Reviewing All Of The Washington Capitals First Round Draft Picks And How They Turned Out

The Washington Capitals will have the #24 overall pick in next week’s 2020 NHL Entry Draft. The Capitals have selected 24th overall just twice before, in 2009 when they chose Marcus Johansson, and in 1979 when they chose Errol Rausse. The latter was in the second round of the 1979 NHL Entry draft.

In this article, NoVa Caps analyzes the picks the Capitals have made at each draft position in the first round. Picks after the 20th overall pick are grouped together into one section, given that the NHL did not always have 31 teams. In fact, there were only 18 teams when the Caps first came into existence.

First Pick Overall

In their history, the Caps have had the first overall pick just three times.  Their third time with the first overall pick was the charm.

1974 – They Caps chose defenseman Greg Joly. Joly did not live up to expectations, lasted just two seasons with the team, and was traded to the Detroit Red Wings where he spent time with both the Red Wings and their minor league affiliate.

1976 – The Caps drafted defenseman Rick Green. Green was a serviceable player and played with the team for six years, but was never really a star. He was traded to Montreal before the 1982-83 season in the trade that resulted in the Caps acquiring Rod Langway.

2004 — The Caps chose Alexander Ovechkin, who reportedly would become a generational player on the order of a Wayne Gretzky or Mario Lemieux.  He has lived up to that lofty expectation and is potentially a threat to break Gretzky’s career record in goals scored.  He is still exceeding 40 goals at an age where it is rare.

Mitchell Layton Credit: Getty Images

Second Pick Overall

The Caps picked second overall just once in their history and that was in 1978 when they chose center Ryan Walter.  Walter became the Caps’ captain during his second full season with the team. He was traded to Montreal in the Rod Langway deal.

Third Pick Overall

The Caps have drafted just two players with the third pick overall, four years apart. Both of the players came with very high expectations.

1977—The Caps drafted defenseman Robert Picard, who also contributed on offense, scoring 21 goals in 1978-79.  He was not able to duplicate that performance and was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs after the 1979-80 season.

1981 – The Caps drafted center Bobby Carpenter who was dubbed the “Can’t Miss Kid” prior to being drafted. He was the first American player drafted in the first round and was an important player for the Caps during the early half of the 1980’s. He scored over 50 goals for them one season. He didn’t see eye-to-eye with Head Coach Bryan Murray and  was traded to the New York Rangers during the 1986-87 season.

Fourth Picks Overall

The Caps picked fourth overall three times in their history.  The results were two franchise players and a bust.

1979 – The Caps drafted right wing Mike Gartner who ended up being one of the team’s top players throughout the 1980’s before he was traded to the Minnesota North Stars in 1989.  He consistently scored 30 goals or more in a season. He ended up scoring 708 goals in his NHL career, with 397 of them with the Caps.

1996 – The Caps drafted right winger Alexander Volchkov who was a bust, as he played in just three NHL games, all with the Caps during the 1999-00 season.

2006 – The Caps drafted center Nicklas Backstrom. The Caps hoped Backstrom would be be the setup man to Alexander Ovechkin, who was drafted two years earlier.  Backstrom has lived up to expectations as he is now first in career assists and second in overall points for the Caps franchise.

UPI Photo/Heinz Ruckemann

Fifth Pick Overall

The Caps picked fifth overall three times in their history, each time choosing a defenseman.  The results were varied, although they all became NHL regulars.

1980 – The Caps drafted defenseman Darren Veitch. He played with both the Caps and their affiliate, the Hershey Bears. During his Caps years, he set a record for assists for a defenseman. However, he had his best years with the Detroit Red Wings, but unfortunately his career was plagued with injuries.  Caps fans could not help thinking about the fact that the next player drafted after him was Hall of Fame defenseman, Paul Coffey.

