Ross Mahoney Weighs In On The Expansion Draft and Prospects

Assistant General Manager Ross Mahoney took time out of his Monday, two days before the Vegas Golden Knights pick the players for their team, to talk about the Expansion Draft and some of the Capitals’ prospects. 

Not only is Mahoney the Assistant GM, but he is also heavily involved in the scouting and drafting of all of the young players selected in the draft or signed by the Caps as free agents. This is a very stressful, but exciting time for him, as he shared a few interesting tidbits during Monday afternoon’s conference call with the media.

Off the bat Mahoney was asked how he is going to approach the draft having no picks in the first three rounds, obviously something not ideal for Mahoney who loves finding talent. He responded, “We approach [the draft] like we have a pick in every round.” He could be saying this just because it’s possible they get more picks or maybe he knows the Caps will grab one or more picks before the fourth-round.

It’s certainly possible with a return on Grubauer or others. When asked if he thinks the Caps will move up in the draft for more picks he replied, “If it happens, it happens.” Mahoney agreed with General Manager Brian MacLellan that the team isn’t concerned about the lack of picks; after all, they always seem to find talent in the later rounds.

Many have suggested that this draft year is a pretty weak one in terms of top-end talent in the earlier rounds, but Mahoney has been in the scouting business for a long time and has heard that a lot. The draft might be considered weak, but “there always seem to be the same amount of players that make the NHL every draft year”, regardless of top-end talent. He reiterated that there are “still going to be players available” when it’s their turn to pick in the fourth-round. He backed this up by saying the Caps have been good at finding late-round talent before. He used such names as Connor Carrick (fifth in 2012), Mathieu Perreault (sixth in 2006), Braden Holtby (fourth in 2008), and even Johnny Oduya (seventh in 2001, never signed with the Caps). And this doesn’t even include recent picks such as Travis Boyd (sixth in 2011), Christian Djoos (seventh in 2012), and Riley Barber (sixth in 2012), who could all get extensive playing time in the NHL this year. And don’t forget about Shane Gersich (fifth in 2014 ) or Connor Hobbs (fifth in 2015) who also have the potential for great futures.

Injuries were a big issue for the Hershey Bears last season, especially to defenseman Madison Bowey and right wing Riley Barber, who missed months due to injuries. Mahoney took notice of this and stated his belief that some prospects have taken a step back due to those injuries. He spoke quite a bit about Bowey, who was “unfortunate” with the injury bug. He noted that “Madison is gifted athletically” and should recover well and be ready for camp to prove himself. Mahoney even went as far as to predict that Bowey would have had a “good chance” to play with the Caps last season if he hadn’t been hurt so long. He still suggested that Bowey seems ready for the NHL, but it’s “up to him” to get there and stay there, along with top prospect Jakub Vrana.

Mahoney didn’t seem too worried about Vrana’s development. The longtime front office member thought Vrana had a “very good year” for most of the season, but admits he needs to stop himself from being distracted and stay “consistent”. One will often see this in a lot of young players who get a taste of the NHL, then get sent back down and they don’t perform well because all they are focused on is returning there. 

Mahoney was asked quite a bit about goalies and the nature of them being picked when it comes to the draft. He issued “not many are taken in first-round” and that there’s “usually a point in the second-round where a goalie is taken, then six or seven are taken pretty quickly.” Of course this led to the point about the Capitals selecting Ilya Samsonov in the first-round, which Mahoney replied with the Caps drafting motto, “We select the best player available to us”.

Speaking of Samsonov, Ross was a big fan of the goalie’s abilities. He did wish Samsonov could have seen more games while in the KHL, but understands he was just the backup. Still, Samsonov played 27 games and had the best season of any 19-year old goalie in KHL history with a 2.13 goals-against average and .936 save percentage. Mahoney was most impressed with the Russian goaltender at the Under 20 World Junior Tournament. Not once, but twice he mentioned the accomplishment, saying he had a “really, really good tournament”, he “took it to another level”, and has been getting “better and better”. Samsonov still has one more year on his deal in the KHL. Mahoney projects he’s still on a timeline to get here at some point during the 2018-2019 season, and there’s “no need to rush him”.

When asked whether he expects backup Philipp Grubauer to be in the system next year and if he is selected in the Expansion Draft, who do he sees as Braden Holtby’s backup, Ross talked highly of Pheonix Copley. He said the Caps were “very happy to get him back” and rightfully so. Mahoney stated that Copley “has the upside to step into a backup roll” if it is needed next season.

Lastly, Mahoney was asked if they think the Caps are more prepared for Vegas Golden Knights General Manager George McPhee’s decisions and strategies than most teams because he was the GM for the Caps for 17 years. Mahoney said yes, but that, “you never know” what Vegas will do, because there are so many moving parts, that they can’t really predict what will happen. And that’s all Mahoney had to add. One thing is for sure, these next few days leading into the Expansion Draft and then leading into the actual 2017 NHL Entry Draft should be fascinating and Mahoney will be sure to have an update on his thoughts after it all.

By Luke Adomanis

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2 Responses to Ross Mahoney Weighs In On The Expansion Draft and Prospects

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