Photo: Washington Capitals
As most hockey fans know, the last two Stanley Cup winners, the St. Louis Blues in 2019 and the Washington Capitals in 2018, had never won the Stanley Cup until their recent wins. However, the two teams also have another similarity. While neither team had ever won a prior Stanley Cup, both teams have consistently made the playoffs during this past decade. As a result, both teams have not benefited from early draft picks (prior to sixth overall, which is generally when the game-changing superstars are drafted). NoVa Caps examines the draft positions of both the Caps and the Blues for the last decade. Part 1 will cover the drafts from 2009 through 2014. Part 2 will cover from 2015 and later.
The Caps have been a contender since their “turn-around” season of 2007-08. Since that season, they have made the playoffs in every season except for 2013-14. They have won three President’s Trophies (2009-10, 2015-16, 2016-17), had the second-best record in the Eastern Conference one other season (2010-11), and have won nine Division titles.
The Blues did not develop into a contender until the 2011-12 season, but made the playoffs in all the ensuing seasons, except for 2017-18.
Draft Picks Prior to 2009 Entry Draft
Prior to the 2008-09 season, the Caps had drafted Alex Ovechkin with the first overall pick in 2004, Nicklas Backstrom with the fourth overall pick in 2006, and Karl Alzner with the fifth overall pick in 2007. However, since the Caps vaulted into contention during the latter part of the 2007-08 season, they have not picked before sixth overall. In fact, they have not picked prior to 10th overall.
The Blues had a bad team after the lockout, so they earned the first overall pick in 2006 and chose Erik Johnson. They also earned the fourth pick overall in 2008 and chose Alex Pietrangelo. As a result, they squeaked into the playoffs in 2008-09, only to be ousted in the first round. After that, they missed the playoffs for the next two seasons, but were mediocre rather than terrible and, thus, earned no picks prior to #10 overall. They finally vaulted into contention in 2011-12 and have essentially remained there since then.
2009 Entry Draft
In 2008-09, the Caps won the Southeast Division with a 50-24-8 record and had the second best record in the Eastern Conference. They advanced to Round 2 of the playoffs but were eliminated. Hence, they earned pick #24 in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, which they used to pick Marcus Johansson. Johansson played with the team for several years, but was traded away prior to the 2017-18 season. The Caps had other draft picks from that draft who made it to the NHL, including Dmitry Orlov, a second rounder, and Cody Eakin, a third rounder.
In 2008-09, after a bad start, the Blues finished in third place in the Central Division and achieved a playoff berth. They ended up getting swept in the first round. The Blues earned pick #17 overall and used it to choose defenseman, David Rundblad. Rundblad is the only Blues pick that year who made it to the NHL, but he never played for the Blues.
2010 Entry Draft
In 2009-10, the Caps won the Presidents’ Trophy with a 54-15-13 record and 121 points, only to get “Halake”d in the first round of the playoffs. Thus, they were to pick #26 overall and chose center Evgeny Kuznetsov from Russia. While Kuznetsov did not come over to North America until late in the 2013-14 season, he is currently sixth in NHL points for the members of his draft class. Two other draft picks of the Caps made it to the NHL. Stanislav Galiev, a third rounder, made the NHL briefly but never established himself as an NHL regular, and left to play in the KHL. Philipp Grubauer, a fourth rounder, was the Caps’ backup goalie for several years and played for the Caps’ Stanley Cup winning team of 2017-18, before being traded to the Colorado Avalanche during the summer of 2018.
The Blues earned a 40-32-10 record, finished fourth in the Central Division and missed the playoffs. They finished in the middle of the NHL overall standings – at #15. In all the ironies, they had a better regular season record than the Montreal Canadiens, who had beat the Presidents’ Trophy winning Capitals and advanced to Round 3. However, that was a season that had more strong teams in the Western Conference rather than in the Eastern Conference.
In any case, due to the Flyers and Canadiens having to pick later due to advancing to Round 3 and beyond in the Stanley Cup playoffs, the Blues moved up two places in the draft and drafted at #14 overall where they chose forward Jaden Schwartz. They traded away their #1 pick of the 2009 Entry Draft, David Rundblad, who they had picked at #17 overall, to the Ottawa Senators in exchange for the Senators’ first-round pick of 2010, which was pick #16 overall. The Blues chose Russian winger, Vladimir Tarasenko with that pick. While none of the other picks from the Blues ever made the NHL, Tarasenko and Schwartz have been a large part of the Blues’ offense during the last several years.
2011 Entry Draft
The Caps had the best record in the Eastern Conference for the 2010-11 season, with a 48-23-11 record, despite an infamous losing streak in early December that was documented on “24/7 – Road to the Winter Classic”. But the Caps were swept in the second round of the playoffs by the Tampa Bay Lightning. Hence, they were slated to choose at slot #26, the same selection they had chosen at the previous year. However, because General Manager, George McPhee, did not perceive the available prospect pool to be particularly deep, he traded the pick to the Chicago Blackhawks for forward Troy Brouwer, who had just become a Restricted Free Agent and needed a new contract. McPhee figured the Caps would be better off acquiring Brouwer for immediate help than relying on a shallow prospect pool. The Caps had already traded their second round pick to the Carolina Hurricanes in the 2010 trade deadline deal for defenseman, Joe Corvo, and their third round pick to the Florida Panthers in the deal for defensemen Dennis Wideman. Thus, they had no pick until the fourth round where they chose goalie Steffan Soberg, who never did come to play professionally in North America. The Caps had three other picks in that draft of which Travis Boyd, drafted in Round 6, was the only one who ever made it to the NHL
The Blues finished fourth in the Central Division, with a 38-33-11 record, and missed the playoffs. They finished in 10th place overall in the Western Conference and were slated to pick #11 overall. However, they had traded that pick to the Colorado Avalanche in the deal where the Blues traded defenseman Erik Johnson, whom the Blues had picked with the first overall pick back in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, Jay McClement, their first round pick of 2011 and received defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, forward Chris Stewart and a 2011 second round pick in exchange. The Blues’ first pick in the draft was in the second round, with the pick they received from Colorado which was #32 overall. They chose Ty Rattie who never could establish himself as an NHL player. With their own second rounder (at pick #41), they chose Dmitrij Jaskin, who played for them for a few years but was waived before the 2018-19 season. They had an additional second rounder (pick #46) where they chose defenseman, Joel Edmonston, who is still in the Blues’ lineup. In the third round, with pick #88 overall, they chose goalie Jordan Binnington, who was called up to the NHL in midseason of 2018-19, and soon became the Blues #1 goalie and was the first rookie goalie to win 16 games in a single Stanley Cup playoff run.
