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The Capitals added seven new prospects to the organization this weekend in Dallas. Here is our first analysis of each of the team’s seven selections for the 2018 NHL Entry Draft.
18-years old, Left-handed, 6’4″, 196 lbs, WHL
At first glance, the Capitals’ 2018 first-round pick may remind some of fellow Capitals blueline prospect (and 2017 first-round pick) Lucas Johansen, who was selected within three spots of Alexeyev and is also a left-handed defenseman out of the Western Hockey League (WHL). Their play on the ice, however, is where the comparisons get very similar. Their hockey IQ is readily apparent, their skating is smooth, and they can play both ends of the ice very well. They aren’t high octane, offensive players, but can still chip in when needed. In his draft year, Johansen recorded 49 points in 69 games played, while Alexeyev put up 37 points in 45 games played, which would have equated to roughly 57 points in 69 games. He ranked 15th in points per game by a defenseman in the WHL and 13th at 5-on-5, which could indicate more offensive upside than initially meets the eye.
Alexeyev has played very little over the past two seasons (just 86 games) due to injuries and the death of his mother. Injuries are always a concern for a young player but had he not gotten injured, his draft stock may have been higher, so the Capitals could have gotten quite a steal with this pick. While the Capitals have a plethora of left-handed defensive prospects, stocking the farm, so-to-speak is never a bad idea.
18- years old, Left-handed defenseman, 6’2″,194 lbs, Allsvenskan
Fehervary isn’t all that different from Alexeyev. He’s a bigger, but smooth-skating defenseman that is able to shut down opponents in his own end. He doesn’t light up the score card, as evidenced by his one goal and six assists in 42 games played, but several scouting reports say he has untapped offensive potential. The most interesting thing about Fehervary is he is one of the youngest players ever to play in the Swedish Elite League, though it was just a single game, which also shows how much his coaches trust him as a player.
18-years old, Right wing, 6’1″, 179 lbs, OHL
The son of longtome NHLer Wendel Clark, the younger Clark plays the game the complete opposite of how his father used to. Instead of bone-crunching hits (one of the trademarks of his father’s game), he relies more on speed and skill, which doesn’t mean, however, that he isn’t physical. He still uses his body well and knows how to play in both ends of the ice, as he can play on both the penalty kill and/or power play. He has great acceleration and good hands, though he needs to show them off a bit more consistently. There is concern about his offensive IQ, but there are flashes in his game that could lead to higher potential. He put up 18 goals and 21 assists in 56 games played in his Sophomore year and he’ll have to have a much bigger 2018-19 season to prove he was worth taking in the second-round. The ability is there, but it will have to be built upon for him to be effective.
Riley Sutter (Fourth-round, 93rd overall pick)
18-years old, Center/Right Wing, 6’3″, 203 lbs, WHL
Son of another longtime NHLer, Ron Sutter, Riley Sutter brings the heavy, hard work ethic found in the Sutter family. He’s a large player that goes to the hard areas and plants himself in front of the net to go along with the physical ability to win almost all battles. He also possesses nice vision to get some nice passes out, but could improve on his puck-handling to execute better plays. Sutter could potentially draw some comparisons to Beck Malenstyn, a Capitals draft pick in 2016, as both are power forwards with a bit of skill. But unlike Malenstyn, Sutter doesn’t quite have the skating capability. He isn’t slow, but he also isn’t the fastest player. He’s defensively responsible in all three zones, but will need that speed at the next level to execute play in all zones.
Mitchell Gibson (Fourth-round 124th overall pick)
18-years old, Goaltender, 6’1″, 187 lbs, NAHL but NCAA (Harvard) commit next season
While there is always a pick or two fans may question in any draft, when it comes to the Capitals and selecting goaltenders, they usually have an eye for talent (see Varlamov, Neuvirth, Holtby, Grubauer). Mitchell Gibson certainly looks like a promising prospect. He was ranked the best goalie in the NAHL (North American Hockey League) this past season, leading the league in both Goals-Against Average and Save Percentage with a 1.59 goals-against average and .935 save percentage. He also played the third-most games with 43, so those statistics aren’t skewed in any way. Gibson told reporters that Capitals goalie Braden Holtby is one of the players he attempts to emulate in his game and watching video of both, one can see the similarity. Something else that connects him to Holtby is that he calls himself a “Grandchild of [Capitals Director of Goaltending] Mitch Korn”, as his goalie coach was trained by Korn himself, something that can only be a good thing. In the past, the Capitals have taken goalies such as former backup Philipp Grubauer and Holtby in the fourth-round; the team hopes Gibson can follow that trend as a fifth-round pick.
Alex Kannok-Leipert (Sixth-round, 161st overall pick)
17-years old, Right-handed defenseman, 5’11”, 194 lbs, WHL
Unlike many of the other picks by the Capitals in 2018, the general consensus on Kannok-Leipert was that he would go undrafted. He’s a small but heavy blueliner who is physical and plays with an edge to his game. The Caps traded up in the sixth-round (something that isn’t seen nearly as often as first-round move ups). Regardless, Capitals Assistant General Manager Ross Mahoney was excited when he talked about him to reporters, complimenting the 17-year old’s character as a player. Kannok-Leipert didn’t put up an insane amount of points last season, just 21 in 60 games, but when he was 16 he led the Sasketchewan Midget Hockey League in points by a defenseman, so there could be more offense there. Kannok-Leipert is also just 17, meaning his game has yet to grow to its full potential.
Eric Florchuk (Seventh-round, 217th overall pick)
18-years old, Center, 6’2″, 174 lbs, WHL
Florchuk was projected to be drafted anywhere from the third to the fifht-round, menaing the Capitals may have gotten a hidden gem with the final pick of the draft. Florchuk is a two-way player that seems to be the entire package, possessing speed, hands, vision, and a deceptive shot. Where the Capitals saw value was probably a trade that happened during the season. He went from a good Victoria Royals team on which he served in primarily a depth role, to a not-so-good Saskatoon Blades team with whom he saw more ice time. With the Royals he recorded 28 points in 43 games (0.65 points per game), but with the Blades he put up 22 points in 28 games (0.79 points per game). It wasn’t a huge bump in points per game but he was on a weaker team.
The popular opinion among many is that Florchuk could best be described as a “steal”, meaning the Capitals could reap the benefits in several seasons. According to Todd Cordel, an analytic consultant, among all CHL forwards, Florchuk was 19th in 5-on-5 Points/60 and 22nd in total 5-on-5 points. That’s insanely impressive for a player taken last in the draft.
While it may not have been a relatively strong draft for the Capitals, many of their prospects are very similar in the way in which they play, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
The Capitals did very well with the selection of Gibson in the fourth-round. As stated above, the Capitals have had luck with goalies drafted in the fourth-round, and Gibson has that “athleticism and competitiveness” like Holtby and Grubauer, a comparison even Mahoney made comment on.
The Capitals’ last two picks are solid picks: Kannok-Leipert is a physical, 17-year old with offensive upside. And Florchuk might be the best offensive talent they took in the whole draft and it was with the very last pick! There are a lot of predictions out there saying he will have a huge breakout season next year in the WHL. Those are the kind of picks that the Capitals will benefit from.
By Luke Adomanis