #22 overall pick in the first round at the NHL Draft.  Could this pick be part of a package deal that lands the Capitals a top line right-wing?  It is very possible that the Capitals could sacrifice their 1st round pick and other picks/prospects to land a top tier right wing.  It is a steep price, but it is a steep price they will have to pay in order to get what they need.

Who is the Solution?

It is debatable on who the Capitals should trade for and who would be the right fit for the club.  Could the Capitals trade for a player like David Backes, who brings a lot of size and physicality to the position?  Could the Capitals want someone like Patrick Sharp, who brings more of a finesse and speed game to the position?

The best lines in hockey include a combination of players who all bring something different to the table.  The question that the scouts and general managers should be asking is who would be the best fit for Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom?

If you were to ask me my opinion, I prefer the more rugged hockey player over the skilled and finesse player.  So my solution would be a David Backes or a Kyle Okposo type player.  The Capitals were the most physical team in the playoffs up until their elimination.  I do not feel there is anything wrong with adding more of that physicality to the lineup.

Washington has been tied to Chicago’s Patrick Sharp ever since the last NHL Trade Deadline.  Do I think he can help the Capitals?  Absolutely.  But I do believe that the Capitals will have to shed another body in order to make room for his cap hit for the next couple of seasons.

If the Capitals can shed someone like Brooks Laich or Troy Brouwer in order to bring Patrick Sharp into the fold, it would be an upgrade for the club.  Sharp has proven to be a legitimate goal scorer in the NHL.  He would definitely bring some secondary punch that the Capitals desperately need.  However, with what the Blackhawks are currently seeking in return (1st round pick, A-level prospect, and a top 6 forward on an entry deal) I would not pull the trigger on such a deal.  Sharp is a good player, but not a great player.  The Blackhawks are trying to get the king’s ransom in return right now as they are coming off their Stanley Cup victory.  But the final deal should not cost as much as they want.  The Blackhawks are currently sitting in salary cap hell and will need to shed some money.

I am confident that the Capitals will make a move.  GM Brian MacLellan has shown that he can be very aggressive when making a transaction.  The time is now for the Capitals to take runs at the Stanley Cup.

About Jon Sorensen

Jon has been a Caps fan since day one, attending his first game at the Capital Centre in 1974. His interest in the Caps has grown over the decades and included time as a season ticket holder. He has been a journalist covering the team for 10+ years, primarily focusing on analysis, analytics and prospect development.
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