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Over the past several trade deadlines, the Washington Capitals have been giving away third-round draft picks like candy on Halloween as they have dealt six third-rounders over GM Brian MacLellan‘s tenure. While a third-rounder does not seem like much, it is on the high-end of the seven-round draft, and MacLellan has regularly dealt them at the deadline. In fact, since MacLellan was named GM in 2014, the Capitals have had only four third-round draft picks and one of them (forward Nathan Walker) is not even in the organization anymore. So what are the Capitals really losing when they trade these third-round picks? NoVa Caps takes a look at notable NHL players selected in the third round and how the Capitals picks were used to figure out if the price was worth it each time.
2015 – Capitals Acquire F Curtis Glencross From Calgary Flames In Exchange For Second, Third-Round Picks
The Capitals added some forward depth to an already impressive group upfront with the addition of Glencross. It was a nice fit to start as he posted four goals and six points in his first seven games a Capital, but he had just one goal and two points in his final 21 games (regular season and Stanley Cup Playoffs combined). The Capitals had some young talent in the wings, including rookie forward Andre Burakovsky who played well in his first season and second-year grinder Tom Wilson, who would have benefitted from more opportunity as he played only 67 games that season. While Glencross had a nice start, the Capitals overpaid for him a bit.
The Flames dealt the pick to the Arizona Coyotes, who used it to select forward Jens Looke, who posted 12 goals, 39 points, and a +18 rating in 39 games in the Allsvenskan league this season after spending the past two seasons with the AHL’s Tuscon Roadrunners.
2016 – Capitals Get D Mike Weber From Buffalo Sabres For 2017 Third-Round Pick
The Capitals added some defensive depth and grit on the backend with the addition of Weber, which they thought they needed after the heaviness of the Los Angeles Kings and Chicago Blackhawks helped them win the previous four Stanley Cups. But the Pittsburgh Penguins switched the playbook that season as their speed game powered them to the Stanley Cup.
Weber appeared in only 10 of the remaining 23 games and two of the Capitals’ 12 Stanley Cup Playoff games that season. When given the opportunity, Weber didn’t necessarily take advantage as he posted a -1 rating and had a costly turnover in front of his net in overtime during his last Stanley Cup Playoff game that put the Capitals behind 3-1 in the second round against the Penguins. The Capitals would have been better off playing Nate Schmidt more as he had a solid season and was scratched for a few games after the trade with the Sabres. Just to add to the pain that the third-round pick was an overpay, the Capitals did not have a pick in the first three rounds of the 2017 NHL Draft after dealing the other picks away in other trades. The fact that it feels they flushed the third-round pick down the drain makes this deal really bad for the Capitals.
With the pick, the Sabres selected Finn defenseman Oskari Laaksonen, who recorded two goals, 12 points, and a -4 rating in 46 games with Liiga’s Lleves this season.
2018 – Capitals Land Their Top-Four Defenseman in Kempny, Send 2018 Third-Round Pick To Chicago Blackhawks
Third time’s the charm! After a year of not dealing a third-round pick, the Capitals landed a cheap top-four defenseman in Michal Kempny. He seized an opportunity with John Carlson on the top-four and broke out as a strong two-way defenseman. Kempny finished with two goals, three points, and a +1 rating in 22 games to finish off the regular season and two goals, five points, and a +1 rating while playing in 24 Stanley Cup Playoff games to help the Capitals win their first Stanley Cup in franchise history. Three weeks after the Capitals won the Stanley Cup, Kempny signed a four-year contract as he was set to become an unrestricted free agent in a matter of days. For the first time during MacLellan’s tenure, dealing a third-round pick at the NHL Trade Deadline was worth it for the Capitals. The third-round pick dealt to Chicago was originally the Toronto Maple Leafs’. The Capitals acquired it (along with a 2018 second-round pick) as part of the deal that sent forward Marcus Johansson to the New Jersey Devils.
The pick was dealt to the San Jose Sharks, who spent it on center Linus Karlsson, who posted 14 goals, 40 points, and a -7 rating in 48 games in the Allsvenskan league in Sweden.
