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The 2018 NHL Entry Draft is be the first draft that will involve drafting of players primarily born in 2000; i.e. after the “turn of the millennium”. According to sociologists, this is the beginning of the transition to the next generation and the end of the so-called Millennium Generation, who “came of age” beginning in the Year 2000. Here is a year by year look at the players the Washington Capitals drafted that were part of the Millennial Generation.
The very first player of the “Millennial Generation” that the Caps drafted was Brian Sutherby. He was a center who was playing for the Moose Jaw Warriors of the Western Hockey League. He played a few games with the Caps during the 2001-02 season but was returned to the Warriors to finish his junior career. He spent the next season, 2002-03, with the Caps but divided the next season with both the Caps and their farm team, the Portland Pirates. He played with the Caps through the 2006-07 season and was traded to the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for a second-round pick in November 2007. His best season with the Caps was in 2005-06, when he scored 14 goals and added 16 assists. He played 259 games for the Caps and had 26 goals and 35 assists for 61 points. For his NHL career, he played 460 games, scoring 41 goals and adding 49 assists.
The Caps’ second pick of the 2000 NHL Entry Draft was left winger Matt Pettinger, who was selected with 43rd overall pick, after beginning his career with the Calgary Hitmen of the Western Hockey League. He spent his first three professional seasons with both the Capitals and their then-American Hockey League affiliate, the Portland Pirates, but finally earned a full-time spot on the Capitals’ roster in 2003-04. He remained with the team until the 2007-08 trade deadline, when he was traded to the Vancouver Canucks for winger Matt Cooke. His best season with the Capitals was 2005-06, when he scored 20 goals and had 18 assists for 38 points, and had 16 goals and 16 assists the following season. , In 334 games played with the Capitals, he scored 52 goals and added 47 assists. For his NHL career, he played in 422 games, scored 65 goals and had 58 assists.
None of the remaining players from that draft made it to the NHL. Pettinger, the second pick in that draft class, proved to be a better offensive player than Sutherby. Both ended up being traded during the 2007-08 season.
The Caps had ten picks in this draft but no first-round picks. They did not choose until the second round, and with the 58th overall pick chose defenseman Nathan Paetsch, who played with the Moose Jaw Warriors. However, he and the Caps were unable to agree on a contract, and as a result, he re-entered the NHL Entry Draft the following year and was drafted by the Buffalo Sabres.
Their second pick in the draft was left winger Owen Fussey, who played for the Calgary Hitmen, whom they selected with the 90th overall pick. He played in four games with the Capitals during the 2003-04 season, recording one assist. He primarily played his professional career with the Caps’ AHL affiliates, first with the Portland Pirates and then the Hershey Bears.
They chose eight other players in this draft, with only one of them, defenseman Johnny Oduya, making it to the NHL. However, he never signed a contract with the team, nstead playing in Sweden for several years. The Caps dismissed him in 2006 and he then signed a free agent contract with the New Jersey Devils and has played in the NHL for more than 10 years.
Overall, this draft could be considered a failure for the Caps. The two players who proved to have the best careers, never signed with the Capitals. The only player who played with the Caps did so for just four games.
The Caps had 13 picks in this draft but unlike the previous year, had three first-round picks, two of which were acquired in trades. With their first pick (12th overall), the Capitals selected defenseman Steve Eminger, who was playing with the Kitchener Rangers of the Ontario Hockey League. He played 17 games with the Caps during the 2002-03 season, but spent most of it with Kitchener. The next two years he spent time with both the Caps and their then-AHL affiliate Portland Pirates. By 2005-06, he had earned a full-time roster spot with the Caps and remained there through the 2007-08 season. He was traded to the Philadelphia Flyers for a first-round pick of the 2008 draft which the Capitals used to draft fellow defenseman John Carlson. He played 212 games with the team, finishing with six goals and 37 assists. Overall, he played 488 games in the NHL, finishing his career with 19 goals and 80 assists.
