The Washington Capitals draft strategy has always been draft the best available player and that strategy has treated them pretty well over the years. But sometimes it’s hard to ignore the needs of the team. Looking through the prospect pool and the young players currently on the Capitals roster, it’s easy to see where the Capitals need the most help.
Ranking from strongest to weakest in terms of depth, this is how the Capitals shake out:
- Left handed defensemen
- Right handed defensemen
Provided below will be three players and one long-shot, by position that should be targets with the Capitals 1st round pick (#31) and 2nd round pick (#46). We’ll start first with where the Capitals need to improve the most.
- The Capitals have done a fair job of picking up talent throughout the draft the last 10 years, even when picking late in the 1st round. But it’s extremely difficult to find top 6 potential centers past the first 10-15 picks. Centers are like quarterbacks in football: they are the hottest commodity. That means all the good ones go early. The Capitals have some nice prospects like Garrett Pilon, Brian Pinho, and Travis Boyd, but it’s a longshot any of them become top 6 centers. And that’s where the Capitals are weakest: top 6 centers. Luckily Evgeny Kuznetsov and Nicklas Backstrom should be here for a while, so the Caps aren’t in desperate need of one, but you can never have too many centers.
Players I always love to target in the draft are the youngest players, because if they are good in their draft year at 17, then they might be out of this world as 18-year-olds. Semyon was literally hours from being born to get into the 2019 draft. So if you look at his season in the OHL it isn’t all that impressive with 12 goals and 39 assists in 56 games (76th most points in the OHL), but the reports say he finished the season very strong. Meaning he could come out next season, tear the OHL up as a young 18-year-old, and everyone will wonder why he fell so far in the draft. His weakness is his size, he’s only 5’9″ and 159lbs, but his vision and IQ are very high so it helps him avoid physical play, much like Christian Djoos. His playmaking skills are high-end and he’s very mature with the puck for a youngster, he never panics. He’s actually projected to go in the 4th or 5th round, but Capitals shouldn’t let him get by with their 2nd round pick. He could be one of the steals of the draft.
Playing on the 2nd worst team in the OHL, Ty really stepped up his game. He was one of the youngest players on the team but had the 2nd most points with 27 goals (most on his team) and 32 assists (2nd most on his team) in 67 games. He was also first on his team in shots with 239. The one player in front of him in points was for years older and only had two more points. He does everything very well. He can be used on the powerplay or penalty kill. If you want offense from him or to shut down the other teams best players, he can do both Every game he gives it all as he’s very competitive. He’s been jumping up the draft boards as of late because of the interviews with teams. Reportedly he’s a spectacular young man that is well spoken, loyal, and always ready to help anyone on and off the ice. I can see a team taking him before the Capitals at #31 but if he’s there he’s worth it.
Much like Dellandrea, Wise does very quite well. He plays a great two-way game and can dish out some great passes as he’s a playmaker at heart. He does have some injury concerns, but that might mean he will be available for the Caps late in the 1st round. He has a good shot he doesn’t use enough, though he was playing with Oliver Wahlstrom so you basically have to pass it to him. It’s like any center that plays with Ovechkin; why shoot it when he can? There isn’t much flaw to Wise’s game and if he hits his potential could be a great 2C on a NHL team.
Long Shot: Rasmus Kupari – the Finnish center was supposed to go in the top 10 but has been slowly falling off of the draft board due to a poor U20 Worlds tournament and he ended his season with a concussion. Highly doubtful he drops to the 31st pick but not out of question.
Right Handed Defensemen
- Maybe the hottest thing in hockey after centers are top pairing right-handed defensemen. They are rare to come upon because once someone has one they never give them up. Though it’s interesting because the Capitals are currently in a fight to re-sign their #1RHD John Carlson. The Capitals aren’t that weak in the position as Madison Bowey and Connor Hobbs (don’t sleep on Chase Priskie) but they only have 2nd pair potential, doubtful they can reach that top pairing ceiling. But like the center position, the Caps should be safe there with (possibly) Carlson and Matt Niskanen for the next three years. But it never hurts to get high-end right handers in the pipeline.
I’ll keep my thoughts on Merkley short since I wrote about him here. But if he falls to the Capitals then there is no other player they should consider. He has high-end elite NHL potential. He must be taken if he falls to #31.
I consider Addison a Merkley lite. He does everything Merkley does but just not as elite. This doesn’t mean he isn’t worth the pick. He’s an offensive defensemen that can push the play with his skating and offensive IQ. He placed 9th in WHL defensive scoring with 11 goals and 54 assists in 68 games. To boot, he is one of the youngest defensive players in the WHL. Like most small offensive defensemen (5’10” 180lbs), Addison can have a problem with the physical side of the game. He needs to add muscle and use his skating more to escape dicey situations.
As on overager it’s hard to really be impressed with a player because if you aren’t drafted the first time there’s usually a reason. That reason was probably his skating, as he never really hits top end speed. But he has great offensive skills and his IQ usually helps him on the defensive side. He isn’t small and he isn’t huge, but would still like to see more physically out of him. If Merkley or Addison are gone by their 2nd pick, the Caps should take a flier on him if they are looking for some defensive help with offensive upside.
Long Shot: Bode Wilde – Maybe a couple of months ago the Capitals could get Wilde with their 1st round pick but he’s really jumped up the boards since. Wilde is a very physical yet highly skilled, quick defensemen with size (6’2″ 195 pounds). He can destroy you along the boards then move up the ice with speed and score. It’s not easy finding that combination of skill, size, and speed in a young player so it’s doubtful he drops to #31.