2012 Entry Draft
The Capitals performance fell off from previous seasons as they posted a 42-38-8 record, finished second in the Southeast Division, and seventh overall in the Eestern Conference. They made the playoffs and were eliminated in the second round. Thus, they were slated to choose at #16 overall. The Caps had an additional first round draft pick at #11, as they had acquired a first rounder from the Colorado Avalanche in the Semyon Varlamov deal from the previous summer. The Caps chose Filip Forsberg, a gifted offensive forward from Sweden with pick #11. With their own first rounder, they chose Canadian power forward, Tom Wilson. Forsberg developed into a star but not with the Caps as they traded him to Nashville the following year in the Martin Erat trade. After several years and many fits and starts, Wilson finally became a first line forward for the Caps. They had several other picks in the draft, of which, two who are still with the team: Chandler Stevenson, a third rounder, and Christian Djoos, a seventh rounder. While Connor Carrick, a fifth rounder, had made the NHL, the Caps traded him away. Riley Barber, a sixth rounder, had briefly made the NHL but left the Caps in free agency this summer.
The Blues finished first in the Central Division with a 49-22-11 record and had the second best record in the Western Conference, second only to the Vancouver Canucks, who won the Presidents’ Trophy. The Blues won the first round of the playoffs but then got swept by the Los Angeles Kings, who ultimately fought their way to a Stanley Cup win. Thus, the Blues were slated to pick at #25 overall. They used that pick to draft Jordan Schmaltz who never established himself as a regular NHL player and was traded after the 2019 season. They also drafted MacKenzie MacEachern, who played a few games during the 2018-19 season, in the third round, and Colton Parayko, now currently one of their regular defensemen, in the fourth round. Of their other picks, Petteri Lindbolm had made it to the NHL but never established himself as a regular but now plays in Switzerland.
2013 Entry Draft
In a season truncated due to yet another NHL lockout, the Caps posted a record of 27-18-3 and finished first in the Southeast Division. They were seeded third in the playoffs for the Eastern Conference, but their actual record put them fourth best in the conference. They lost a seven game series to the New York Rangers in the first round. The Caps ended up picking #23 in the first round of the draft and chose Swedish forward, Andre Burakovsky. Burakovsky played several seasons with the Caps; however, he was traded to the Colorado Avalanche after the 2018-19 season. In the second round, they drafted defenseman Madison Bowey, who had played parts of the 2017-18 and 2018-19 with the Caps but was traded to the Detroit Red Wings at the 2018-19 trade deadline. They also chose forward Zach Sanford later in the second round. He played a few games for the Caps but was traded to the St Louis Blues at the 2017 trade deadline in the Kevin Shattenkirk deal. Tyler Lewington, their seventh rounder, has appeared in two NHL games so far.
In the truncated 2012-13 season, the Blues posted a record of 29-17-2 and finished second in the Central Division. It was actually the third best record in the Western Conference but a distant second place to Chicago, who had an amazingly good season. The Blues lost in Round 1 of the playoffs to one of their nemeses, the Los Angeles Kings. The Blues did not have their first round pick as they had traded it to the Calgary Flames for defenseman, Jay Bouwmeester. This pick would have been #22 overall. Bouwmeester still remains with the Blues. Of their remaining draft picks, the only one that ever made it to the NHL was William Carrier, a late second rounder, but he did not make it with the Blues but with the Las Vegas Knights.
2014 Entry Draft
During the 2013-14 season, which was the first year of the realignment of the teams into two divisions per conference, instead of the three five-team divisions, the Caps missed the playoffs for the first time since the 2016-07 season. They posted a 38-40-14 record and finished fifth in the Metro Division. This earned them the right to pick at #13 in the NHL entry draft where they chose Jakub Vrana, a forward from the Czech Republic. Vrana’s “official” rookie year was the season the Caps won the Stanley Cup; i.e. 2017-18. He is currently in the Caps’ “top 6” forwards. Two other Caps’ picks from the draft have made the NHL briefly, Nathan Walker and Shane Gersich. Walker left the Caps in free agency after the 2018-19 season.
During the 2013-14 season, the Blues finished second in the Central division, just one point out of first place, and third in the Western Conference. A relatively poor stretch near the end of the season cost them first place in the division. They posted a record of 52-23-7. They lost to the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round, despite winning the first two games of that series. Their regular season finish earned them the #21 slot in the draft where they chose Robby Fabbri. After a fine rookie year in 2015-16, injury issues have diminished his productivity. They also drafted Ivan Barbashev in the second round of the draft who was part of the lineup of their Stanley Cup winning team. Sammy Blais, drafted in the sixth round, is the only other draftee from that class who has made it to the NHL but he played in 32 games for the Blues in 2018-19 and nearly half of the playoff games.
By Diane Doyle
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