The Caps had the very next pick (13th overall), which they used on winger Alexander Semin. Semin stayed in Russia after the draft, but joined the team for the 2003-04 season and spent most of the season in the NHL, except for a brief stint with the Portland Pirates. He remained with the team through the 2011-12 season, after which he left the team in free agency. He played 469 games with the Caps, scoring 197 goals and had 211 assists. For his career overall, he played in 650 games, scoring 239 goals, and adding 278 assists. He was one of the “Young Guns” of the Caps offense from 2007-10, along with Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, and Mike Green.
The Capitals chose Boyd Gordon with the 17th overall pick. He made his debut during the 2003-04 season but bounced up and down between the Caps and their minor league affiliates (Portland Pirates and Hershey Bears) over the next three seasons. He finally earned a full-time role with the team for the 2006-07 season. During his tenure with the team, he served as the team’s fourth-line center and was expert at taking faceoffs. He stayed with the team through the 2010-11 season after which he left in free agency and joined the Phoenix Coyotes. During his career with the Capitals, he played in 363 games and finished with 27 goals and 58 assists. For his NHL career, he played in 706 games, scoring 56 goals, and adding 105 assists.
None of their remaining picks from that draft made it to the NHL. The Caps did relatively well in the first round, drafting one future “Young Gun” in Semin, a defenseman, Eminger, who was later traded for the draft pick that became John Carlson. Boyd Gordon was an important role player for several years.
The Caps held the 18th overall pick in the first-round and selected forward Eric Fehr, who played his junior career for the Brandon Wheat Kings of the Western Hockey League. He continued playing the Wheat Kings for the following two seasons and made his professional debut with the Hershey Bears in 2005-06 and played in 11 games with the Caps that season. He scored one of the most memorable goals in Hershey Bears history, a game-winning goal in Game 7 of the third round of the Calder Cup Playoffs allowing the Bears to advance to the Calder Cup Finals. However, he suffered a herniated disc in his back during the 2006-07 season that caused him to miss nearly a full season of play. He returned to the Bears in January 2008 and was called up to the Caps in February 2008. He ended up finishing the year with the Caps and played three full seasons with them until he was traded to the Winnipeg Jets after the 2010-11 season. He returned to the Caps as a free agent after the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season and played three more seasons with the team before signing with the Pittsburgh Penguins as a free agent in 2015. He played 419 games with the Caps, scoring 87 goals and adding 87 assists. To this point in his career, he has played in 580 games, scored 106 goals and added 100 assists. His story falls into the category of “what might have been” as he has been dogged by injuries throughout his whole career, both during his time with the Caps and with other teams, including the herniated disc, multiple shoulder injuries that required surgery, and a finger injury. One wonders how much better his career would have gone without all the injuries and surgeries. The fact that Ryan Getzlaf was drafted with the very next pick after Fehr is another “what might have been” for the Caps, given that Getzlaf turned into a much better player at the NHL level and was a center at a time when the Caps had trouble filling the role.
The Caps drafted only six other players that year in the remaining eight rounds of the draft. None of them played a single game with the Caps. Only one of them, Andrew Joudrey, ever played in the NHL and did so with the Columbus Blue Jackets. In contrast to the previous year, in which they drafted 13 players, including three in the first-round, the Caps had only drafted seven players that year. Continuing the “what might have been” theme, 2003 would have been the perfect year to have acquired multiple first-rounders, given how deep the talent proved to be in the first round that year.
With the Caps deciding to rebuild, they traded most of their veteran players for picks and prospects by the trade deadline and ended up finishing with the third-worst record in the NHL. They were fortunate to win the draft lottery where the prize was to draft a player from Russia who would develop into a generational player, on the order of Wayne Gretzky or Mario Lemieux. That player was Alexander Ovechkin. As expected, the Caps drafted Ovechkin, who lived up to the original hype and has, thus far, scored 607 goals and recorded 515 assists in 1,003 games and just led the team to their first-ever Stanley Cup.