1982 – The Caps drafted Scott Stevens who made the team during his first training camp and was one of their best defenseman through the 1980’s. He left the team in free agency to sign with the St Louis Blues. He is best known for his days with the New Jersey Devils and became a Hall of Famer.

2007 – The Caps drafted defenseman Karl Alzner, who made his debut in 2008-09 and became a full time NHL player in 2010-11. He was a mainstay for the Caps from 2010-11 through 2016-17 and had a consecutive games played streak in progress when he left the Caps in free agency.

Sixth Pick Overall

The Caps have never chosen sixth in the NHL Entry Draft

Seventh Pick Overall

The Caps drafted just one player with the seventh overall pick and that was in 1999 when they drafted center, Kris Beech.  He played in a handful of games for the Caps before being traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the trade where the Caps acquired Jaromir Jagr. Beech eventually returned to the organization when the Caps traded defenseman Brendan Witt. His last year in the NHL was the 2007-08 season.

Eighth Pick Overall

While #8 has been a great number for the Caps as far as jersey numbers are concerned, they have never chosen a player eighth in the NHL Entry Draft

Ninth Pick Overall

The Caps drafted two players with the ninth pick overall, both being defenseman, with neither pick working out well for the Caps.

1990 – The Caps drafted defensemen John Slaney who scored a game winning goal for Canada in the final game of the 1991 World Junior Games against Russia, netting Canada the Gold Medal. Slaney ultimately was unable to earn a regular role in the NHL and spent most of his career in the AHL.

1997 – The Caps drafted defenseman Nick Boynton but he and the Caps could never agree on a contract so he reentered the draft and was drafted by the Boston Bruins two years later. He would ultimately play eleven years in the NHL, but it was a wasted pick for the Caps.

Tenth Pick Overall

The only time the Caps drafted at the tenth slot in the draft was 1994 when they drafted defenseman Nolan Baumgartner, who never could gain a full time role in the NHL. He would spend most of his career in the AHL.

Eleventh Pick Overall

The Caps have picked #11 in the draft just twice in their history.

1993 – The Caps drafted defenseman Brendan Witt, who played for the Caps for most of the latter part of the 1990’s and the early part of the next decade.  The Caps traded him when he indicated he did not wish to live through the team rebuilding.

2012 – The Caps drafted left wing, Filip Forsberg, who was reputedly one of the best offensive players in the 2012 draft.  He developed into a great offensive player but not with the Caps as he was traded the following year in the ill-advised trade for Martin Erat.

Twelfth Pick Overall

The only time the Caps drafted a player #12 overall was in 2002 when they drafted defenseman Steve Eminger. Eminger was never able to live up to expectations for the Caps and spent much of his last season with the team, 2007-08, as a healthy scratch.

Thirteenth Pick Overall

The Caps picked #13 overall twice in their history and thirteen was not an unlucky number for them either time. Both times, they chose skilled offensive wingers from nations that were once behind the Iron Curtain.

2002 – The Caps drafted winger Alexander Semin, who ended up becoming one of their most productive offensive players during the “Young Guns” era. He would score 20-40 goals per year before leaving as a free agent after the 2011-12 season.

2014 – The Caps drafted winger Jakub Vrana who is currently one of their top offensive forwards and is improving.  Granted, they could have drafted David Pastrnak, a fellow Czech, instead of Vrana, who has proven to be even more productive.

Fourteenth Pick Overall

The Caps chose players with pick #14 overall on three separate occasions.

1991 – The Caps drafted right winger Pat Peake. He appeared to be a great offensive prospect. Unfortunately, his career was marred by illness and several serious injuries. He retired just before the 1998-99 season.

1992 – The Caps drafted defenseman Sergei Gonchar who played for the Capitals for nearly a decade. He scored 20 goals one season for them and was the first Russian defenseman to score 20 goals. He was traded at the trade deadline in the 2002-03 season, as he would become a free agent after the season, as the Caps decided to do a full rebuild.

