The Washington Capitals selected defenseman Ryan Chesley in the second round (#37 overall) of the 2022 NHL Entry Draft on Friday in Montreal. The Capitals acquired the 37th overall pick in a Friday morning trade that sent Vitek Vanecek and their 47th overall pick to New Jersey for their 37th and 70th overall pick.
Chesley, 18, is a 6’-0” right-shot defensemen, who most recently played for the University of Minnesota and will return to the Gophers for the 2022-23 season.
Chesley is the highest-selected Gopher by the Washington Capitals at No. 37 overall, as the 10th all-time pick by the NHL organization, and the first since Travis Boyd in 2011.
Chesley also becomes the 32nd second-round pick for Minnesota in the history of the draft, which is the most of any round.
Chesley, one of the more universally well-liked prospects in this draft among NHL folks, has been a top prospect in this age group for years and has developed into a well-rounded, hard-shooting two-way defender. After a slow start to his year, he really came on late and played his best hockey when all eyes were on him down the stretch into U18 worlds. I like him in neutral ice on both sides of the puck. He’s got a great stick. He can really rip it when he takes the five-to-eight feet available off of the line and looks for his own shot. Balanced skating mechanics, good posture, and an ability and willingness to defend with the body and stick help him defend at a very high level man-to-man. And while his production doesn’t leap off the page at you, that’s largely because Hutson and Casey were the go-to power-play defencemen at the program. He looks and plays a lot like a pro already and was counted upon to play alongside Hutson on Team USA’s top pairing in the program (a trust that was also reflected in the ‘A’ on his jersey). His game lacks the creativity of Hutson and Casey, but I’ve learned not to confuse his “what-you-see-is-what-you-get” game for being ordinary. He’s extremely effective and there’s still some aggressiveness and skill to his package, even if it’s more predictable.
Chesley and Howard have known each other since they were 10, so I asked Howard about his team’s assistant captain. Here’s what he said: “He’s a really good, two-way, physical, big defenceman who thinks the game at a high level. I think my favourite part about his game is his gap control. It’s super elite in his gaps and that’s huge for a defenceman. He’s really hard to get around.”
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) July 8, 2022
Background: Chesley was a top-four defenseman for the U.S. NTDP this season, often playing on both special teams units. He represented team USA’s U18 team as an underage. He’s committed to the University of Minnesota.
Analysis: Chesley has some physical assets that pop off the page from a pro projection. He’s a NHL-caliber skater who can transition pucks up ice very well with his speed. He has average size, but he’s quite strong and physical. With his mobility he’s able to close on checks well, and often uses his body to land hard hits to separate pucks from players. He has good individual skill, with the hands to beat checks one-on-one and generate a lot of power off his one-timer. Chesley isn’t a gifted puck-mover though and can struggle at times with his puck distribution. He projects as a full-time second- or third pair defenseman depending on how much the offense translates to higher levels.
His offensive numbers won’t jump out at you, but Chesley might be one of the most well-rounded defenders in this entire draft. He is an excellent skater with tremendous defensive sense highlighted by his gap control and ability to defend the rush. He retrieves pucks especially well and can aid his team’s transition with his feet or with a good first pass. Chesley has a good shot, too, but we didn’t get to see it as much this year. He takes what is given to him offensively, doesn’t try to force things and he just always seems to make the right play in his own zone. His hockey sense is some of the best among defensemen in this draft and I would not be surprised to see him go a bit higher. If he had better offensive numbers this year and could more consistently prove that offensive prowess is there, I would have likely considered Chesley more seriously for the top 15 of this class. I’m just not sure if the skill is good enough for him to get there. If he does, though, we might look back at Chesley as the best defenseman in this class.
The Capitals next select #70.
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) July 8, 2022
By Jon Sorensen
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