Ovechkin was not the Capitals’ only first-round pick that year. They also drafted a pair of defensemen in Jeff Schultz (27th overall) and Mike Green (29th overall). Schultz was recalled by the Capitals during the 2006-07 season and played for them through the 2012-13 season. He led the league in Plus/Minus during the 2009-10 season, but his game seemed to deteriorate during the 2011-12 season, not helped by all the changes in defensive systems between coaches. The Caps bought out his contract after the 2012-13 season and he signed with the Los Angeles Kings. He played in 399 games for the Caps, recording 11 goals and 64 assists. He ended up playing 409 games total.
Green was recalled to the Caps briefly during the 2005-06 season and played with them for most of the 2006-07 season. His first full season with the Caps came during the 2007-08. That year, he established himself as an true offensive defenseman, scoring 18 goals and adding 38 assists. Caps broadcaster, Joe Beninati, nicknamed him “Game Over Green” in honor of his propensity for scoring game-winning goals in the closing minutes of regulation or in overtime. He was dubbed as one of the team’s “Young Guns” along with Ovechkin, Semin, and Nicklas Backstrom. In 2008-09, he had one of the most amazing offensive years for a defenseman, scoring 31 goals and adding 42 assists for 73 points. He had an eight-game streak in which he scored at least one goal, setting a record for most consecutive games scored in by a defenseman. In 2009-10, he scored 19 goals and had 57 assists as the team won the Presidents’ Trophy. Unfortunately, his career with the Caps was marred by injuries, and he never again approached his career-highs. He left the team in free agency after the 2014-15 season, signing a contract with the Detroit Red Wings. He played in 575 games for the Caps and had 113 goals and 360 assists. For his career, he has played 787 games, scoring 142 goals and and adding 322 assists.
The Caps drafted ten other players in 2004 but none of them established themselves as regulars on the team. Only four of them spent any time in the NHL. Chris Bourque, a forward who was taken with the 33rd overall pick, played in 12 games with the Caps, scoring just one goal. He also spent time with both the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Boston Bruins. However, he has spent most of his career as a very productive player with the Hershey Bears in the American Hockey League. He has played 51 NHL games to this point in his career, recording two goals and six assists. Sami Lepisto was a defenseman chosen with the 66th overall pick. He played in just 14 games total with the Caps, during portions of the 2007-08 and 2008-09 seasons. He joined the Phoenix (now Arizona Coyotes) for the 2009-10 season. During his NHL career, he played in 176 games and had six goals and 29 assists. Andrew Gordon, a forward, was drafted in the seventh-round with the 197th overall pick. He played in 12 games with the Caps and had one goal and one assist. He signed with the Anaheim Ducks as a free agent in July 2011. He played a total of 55 games in the NHL, finishing with three goals and four assists. Travis Morin was the only other player the Caps drafted in 2004 who made it to the NHL and he never played for the Caps.
This draft was very productive for the Caps in the first-round. Granted, the first pick was a “no-brainer”, generational pick, but they ended up with two other NHL players in Green and Schultz, with one of them becoming a star. The rest of the draft resulted in players who helped the Hershey Bears greatly for the Calder Cup championships but were not able to stick in the NHL for any length of time.
Due to the lockout that cancelled the 2004-05 season, the draft lottery was conducted differently than normal. The Caps ended up receiving the 14th overall pick, which they used on defenseman Sasha Pokulok, who played for Cornell University. Pokulok suffered from multiple concussions and never played a game in the NHL, spedning time in the AHL and the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL). The Capitals had one other pick in the first-round (27th overall), which they used to select Joe Finley, another defenseman who played with the Sioux Falls Stampede of the USHL. Finley played 21 games in the NHL, none of them however, came in a Capitals sweater. In November 2009, he ruptured an artery in his hand which required surgery. Prior to the 2011-12 season, he was invited to attend the Buffalo Sabres’ training camp, subsequently signing a contract.
The only other player the Caps drafted in 2004 was forward Tim Kennedy, but they traded him on draft day to the Buffalo Sabres for Buffalo’s sixth-round pick in the following year’s draft, which they used on forward Mathieu Perreault.