2019 – Capitals Add F Carl Hagelin, Send Third-Round Pick To Los Angeles Kings
It seems like MacLellan’s willingness to deal third-round picks paid off again as Hagelin, who posted two goals and eight points in 38 games that season before the trade, produced three goals and 11 points in just 20 games with the Capitals. The main reason the Capitals got Hagelin was to improve the penalty kill, which improved to an 80% efficiency in the final 21 regular-season games after the trade and posted an 88% efficiency in the Stanley Cup Playoffs after it was just 78.6% efficient (22nd in the NHL) before the trade. Hagelin was such a good fit in Washington that the Capitals extended his contract by four years at a cap hit that was lower than his previous deal. For the second year in a row, trading a third worked out for the Capitals.
The Kings ultimately used the pick on goaltender Lukas Parik, who posted a 22-7-2 record, .917 save percentage, a 2.73 goals-against average, and one shutout in 32 games with the WHL’s Spokane Chiefs this season.
2020 – Capitals Upgrade Bottom-Six With Acquisition Of F Ilya Kovalchuk From Montreal Canadiens
We will still have to see more before determining whether spending a third-round pick on Kovalchuk was worth it but the Russian produced a goal and four points in seven games before the NHL pause, which isn’t bad. MacLellan’s strategy of adding depth at forward seems wise given the departure of Brendan Leipsic. Kovalchuk has been decent for a 37-year-old this season with 10 goals, 26 points, and a -4 rating in 46 games. Having another sniper and some more offensive firepower in the bottom-six, which was revamped over the offseason in an effort to be more responsible defensively, is not necessarily bad either. Kovalchuk will almost certainly not re-sign in Washington due to salary cap constraints and other free agent priorities in the offseason but we are going to have to see more to see whether dealing the third-round pick was worth it as Kovalchuk has played only seven games with the Capitals so far.
2020 – Capitals Get Defensive Depth With Addition Of Brenden Dillon, Deal Second, Conditional Third-Round Pick To Sharks
If the Capitals win the Stanley Cup this season, the Sharks will get the Arizona Coyotes’ third-round pick (which was acquired from the Colorado Avalanche in the deal that sent forward Andre Burakovsky to the Mile High City) this year. If not, the Sharks will get the Capitals’ third-round pick next year. Dillon played only 10 games with the Capitals after the trade and was held off of the scoresheet and posted a -2 rating in those 10 games. However, he has fit in well next to Carlson, posting a 51.12% Corsi-for percentage, a 54.44% expect goals-for percentage, a 51.8% scoring chances for percentage, and a 56.92% high-danger Corsi-for percentage, according to Natural Stattrick. Given that the Capitals allowed 41 goals in their previous 11 games before the trade, they needed a defenseman and Dillon did a pretty solid job prior to the NHL Pause. If that keeps up, it was another third-round pick well spent by MacLellan.
So what is a third-round pick worth?
Of course, most do not make it to the NHL but a handful of good NHLers have been taken in the third-round this decade. It takes some time for third-round picks to get to the NHL. Some notable names taken in the third round of the NHL Draft from 2010-2015 include: Jake Guentzel, Anthony Cirelli (picked after the Capitals scheduled pick), Warren Foegele, Ilya Sorokin, Elvis Merzlikins, Brayden Point, Brett Pesce, Pavel Buchnevich, Oliver Bjorkstrand, Anthony Duclair, Vincent Trocheck, Blake Coleman, Jordan Binnington (picked after the Florida Panthers used the Capitals’ selection – Dennis Wideman trade), Nick Cousins, Adam Lowry, Gregg McKegg, Jordan Weal, Bryan Rust, Joakim Nordstrom (picked after the Capitals selected forward Stanislav Galiev in 2010), Matt Murray (picked right after the Capitals pick in 2012), Joonas Korpisalo, Shayne Gostisbehere (picked right after the Capitals pick in 2012), Colton Parayko (picked right after the Capitals pick in 2012), Fredrick Andersen (picked right after the Capitals pick in 2012), and Radko Gudas.
While those are some big names, they are only 20 of the 303 third-round picks from 2010-19. In other words, around 6.6% of the third-round draft picks from the past decade have made it to the NHL. While a third-round pick may have seemed expensive in some of these deals, it may have not been. Only a handful of those who make the NHL turn out to be something special like Guentzel, Point, and Binnington. We will have to wait a few years and see whether the Capitals overpaid for some of these players they have acquired at the trade deadline in years past. It appears that a third-round pick may actually be “cheap.” So MacLellan, carry on.
By Harrison Brown