2005 – The Caps drafted defenseman Sasha Pokulok who never did make it in the NHL.  For that matter, he never could establish a role in the AHL and played in the ECHL a lot. His fortunes were not helped by the fact he had suffered concussions. Did the Caps draft him since they had had previously had good luck drafting guys named Sasha?

Fifteenth Pick Overall

The Caps drafted players with pick #15 overall on three different occasions. However, nobody they drafted in that slot panned out for them.

1976 – The Caps drafted center Greg Carroll, who was their second first round pick in that draft. He did not initially join the Caps, instead signing with the Cincinnati Whalers of the AHL. He joined the Caps during the 1978-79 season and was traded to the Detroit Red Wings.

1988 – The Caps drafted right winger Reggie Savage. He never was able to play a full season with the Caps as he kept getting injured. He played more games with their AHL farm team, the Baltimore Skipjacks. He was traded to the Quebec Nordiques after the 1992-92 season.

1994 – The Caps drafted right winger Alexander Kharlamov who was the son of the great Russian hockey player, Valeri. However, he never did play in the NHL. He spent his career in North America playing in the minor leagues.

Sixteenth Pick Overall

The Caps picked at the “Sweet Sixteen” spot just once in their history. That was in 2012 when they selected right winger Tom Wilson. Originally, his development was not handled well, as he was used as a fourth line enforcer in his first professional season instead of playing junior hockey. He now has developed into a top-six power forward.

Seventeenth Pick Overall

Draft slot #17 was a common slot for the Caps. They chose five different players there over the years and had varying degrees of success. During the mid 1990’s, they had a stretch where they chose at position #17 in the draft three out of four years.

1984 – The Caps chose defenseman Kevin Hatcher who became one of the best offensive defensemen in Caps history and holds the franchise record for most goals in a season by a defenseman. He was also one of the team’s captains.

1993 – The Capitals chose center, Jason Allison. He had played parts of several seasons with the Caps. When it finally appeared he would be a full time player in the NHL, the Caps traded him to the Boston Bruins who he played with for several seasons.

1995 – The Caps drafted left winger Brad Church who ultimately played in just two NHL games, both with the Caps during the 1997-98 season.  He played most of his professional career in the minor leagues.

1996 – The Caps chose right winger, Jaroslav Svejkovsky. He had a promising start to his career when he scored 7 goals in 19 games during the 1996-97 season, including four goals against Buffalo in the last game of the season. Svejkovsky could never sustain that production. A series of ankle injuries and a concussion cost him much playing time during the 1997-98 and 1998-99 seasons and he was a frequent healthy scratch during the 1999-00 season. His last one season with the team ended with him getting traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

2000 – The Caps chose center Boyd Gordon.  Gordon played with the team for several years and developed into a elite faceoff artist and penalty killer but never really provided enough offense to earn more than a fourth line role for the team. His career was also marked by injuries.

Eighteenth Pick Overall

The Capitals chose in the 18th position of the NHL Entry draft three times. Twice they struck out. The third time was the charm, relatively speaking.

1975- The Caps chose forward Alex Forsyth, who ultimately played only one game with the Caps which was his only NHL game.  This was a draft where the Caps had traded the #1 pick overall to the Philadelphia Flyers for Bill Clement, Don McLean and the Flyers’ first round pick which was pick #18, as the Flyers had won the Stanley Cup.  In this trade, the Caps figured it was an opportunity to obtain talent during a relatively weak draft year.

1978 – The Caps chose forward Tim Coulis who ultimately played in only 19 games with the Caps and 26 more NHL games with the Minnesota North Stars, playing his professional career mostly in the minor leagues.

2003 – The Caps chose right winger, Eric Fehr, who was a relatively productive forward in the years he could stay healthy. His NHL debut was delayed due to a herniated disc injury.  Plus, he had shoulder issues throughout his career. He was traded to the Winnipeg Jets before the 2011-12 season but returned after signing with the team as a free agent.  The one regret on the Caps’ selection of Fehr is they could have selected Ryan Getzlaf instead.