This draft was not productive for the Capitals at all. None of the players they drafted played a single game with them. They were intent on drafting large defensemen in the first-round, drafting both Pokulok and Finley; neither of them playing a game for the franchise. This draft failure was made worse by the fact the Caps had trouble building a good defensive corps for several years after that. At that time, it seemed the Capitals were in a pattern of drafting better in even-numbered years than in odd-numbered years, with very productive first rounds in both 2002 and 2004 but only one productive NHL player in 2003 and none in either 2001 or 2003.
The Caps had the fourth overall pick in the 2006 Entry Draft and were looking to draft a playmaking center to compliment the scoring skills of Alex Ovechkin; as a result, they chose Swedish center, Nicklas Backstrom. This pick has proved to be a very excellent pick. In 816 games with the team thus far, he has scored 209 goals and added 590 assists for 799 points overall, and holds the franchise record in assists. He remained in Sweden for the 2006-07 season and did not come to Washington until 2007-08, but he was worth waiting for. He generally scores approximately 20 goals and has about 60 assists per year. His best season in the NHL was the 2009-10 season, when he had 33 goals and 68 assists for 101 points.
The Capitals’ next two picks concentrated on goaltending, given that longtime goaltender, Olaf Kolzig, was getting older and less effective. The Capitals chose Russian Semyon Varlamov with the 23rd overall pick and then chose Czech Michal Neuvirth early in the second-round with the 34th overall. Both made their NHL debut during the 2008-09 season. That year, Varlamov took over goaltending duties in the playoffs when Jose Theodore had a subpar performance in the first game. Neuvirth was goalie for the Hershey Bears Calder Cup championship that same year. Both played with the Caps for several years but neither of them permanently established themselves as the number one goalie and were hampered by injuries. Varlamov had groin issues while Neuvirth had a variety of ailments. Varlamov was traded for two draft picks after the 2010-11 season to the Colorado Avalanche, whi;e Neuvirth remained with the team until the 2013-14 trade deadline, when he was traded to the New York Islanders for Jaroslav Halak.
The Capitals had seven other picks in 2006 draft, only two of which made the NHL. Oskar Osala, who was selected in the fourth-round with the 97th overall pick, played two games for the Caps, and was traded to the Carolina Hurricanes in 2010 and subsequently played in just one game for them. After that, he continued his career in the KHL. The Caps drafted Perreault, a smallish center from Drummondville, Quebec in the sixth-round with the 177th overall pick. He made his debut with the Caps during the 2009-10 season, spending his time with the Caps and their AHL affiliate in Hershey. In 2010-11, he also split time with Washington and Hershey, after which he found a permanent home in the NHL. The Capitals traded him to the Anaheim Ducks prior to the 2013-14 season. He played in 159 games for the Caps, scoring 33 goals and recording 37 assists. Overall, he has scored 108 goals and recorded 171 assists.
Overall, the 2006 draft was a good draft for the Caps, one in which they ended up with a franchise center in Backstrom and two NHL-caliber goaltenders in Varlamov and Neuvirth. They also ended up with a late round pick who has carved out a solid NHL career in Perreault, even though much of it has not been with Washington.
The Capitals’ first pick in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft fell at number five overall, which they used to select defenseman Karl Alzner from the Calgary Hitmen of the Western Hockey League. He made his NHL debut during the 2008-09 season at a time in which the Caps were dealing with a rash of injuries of defensemen. He spent the remainder of that season and the next going back and forth between the Caps and the Hershey Bears, but was up in the NHL to stay beginning in the 2010-11 season. He played with the Caps through the 2016-17 season, after which he signed with the Montreal Canadiens as a free agent. He played in 591 games with the Caps, recording 19 goals and 98 assists. He was primarily a defensive defenseman. He also has compiled an iron man streak and has not missed a regular season game since the beginning of the 2010-11 season; however he did miss playoff games in 17 due to injury. In addition to playing with the Caps, he won two Gold Medals for Team Canada in the World Junior Championships (2007 and 2008) and helped the Hershey Bears win two Calder Cup Championships (2009 and 2010).
