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 covered the drafts from 2009 through 2014, which you can find here. In Part 2 we cover draft selections 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.
2015 Entry Draft
During the 2014-15 season, the Caps earned a 45-26-11 record, finished in second place in the Metropolitan Division, and returned to the playoffs. They had the fourth best record in the conference, tying the New York Islanders in points but won the tie breaker. In the playoffs, the Caps beat the Islanders in Round 1 but lost to the Presidents’ Trophy winning, New York Rangers, in Round 2. In the 2015 Draft, the Caps selected at position #22 and chose Russian goaltending prospect, Ilya Samsonov. While he has not arrived in the NHL yet, he is currently considered the Caps’ best prospect. They also chose defenseman, Jonas Siegenthaler late in the second round. Siegenthaler has appeared in 26 games and is considered a leading candidate, along with Christian Djoos, to play on the third defensive pairing. Their remaining draft picks have not made it to the NHL to date.
During the 2014-15 season, the Blues went 51-24-7, finished first place in the Central Division and tied for first place in the Western Conference. However, due to tie breakers, they were considered as the second place team in the Conference. The Blues fell in Round 1 to the Minnesota Wild, who had finished as a Wild Card team. The Blues would have picked at #25 except they traded the pick to the Buffalo Sabres in the Ryan Miller trade at the 2014 trade deadline. The pick eventually became the property of the Winnipeg Jets. The Blues went on to pick Vince Dunn in the second round with pick #56. Dunn has played in two seasons with the St. Louis Blues and played in 20 post season games for the Blues, but has missed several playoff games due to a facial injury.
2016 Entry Draft
During the 2015-16 season, the Caps earned a 56-18-8 record, finished first in the Metropolitan Division, and won the Presidents’ Trophy. However, similar to their fate in the 2008-09 season, they lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins in Round 2. Thus, they were slated to pick at #26 in the first round, however they made a trade with the St Louis Blues to acquire an extra pick and ended up picking at #28 instead. With that pick, they chose defenseman, Lucas Johansen. Johansen is currently playing with the Hershey Bears and has still not made it to the NHL. None of the Caps remaining picks from that draft have made it to the NHL so far, either.
During the 2015-16 season, the Blues went 49-24-9, finished second in the Central Division and were just one point shy from finishing first in the division and first in the Conference. They advanced to Round 3, after beating the Chicago Blackhawks and the Dallas Stars, only to fall to the San Jose Sharks. By advancing to the Conference Final, they earned the 28th pick, but then traded that pick and another draft pick to the Washington Capitals so they could move up to choose at #26 instead of #28. With that pick, they chose forward Tage Thompson. Thompson debuted for the Blues during 2017-18 but was traded to the Buffalo Sabres in the Ryan O’Reilly deal that took place after the 2017-18 season. Their second rounder pick, Jordan Kyrou, has played 16 NHL game so far and is considered to be a promising forward prospect for the Blues. The rest of their picks have not yet made it to the NHL.
2017 Entry Draft
During the 2016-17 season, the Caps earned a 55-19-8 record, finished first in the Metropolitan Division, and won the Presidents’ Trophy. But similar to their fate in 2016, they lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins in Round 2. Thus, they were slated to pick at #26 in the first round. However, they sent their first round pick for 2017 to the St Louis Blues at the trade deadline to acquire defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, who left the team in free agency. They had already sent their second round pick to Montreal as part of the Lars Eller trade before the 2016-17 season, and had sent their third round pick to Buffalo as part of the trade for Mike Weber at the 2015-16 trade deadline. Hence, the Caps had no draft picks prior to the fourth round. So far, none of the Caps from that draft have made it to the NHL.
During the 2016-17 season, the Blues went 46-29-7 and finished third in the Central Division. They advanced to Round 2 of the playoffs after beating Minnesota, on the strength of hot goaltending play by Jake Allen. The would lose in Round 2 to Nashville. This earned them pick #20 in the NHL Entry draft which they used to pick Robert Thomas. Thomas was a rookie during the 2018-19 season and played in 21 games during the Blues’ run to the Cup. They had an additional first round pick, Klim Kostin, who they had acquired in the deal where they sent Ryan Reeves to the Penguins. So far, none of the Blues draft choices, besides Thomas, have made it to the NHL.
2018 Entry Draft
During the 2017-18 season, the Caps earned a 49-26-7 record and finished first in the Metropolitan Division. The Caps tied for the third best record in the Eastern Conference but “won” the tie breaker. They had a worse regular season record than they had the previous two years, since they were forced to shed players, due to giving raises to Evgeny Kuznetsov, Dmitry Orlov, and T.J. Oshie. They also lost defenseman Nate Schmidt in the expansion draft. However, they did much better in the playoffs. They first beat the Columbus Blue Jackets in Round 1 after falling behind in the series, 2 games to 0. Then, they beat the Pittsburgh Penguins in Round 2, the same team they had fallen to in both the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons. After that, they beat the Tampa Bay Lightning to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since 1998. This time, after falling behind in the first game to the Las Vegas Knights, they won the remaining four games and won the Stanley Cup for the first time in their history.
