Today marks the day when Rounds 2-7 of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft begin. The Capitals do not hold a draft selection until Round 4. In total they have a single pick in each of the 4th (120th Overall), 5th (151st), 6th (182nd), and 7th Rounds (213rd). So what will they do and who may they draft? All of the top prospects will likely be off of the board by then and it’s difficult to even project who may be available by that time as all 31 teams likely have drastically different draft rankings by the time the 4th Round happens. There are a few strategies we may see them employ and we also have a good idea of who they may select based on previous drafts.
For starters, the only trade I see the Capitals making is potentially moving up to the late 3rd Round or higher in the 4th Round if they have a player they have their sights set on and get nervous he will not be available to them at 120th overall. Other than that, the odds of selecting a contributing future NHLer are so low, and more or less even, through Rounds 5-7. I doubt we see the Capitals moving up in the draft, but they may move backwards in order to gain more selections.
The most likely draft strategy we will see employed by the Capitals is to draft the best player available to them, regardless of position, at their draft slot. The advantage of this strategy is that you are maximizing your scouting staff’s research and you truly are taking the best player in the draft, at least at that time, regardless of position, playing style, and maybe even size. The downside is that this can sometimes lead to organizational deficiencies in certain positions as you may not be drafting a blend of forwards, defensemen, and goaltenders. That said, there will be other teams around the NHL in the same situation and minor league and prospect depth trades happen a fair amount and can be addressed in the future.
Now, who will the Capitals select? Honestly, I tried to look through draft rankings and pin point some players based on prior draft history and it’s near to impossible as every public draft listing has wildly different rankings for any prospects after even the 2nd Round. But what I was able to find is who the Capitals have historically selected in the later rounds of NHL Entry Drafts under the Ross Mahoney regime. Mahoney has been the Capitals Draft guru for the past 16 seasons, outlasted George McPhee, and is now an Assistant GM for the Washington Capitals.
He certainly has his “type”, and it certainly has become narrowed down over the years. Since 2001, he has made 75 picks in Rounds 4-7, with 60% of those picks coming from the WHL, OHL, QMJHL, USHL, NCAA, Swedish Juniors, and the United States National Team Developmental Program (USNTDP). Since 2010, 77% of his Rounds 4-7 Picks have come from the WHL, USNTDP, USHL, NCAA, and Swedish Juniors. Since 2010 Mahoney and the Capitals have selected 13 forwards, 10 defensemen, and 3 goalies in the late rounds and if we limit it to the five mentioned developmental leagues above, its 10 forwards and 10 defensemen.
I cannot tell you who the Capitals will draft specifically, but as you watch the draft and cross off names, look for skaters from the WHL, USNTDP, USHL, NCAA, and Sweden to be the players the Capitals will most likely key in on in this year’s draft. Current NHLer Connor Carrick and Capitals prospects Travis Boyd, Riley Barber, Christian Djoos, Tyler Lewington, Shane Gersich, and Connor Hobbs all make up players who were selected in the late rounds by the Capitals and fit the profile mentioned above. Ross Mahoney seems to have found his “type” in the later rounds. And while it’s a large crop of players to key in on, it may be an indicator as to who the Capitals are interested in. My guess? 2 forwards, 1 defenseman, and 1 goaltender, with 3 of the 4 coming from the developmental leagues above. The one who isn’t from one of those leagues will be a Russian who falls in the draft. I get the feeling it will happen and the Caps jump on it.
By Tyler Anderson