None of the remaining players the Caps drafted even played in the NHL. There is one notable fun fact about one of the players in that draft. The Caps traded one of their second-round picks in that draft, Theo Ruth, who they chose with the 45th overall pick, to the Columbus Blue Jackets at the 2007-08 trade deadline for Sergei Fedorov, the former Detroit Red Wings great, in one of the best deadline deals in Caps history. Fedorov played an important role in their drive to the playoffs during the 2007-08 season.
The Caps had two first-round picks in the 2008 draft. They traded up in the draft and chose Anton Gustafsson, a center from Sweden who was the son of former Capital Bengt Gustafsson, with the 21st overall pick. Gustafsson never played in the NHL and only played a single game with the Hershey Bears before returning to Sweden. They then chose defenseman John Carlson with the 27th overall pick, a pick they had acquired at the trade deadline from the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for defenseman Steve Eminger. Carlson made his NHL debut during the 2009-10 season, playing in several games, but earned a full-time role starting in the 2010-11 season. He has been one of the team’s most productive defenseman during that time but is a pending free agent, though he and the Caps could be close to an agreement on a new contract. In his NHL career, he has played in 608 games, scoring 77 goals and recording 256 assists. His career-high in goals and points came in 2017-18, when he scored 15 and 68, respectively. He was part of the Hershey Bears Calder Cup Championship teams of 2009 and 2010 and scored the Gold Medal, game-winning goal for Team USA in the 2010 World Junior Championship.
The Capitals had two picks in the second-round, which they used to select Eric Mestery (57th overall) and Dmitry Kugryshev (58th overall), neither of which made it to the NHL. In the fourth-round, with the 93rd overall pick, the team chose a goalie from the Saskatoon Blades named Braden Holtby, who made his NHL debut during the 2010-11 season and played in a handful of games for them that year. He also played in a handful of games the next season but, due to injuries to both of the Caps’ goalies, ended up as the goalie for the Caps during the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs. He has played in 361 games in his career thus far, recording 225 wins, 89 losses, and 35 overtime losses, with a career save percentage of .919. He has won one Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s best goaltender and was a finalist one other time. He was the starting goalie during the team’s run to its first Stanley Cup in 2018, and has also tied Martin Brodeur for most wins by a goalie in a single season, which came in the final regular season game of 2015-16. The Caps had three other picks in the draft, though only one of them has made it to the NHL: Stefan Della Rovere, but none as with the Caps.
Overall, the Caps ended up with two important players for their franchise in this draft, in Carlson and Holtby.
One characteristic of this draft for the Caps is that they had the normal complement of one player per round, no extra picks, no picks traded away, and every pick chosen at its expected slot. That year, the New York Rangers were awarded an extra pick in the second round to replace a deceased player.
The Capitals’ first-round pick that year was Swedish forward Marcus Johansson, who made his NHL debut at the beginning of the 2010-11 season. He served the team as both winger and center and was a Top 6 forward during his time with the team, playing seven full seasons in Washington before being traded to the New Jersey Devils for salary cap reasons prior to the 2017-18 season His best season with the Capitals was his last one, in which he scored 24 goals and had 34 assists.
Their second-round pick that year was a defenseman from Russia named Dmitry Orlov. He made his NHL debut in November 2011 and remained with the team for the remainder of that season. Due to the NHL lockout the following season, he was sent back down to Hershey where he played through an injury-plagued season. He ended up missing the entire 2014-15 season due to injury, but returned the following season. He has played in 365 games, scoring 30 goals and recording 94 assists.
Their third-round pick was used on center Cody Eakin. He made his debut during the 2011-12 season but was traded to the Dallas Stars for center Mike Ribeiro. This past season, he played with the Vegas Golden Knights, the Caps’ opponent in the Stanley Cup Finals. Two of their remaining five picks made it to the NHL. Fourth-round pick, Patrick Wey, was a defenseman who played nine games for the team during the 2013-14 season. His career was ended after he received a concussion in a fight. Garrett Mitchell, a right winger, played in one game for the Caps at the end of the 2016-17 season. He has played with the Hershey Bears and is currently their Captain.