In the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, they had pick #31 and used it to select Alexander Alexeyev, a defenseman. They picked six other players in that draft, as well. So far, none of their draftees from 2018 have made it to the NHL .
During the 2017-18 season, the Blues went 44-32-6, finished fifth in the Central Division and missed out on the playoffs entirely, due to a very poor second half of the season. Their finishing position earned them the right to pick at #14. However, before the season, they traded the pick to the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for Brayden Schenn. Schenn had a very good year but was not able to help them win enough games to make the playoffs. The Blues did have a first round pick they had acquired in a trade with Winnipeg. The pick originally belonged to the Toronto Maple Leafs. They used that pick to acquire Dominik Bokk, a winger. None of the Blues’ draft picks have made it to the NHL yet.
2019 Entry Draft
During the 2018-19 season, the Caps earned a 48-26-8 record and finished in first place in the Metropolitan Division and had the third best record in the Eastern Conference. They were hoping to repeat as the Stanley Cup winner but, instead, they fell in Round 1 to the Carolina Hurricanes. Hence, they chose at #25 in the NHL Entry Draft and chose Connor McMichael. They chose three other players, as well. They chose in Round 1 and Round 2 but their third round pick was sent to the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for Carl Hagelin. None of their picks are expected to make it to the NHL in 2019-20.
During the 2018-19 season, the Blues went 45-28-9 and finished third in the Central Division. They tied the Winnipeg Jets in second place in points but the Jets held the tie breaker. They were also just one point behind Nashville, who had won the division. The Blues had started off poorly and in early January, found themselves with the worst record in the NHL. But they turned their season round and made the playoffs. They beat the Jets in the first round and followed that up by beating the Dallas Stars who they had beaten in Round 3 three years earlier. After that, they played the San Jose Sharks in Round 3. Unlike in 2016, the Blues were able to beat the Sharks in Round 3 and advanced to the Stanley Cup final. They beat the Boston Bruins in a 7 game series for their first Stanley Cup ever.
They did not have a draft pick until the second round as they had traded it to the Buffalo Sabres prior to the start of the season in exchange for Ryan O’Reilly. The Blues did not pick until the second round when they chose Nikita Alexandrov with pick #62. None of the Blues picks are expected to play in the NHL for 2019-20,
Since 2009, most of the Washington Capitals first round picks were after #20. In fact, there were only two seasons where they chose before slot #20, which were 2012, when they had picks #11 (Filip Forsberg) and #16 (Tom Wilson), and 2014 when they had pick #13 (Jakub Vrana).
The Caps traded their first round pick twice, once to acquire Troy Brouwer at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft and the other time in 2017 when they acquired Kevin Shattenkirk as a rental.
Several of the first rounders chosen by the Caps from 2009 on had important roles on their Stanley Cup team of 2018, including Evgeny Kuznetsov (2010), Tom Wilson (2012), Andre Burakovsky (2013), and Jakub Vrana (2014) along with players chosen prior to then, including Ovechkin, Backstrom, Carlson, and Holtby.
Later round picks having an impact include Dmitry Orlov (2009), Philipp Grubauer (2010), Chandler Stephenson (2012), Christian Djoos (2015). The last player the Caps had chosen prior to draft slot #10 was when they drafted Karl Alzner in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft at draft slot #5.
Since 2009, all Blues first picks were after #10, with all picks since 2011 after #20. In 2009, they had pick #17 (David Rundblad), while in 2010, they had picks #14 (Jaden Schwartz) and #16 (Vladimir Tarasenko). The Blues had traded Rundblad to the Ottawa Senators for their first round pick which was pick #16, with which the Blues selected Tarasenko. Their remaining first picks were chosen after #20.
On four occasions, the Blues traded their first round pick so they had to pick later in the draft. Their first round picks were traded for the following seasons: their 2011 first rounder, in the deal to acquire Kevin Shattenkirk and Dave Stewart, their 2013 first rounder, in the deadline deal to acquire defenseman Jay Bouwmeester, their 2015 first rounder in the deal to acquire Ryan Miller at the 2014 trade deadline, their 2018 first rounder in the deal to acquire Brayden Schenn, and their 2019 first rounder in the deal to acquire Ryan O’Reilly. The last player the Blues had chosen prior to draft slot #10 was when they drafted Alex Pietrangelo with the fourth pick overall in the 2008 NHL Entry draft.
The Blues were able to find talent in later rounds of the draft to fulfill needs. This included Jordan Binnington and Joel Edmonston from the 2011 draft, Colton Parayko from the 2012 draft, Ivan Barbashev and Sammy Blais from the 2014 draft, Vince Dunn from the 2015 draft, and Robert Thomas from the 2017 draft.
Both of the recent Stanley Cup winners, the Washington Capitals in 2018 and St Louis Blues in 2019, were able to win the Cup with no early draft picks during the last ten years, having been consistent contenders throughout most of that time frame. They had identified talent, either late in the first round or in subsequent rounds, to fill needs and had made strategic trades or free agent acquisitions.
By Diane Doyle