- By far the easiest position to draft for is wingers because there are hundreds of them. The Capitals aren’t in desperate need to find top 6 wingers because Jakub Vrana, Andre Burakovsky, and Tom Wilson are all under the of 24 and aren’t going anywhere soon. Add to this some guy named Alexander Ovechkin will always be a threat and even TJ Oshie has a couple of years left of top 6 in him. But as for players in the pipeline there aren’t many top 6 potential options. Players that could possibly make it there are Axel Jonsson-Fjallby and Kristian Roykas Marthinsen, but it’s too early to tell. Since there’s the possibility of so many great wingers being available when the Capitals pick I upped the number from 3 to 4.
If you like small players then Ishakov is for you. He comes in at 5’8″ and 173lbs. That obviously prevents him from winning physical battles, but his IQ is high, maybe even elite-level, and his high-end skill keeps him away from the opponent. Scouts have been a bit turned off by him because despite his size, he isn’t a very fast skater, which is usually the calling card of all smaller players. He is only 17 so he does have time to grow and work on his skating to compliment his offensive gifts. Caps could probably grab him with their 3rd round pick, but he is worth the gamble in the 2nd round. If he can put it all together he could be a top line threat in the NHL.
This American/Fin player has a lot offensive skill. He’s a playmaking winger that has a decent shot. His best aspect is his IQ when thinking about the game moving up the ice. He can speed up the play or slow it down as he pleases to find his teammates in the soft areas, like our very own Andre Burakovsky. He could be better in his own zone and in the tough to go areas, but he doesn’t present himself as a player that can’t learn that part of the game. If he can put his size together with his offensive skill he could be deadly at the NHL level.
If you want a bigger version of Ishakov then look no further than 6’3″ Marchenko. He might not be as skilled as Ishakov, but he can still impress you with his offensive ability. He sometimes rely on his center too much but he can still make some excellent plays by himself to create scoring chances with his hard-nosed approach. If you can pair him with a great center then he can be the player to really finish off plays for them. For his size he could be more physical and better defensively. He should be available for both the 31st and 46th pick for the Capitals.
Buzzsaw. That’s the word you’ll hear a lot describing Berggren. He’s a north south player that will grind you down, hit you, and make opponents uncomfortable. To add to this he has some nice puck handling skills and can dish out the puck quickly and accurately. His shot isn’t great but it doesn’t matter as most of his goals come right in the blue paint. Don’t need to be accurate when you have an open net. He reminds me of our very own Fjallby, though more skilled. He works hard every shift and won’t disappoint any coaches. He’s a player every team needs.
Long shot: Dominik Bokk – Chris Laroche talks about Bokk here so if you want more in depth analysis check it out. Of all of the “long shots” in this article, Bokk is the one that could actually work out. I’ve seen him go as low as 12th or going into early 2nd round. Caps could get him.
Left Handed Defensemen
- The Capitals are deep on the left defensive side. Right now they have a #1 player in Dmitry Orlov followed by Christian Djoos. But it would not be surprising if Michal Kempny is resigned to booster that left side. That’s an amazing 1, 2, 3. Looking past that, coming in the pipeline is top pairing potential Lucas Johansen. The two Swiss players Jonas Siegenthaler and Tobias Greisser also have NHL potential. Even in worst case scenario if those two don’t make it, the Capitals are still set for years on the left side with Orlov-Johansen-Djoos. If Capitals can, they should be passing on all left-handed defensemen unless it’s a player that’s high and above everyone else around that pick.
I’m usually not a fan of grabbing more defensive than offensive players, but Sandin could be worth the grab. He isn’t a defensive defensemen, he just isn’t an offensive dynamo. His passing his high-end when moving up the ice and he’s smart enough to get out of trouble, but scouts don’t like his skating that much, which could get him in trouble at higher levels.
I remember watching Scott during the U20 Worlds tournament and being very impressed. He’s an overager, so he was passed over in last years draft. That won’t happen again. He’s small, only 5’9″ and 165lbs, but he’s very smart and knows what to do with the puck to get out of trouble. He’s fantastic in the ozone and knows where the puck should go and will be. His skating isn’t excellent and mixing that with his size, he can be beat to the outside by bigger, faster opponents. It’s definitely a part of his game that needs to improve.
Though not the biggest player at 6’0″ and 183 pounds, Jonny competes hard and never gives up on a play. He skates very well and knows how to get up the ice and maneuvers well in the offensive zone. He doesn’t have great offensive skills but they could be there as he progresses more through his career. His defensive side is strong and it’s what makes him great on the ice. He has upside to his game
Long Shot: K’Andre Miller – If you want the left-handed version of Bode Wilde than Miller is your man. He’s a big boy at 6’4″ and 192lb. To top it all off he can skate very well too, so imagine that body hitting you at high speeds. Oof. But unlike Wilde, there isn’t much of an offensive game to Miller. It’s there, just not prevalent. You want him on your team to shut down opponents. He’ll probably go early 20s.
- I don’t really need to talk much about the Capitals and goaltenders. They have been one of the best or maybe the best at drafting goaltenders the last 10 years. As of now they have Braden Holtby back stopping them for another two seasons, then by that time elite prospect Ilya Samsonov will step in to carry them for eight years probably, so finding a goalie now isn’t that important. It also doesn’t help that this is a very weak draft for goalies and no need to grab one in the first two rounds, but I’ll present four goalies I think are worth grabbing and when to grab them.
Amir Miftakhov – 3rd round
Veini Vehvilainen – 4th round
Eric Green – 6th round
Akira Schmid – 6th round
By Luke Adomanis