This draft broke the pattern of the Caps would have comparatively bad drafts in odd numbered seasons. They ended up with two solid lineup regulars for many years in both Johansson and Orlov.
The Caps chose center Evgeny Kuznetsov in the first-round of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft with the 26th overall pick. At the time, Kuznetsov played with Traktor Chelyabinsk of the KHL. They had to wait longer than expected for him to actually join the team, as he signed a contract extension with Chelyabinsk. He finally made his debut in the latter part of the 2013-14 season. He struggled during his first season with the team 2014-15 as he adjusted to the NHL; however, by the end of that year, he was one of the team’s top centers and has been a fixture in the lineup since then, currently serving as the team’s top-line center and was one of the most valuable players for them in their Stanley Cup Championship run. For his career so far, he has played in 340 games, and has scored 80 goals and has 185 assists.
Due to a trade deadline deal, they had no second-round pick. Their next pick was in the third-round, which they used to draft Stanislav Galiev, a winger from Moscow. Galiev ended up playing 26 games with the Caps and had one goal and three assists. He now plays in the KHL.
In the fourth-round, with the 112th overall pick, they chose a German-born goalie from the Windsor Spitfires in the OHL, Philipp Grubauer. He made his NHL debut during the 2012-13 season, permanently earning a stay in the NHL in 2015-16, where he served the backup goalie to Braden Holtby, before being traded at the 2018 NHL Entry Draft to the Colorado Avalanche. He has played in 100 NHL games and is 43-31-11 and has a lifetime save percentage of .923.
The Caps’ remaining two picks in that draft never made it to the NHL.
Overall, the Caps gained one of their most valuable players in this draft and their former backup goalie.
With the Caps strongly in the playoffs, they looked for reinforcements at the tradine deadline. As a result, they did not have a second or third-round pick. The Caps’ scouts had not been impressed favorably by the players available near the end of the first found. Because of this, they traded their first-round pick to Chicago for forward Troy Brouwer. This meant the Caps had no picks until the fourth-round, which they used on goalie, Steffen Soberg, a goalie from Norway. However, he never played in North America. Only one pick the Caps chose in that draft played in the NHL: forward Travis Boyd who has played in eight career games, but has primarily played for the Hershey Bears.
This draft reverted to the Caps’ pattern of having relatively poor drafts during even numbered years.
As a result of the Varlamov trade the summer before, the Capitals had an additional first-round pick in the opening round. After the first three picks were off the board, the next seven teams all chose defensemen, so the top-ranked European skater, Filip Forsberg, was still available when it came for the Capitals to pick with the 11th overall pick, which the Caps ended up doing. Fans were thrilled at how a player, expected to go much sooner, fell into their lap, as he was expected to be the best offensive player available, outside of consensus first pick, Nail Yakupov. As it turns out, Forsberg developed into the best player of that draft, since Yakupov did not live up to expectations. However it did not come in a Capitals sweater, as they traded him at the 2013 trade deadline for Martin Erat, who was on the downside of his career, and prospect Michael Latta. Erat played part of one season before requesting a trade while Latta played a handful of games for the team over three seasons before leaving as a free agent.
Their other first round (the team’s original pick), fell at 16th overall. The Caps chose a rugged winger from the Plymouth Whalers in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) named Tom Wilson. After finishing his 2012-13 junior hockey season, he joined the Hershey Bears for three playoff games and then joined the Caps for three more playoff games. He played the 2013-14 season for the Caps, but was playing fourth-line minutes and was cast in the role of enforcer. Because of NHL rules with Canadian junior players, he could not be sent to the AHL that year and, instead, had to play with the Caps or be sent back to juniors. By the 2015-16 season, his role involved more than just being an enforcer – he had added penalty killing to his repertoire. In 2017-18, he finally moved into a first-line role and recorded career-highs in both goals and assists. In his career, he has scored 35 goals and recorded 69 assists. His productivity has been an upward trend, even if not necessarily at the levels expected for a first-round pick.