Nineteenth Pick Overall

The Capitals chose at the #19 slot five times in their history which was one of their most common selection spots. The first two times they chose at that slot, the pick was a second rounder as there were only eighteen teams in the NHL at the time.  The remaining times, the pick was in the first round as the NHL had expanded to 21 teams before the 1979-80 season.

1974 – The Caps chose forward Mike Marson who scored 16 goals in his rookie year but after that, bounced between the Capitals and their AHL affiliate.  He was best known for being the first African American player on the Caps. His development was hampered by high expectations and racism. At the time he was selected, pick #19 was the beginning of the second round.

1975 – The Caps chose defenseman Peter Scamurra who, at that time, was the highest picked American born player taken in the draft and was the first player from Buffalo who was drafted. He spent parts of four seasons with the Caps but was bothered by knee injuries throughout. His daughter, Hayley, became a professional hockey player.  At the time he was selected, pick #19 was the beginning of the second round.

1985 – The Caps drafted left wing Yvon Corriveau who played in portions of three seasons with the Caps but also spent time in the AHL, as he never could earn a regular role with the team.  He was traded to the Hartford Whalers during the 1989-90 season.

1986 – The Caps drafted left wing Jeff Greenlaw who played in portions of several seasons with the Caps but never earned a regular role and spent most of his professional career in the minors.

1989 – The Caps chose goalie Olaf Kolzig who spent several years in the minors before he earned a regular role with the Caps but finally earned one during the 1996-97 season.  He was their goalie when they reached the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in 1998.  Before retiring, he set numerous records for them as goalie.

Twentieth Pick Overall

The Caps drafted with pick #20 overall just once and that was when they drafted forward Paul Mulvey back in 1978, when pick #20 was in the second round.

Later First Round Picks And Other Picks Past #20

Prior to 1980, picks at slots 21 through 31 would be in the second round, but as more teams were added, they became first round picks.

21st Pick Overall

The Caps had chosen at slot #21 three times. Mark Lofthouse in 1977, Trevor Halverson in 1991, and Anton Gustaffon in 2008.  The first of them, Mark Lofthouse, had played nearly three full seasons with the Caps but never fully established himself in the NHL.  He was actually the best of the Caps’ picks at that slot. Neither Trevor Halvorson nor Anton Gustafsson ever played in the NHL.

1977 – Pick #21 — Mark Lofthouse, Right Wing  (Second round)

1991 – Pick #21 — Trevor Halverson, Left Wing

2008 — Pick #21  –Anton Gustafsson, Center

22nd Pick Overall

The Caps chose a player at the 22nd position just one time, Ilya Samonsov, 2015. He was the backup goalie for the 2019-20 season and is expected to be the Caps primary goalie for 2020-21

2015 — Pick #22 — Ilya Samsonov, Goalie

23rd Pick Overall

The Caps chose at slot #23 three times, choosing Paul MacKinnon in 1989, Miika Elomo in 1995, and Andre Burakovsky im 2013. Neither Paul MacKinnon nor Miika Elomo ever established themselves as regulars. Andre Burakovsky played for the Caps from 2014-15 through 2018-19 and was part of their Stanley Cup winning team of 2018.

1978 – Pick #23 — Paul MacKinnon, Defenseman (Second round)

1995 – Pick #23 — Miika Elomo  – Left Wing

2013 — Pick #23 — Andre Burakovsky – Left Wing

24th Pick Overall

The Caps selected two players at the 24th position, Errol Rausse in 1979 and Marcus Johansson in 2009. Rausse had never established himself as an NHL regular but he is active in the Caps’ Alumni association. Johansson played with the Caps from 2008-09 through 2006-17.