The Caps had no second-round pick, having traded it away. Their next pick came in the third round, a pick they used to select Chandler Stephenson from the Regina Pats in the WHL with the 77th overall pick. He played parts of two season with the Caps, in 2015-16 and 2016-17, before finally establishing a place in the Capitals’ lineup early in the 2017-18 season. For 2017-18, he played 67 games and had six goals and 12 assists. He also played in all 24 playoff games for the Caps in their run to the Stanley Cup.
Neither of their two fourth-round picks have made it to the NHL. However, three later picks have. There was Connor Carrick, a defenseman chosen in the fifth-round, who played for the Caps during the 2013-14 season, but was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs at the 2015-16 trade deadline. There was Riley Barber, a forward chosen in the sixth-round, who played three games with the Caps during the 2016-17 season but has primarily played with Hershey. He ended up getting injured and was out for the season. Last but not least, was Christian Djoos, a defenseman chosen in the seventh-round. He spent the entire 2017-18 season with the Caps and had three goals and 11 assists. He also played in the vast majority of the team’s playoff games this year.
Overall, the Caps did a great job of identifying NHL-caliber players in the 2012 Draft. There were many regrets related to this draft, too. The biggest one, of course, was the Filip Forsberg trade. He has now developed into a star forward with the Nashville Predators while Martin Erat, the winger they acquired in return, was out of the league after the 2014-15 season. Another regret was the less than optimal development of Tom Wilson. He would likely have benefitted from another year in junior hockey as opposed to playing fourth-line minutes at the NHL level in 2013-14. In the third-round, the very next pick after Stephenson was Shayne Gostisbierre who has developed into a very good offensive defenseman for the Philadelphia Flyers. The 2017-18 season provided vindication to the Caps for several picks from that draft with Wilson establishing himself on the first-line, Stephenson becoming an NHL regular, and Djoos earning an NHL role.
For this draft, the Caps drafted Andre Burakovsky, a forward from Sweden, with the 23rd overall pick. Burakovsky made his debut with the team during the 2014-15 season and played 53 games for them. He also spent 13 games with the Hershey Bears, as well. So far, his best year came in 2015-16, when he scored 17 goals and had 21 assists. He has been plagued with hand injuries during the last two seasons, which has hampered his productivity. He has played in 252 games for the Caps and has scored 50 goals and recorded 70 assists. Even with his injury issues, he had outperformed several players who were drafted ahead of him.
Unlike many of the seasons immediately preceding this one, the Caps had draft picks in the second-round. In fact, they had two picks. Their first second-rounder, chosen with the 53rd overall pick, was defenseman Madison Bowey, who played with the Kelona Rockets of the WHL. He missed a significant amount of time during the 2016-17 season due to injury. He made his debut for the Caps during the 2017-18 season and played 51 games for them. Their other second-rounder was forward Zach Sanford, who was chosen with the 67th overall pick. He made his debut with the Caps during the 2016-17 trade and was traded to the St. Louis Blues prior to the 2016-17 trade deadline for Kevin Shattenkirk.
So far, Burakovsky, Bowey, and Sanford are the only players from that draft who made it into the NHL, thus far. For that draft, Burakovsky has outperformed his draft position but it is too soon to draw conclusions about the remaining players the Caps drafted.
The 2014 draft was the first draft under the management of Brian MacLellan, who was promoted to the position of General Manager in April. All previous drafts of the millennium were done with George McPhee as General Manager. However, McPhee’s contract was not renewed, and the Caps promoted MacLellan to the position. With the Caps having missed the playoffs during the 2013-14 season, they would pick earlier in the first-round than they had in the past, holding the 13th overall pick. They ended up picking Jakub Vrana, a Czech winger who was playing hockey in a Swedish League. He came over to America at the end of his 2014-15 season in Sweden and played for the Hershey Bears and participated in the playoffs for them. During 2015-16, he remained with the Bears and was part of the team that made it to the Calder Cup Finals, but had missed time with a broken wrist. He made his NHL debut during the 2016-17 season and had three goals and three assists. The 2017-18 was his first full season with the team, and he performed admirably, scoring 13 goals and adding 14 assists in 73 games played. Admittedly, the talent on the Capitals’ roster during the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons made it more challenging for him to earn a role with the team ,but with the departures of Justin Williams and Marcus Johansson, there was now more room.
The Caps traded up in the second-round and drafted another Czech player. This time, it was goalie Vitek Vanacek who they drafted with the 39th overall pick. Vanacek has not yet made it to the NHL and has played with the Hershey Bears the past two seasons. He was set back by an early season injury during the 2017-18 season.
Two other players from that particular draft made their NHL debuts with the Caps during the 2017-18 seasons. This includes Nathan Walker, who was drafted in the third-round with the 89th overall pick, and who played in nine games with the Caps this season, and Shane Gersich, drafted in the fifth-round with the 134th overall pick, who played in three games. Both Walker and Gersich appeared in the playoffs for the Caps this past season. Prior to being drafted by the Caps, Walker had played a season with the Hershey Bears. They traded up in the draft so that they could draft him. He was the first Australian to play in the NHL and to play in an NHL playoff game.
One characteristic about the first draft of MacLellan is that he was aggressive in trading up for prospects that he and the team wanted, even if it meant less picks overall.
Overall, this draft has supplied three rookies for the 2017-18 team, with one of them beginning to establish himself in the NHL.
In this draft, the Caps had the 22nd overall pick in the first round and drafted Russian goalie, Ilya Samsonov. This spring he signed his entry-level contract with the Caps and will likely start off the 2018-19 season with the Hershey Bears. He played the last three seasons in the KHL with Metallurg Magnitogorsk. His resume includes playoff experience for a team that has advanced to the Gagarin Cup Finals twice in the last three years. He represented Russia in the World Junior games in 2015-16 and 2016-17, helping Russia win Silver and Bronze. He was the last first-rounder in the 2015 draft to sign an NHL entry-level contract.
The Caps drafted three other players in that draft, all defensemen: Jonas Siegenthaler, Connor Hobbs, and Colby Williams. All three of them played with the Hershey Bears last season.
Once again, MacLellan traded up in the draft, this time to acquire a second-round pick, which turned out to be Siegenthaler.
In this draft, the Caps originally had the 26th overall pick, but traded the pick to the St. Louis Blues in exchange for the 28th overall pick and a third-rounder. The Caps drafted Lucas Johansen, a defenseman from the Kelona Rockets, with that pick. Johansen is the younger brother of Ryan Johansen, a center for the Nashville Predators. Johansen played with the Hershey Bears this past season. Their second pick came in the third-round, with the pick they acquired from the Blues. It came at 87th overall, and chose forward, Garrett Pilon, who will likely play with the Hershey Bears in 2018-19. Other players from that draft who have signed Entry-Level Contracts include: Beck Malenstyn and Axel Jonsson-Fjallby.
Due to trade deadline deals, the Caps had no picks in the 2017 NHL Entry draft until the fourth-round, with which they chose Tobias Geisser, a defenseman from Sweden, with the 120th overall pick. He has signed an Entry-Level Contract with the Caps. The remaining draftees have not yet signed contracts with the Caps.
This completes the year-by-year look at players the Caps drafted since 2000. The players who the team drafted that played on their Stanley Cup team were: Alex Ovechkin, John Carlson, Braden Holtby, Philipp Grubauer, Tom Wilson, Andre Burakovsky, Jakub Vrana, Chandler Stephenson, and Christian Djoos. Draftees who played in earlier rounds of this year’s playoffs included: Travis Boyd Shane Gersich, and Natthan Walker. Madison Bowey was on the roster but did not play in the playoffs.
By Diane Doyle