1979 – Pick #24 — Errol Rausse, Left Wing (Second round)

2009 — Pick #24 — Marcus Johansson, Left Wing/Center

25th Pick Overall

The Caps have chosen at the 25th position of the draft just once and that was in 2019 when they chose Connor McMichael.

2019 — Pick #25 — Connor McMichael, Center

26th Pick Overall

The Caps have chosen at the 26th position twice, choosing Brian Sutherby in 2000 and Evgeny Kuznetsov in 2010.  The former played with the Caps until getting traded early in the 2007-08 season and is currently a scout with the Caps. The latter is currently one of the top two centers on the team even though he didn’t come over from Russia until the tail end of the 2013-14 season.

2000 — Pick #26 — Brian Sutherby (2000), Forward

2010 — Pick #26 — Center Evgeny Kuznetsov (2010)

27th Pick Overall

The Caps chose at slot #27 three times, choosing a defenseman each time, choosing Jeff Schultz in 2004, Joe Finley in 2005, and John Carlson in 2008.  Schultz played with the Caps for several years before his contract was bought out.  Finley never played for the Caps but played a handful of games with the Buffalo Sabres and the New York Islanders.  Their third attempt at picking at slot #27 was the charm as they chose John Carlson, who’s been the Caps Number One defenseman for many years.

2004 – Pick #27 – Jeff Schultz, Defenseman

2005 — Pick #27 – Joe Finley, Defenseman

2008 — Pick #27 – John Carlson, Defenseman

28th Pick Overall

The Caps chose at slot #28 just one time and that was defenseman Lucas Johansen.  Johansen has been underwhelming. It also appears his development was hampered by injury and will not likely remain with the Caps’ organization after 2019-20.

2016 — Pick #28 – Lucas Johansen, Defenseman

29th Pick Overall

The Caps picked at the 29th slot just once but chose Mike Green who was one of the best offensive defensemen in their history and their most prominent defenseman during the “Young Guns” era.

2004 – Pick #29 – Mike Green , Defenseman

30th Pick Overall

The Caps picked at the 30th slot just once, choosing Rod Pasma, who never did make it to the NHL but later became the Vice-President of Hockey Operations in the NHL.

1990 – Pick #30 — Rod Pasma, Defenseman (Second round)

31th Pick Overall

The Caps picked at slot #31 just once, choosing defenseman Alexander Alexeyev who is regarded as one of the Caps’ top defensive prospects. He was the first first rounder even chosen with pick #31.

2018 – Pick #31 — Alexander Alexeyev, Defenseman

Related Reading
Washington Capitals Draft Class Grades
A Retrospective On The Last Decade of Draft Picks by the Washington Capitals
Draft Picks of the Caps and Blues Part 1
Draft Pick of the Caps and Blues Part 2
21st Century Capitals — Draft Picks Since 2000

By Diane Doyle

About Diane Doyle

Been a Caps fan since November 1975 when attending a game with my then boyfriend and now husband.
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6 Responses to Reviewing All Of The Washington Capitals First Round Draft Picks And How They Turned Out

  1. Anonymous says:

    I think the Caps have drafted very well over the years. I never liked Brad Church… I think this year the Caps should “bank” the pick. Trade it to the Bruins for their 1st pick next year. Or StL…

  2. vanorm says:

    I’d still like to know the real story on why the Caps traded the highly touted Filip Forsberg for the clearly descending Martin Erat – I’m thinking GM must have caught him with his wife?

    • Jon Sorensen says:

      Lol, old gambling debt 😂

    • redLitYogi says:

      It was GMGM’s last year here. Perhaps it was a gamble that Erat — who had been a solid top 6 offensive forward for the Preds –would find his game and the Caps would advance a round or two in the playoffs and save McPhee his job. McPhee had nothing to lose and I think the trade was made with his own best interests at heart, not the organization’s. He then tried to slough off responsibility for the trade to the Caps scouts.

  3. Diane Doyle says:

    This year will likely be the first year that the Caps pick at #8 overall.

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