MacLellen’s “Risky” First Round Draft Picks Are Necessary, And A Sound Long-Term Strategy

Photo: Russian Hockey Federation

Washington Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan selected forward Hendrix Lapierre (#22 overall) in the first round of the 2020 NHLDraft and Ivan Miroshnichenko in the first round (#20 overall) of the 2022 NHL Entry Draft. Both players were highly-touted early in their development, but were confronted with serious health issues just prior to the draft. As a result, confidence in selecting the players waned across the league. But not in Washington.

Lapierre was highly touted and possibly a top-10 pick in his draft class, but his stock began to fall in the pre-draft rankings when he suffered what was believed to be his third concussion in just a 10-month span. As a result, his stock dipped in the overall pre-draft prospect rankings. At first glance, Lapierre’s injuries appeared to be concussion-related, but further diagnosis determined that the issue was actually related to a twisted vertebrae in his neck, something he has been able to treat.

Ivan Miroshnichenko was also very highly touted in the year running up to the 2022 NHL Entry Draft, but was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma in January. As a result, teams with high picks lost confidence in selecting Miroshnichenko and decided to pass on him. Once again, MacLellan saw opportunity.

Selecting both players has obvious risk, should health issues continue for either player over the course of their careers. However, if the health issues are completely in the rear view mirror, MacLellan and the Capitals will have acquired two very high-end talents with mild, mid-round picks.

The moves may appear “risky”, but it’s really a necessity for the Capitals, as they are/will be looking to replace two of their all-time franchise stars, Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin, over the the next few years. That’s difficult to do when you are always making the playoffs, and as a result, always picking in the bottom third of the first round of each draft.

Yes, the picks have risk. Most top picks do. If one or both are unable to materialize, then the selections were likely mis-used and MacLellan and company will undoubtedly feel the heat for it. However, if MacLellan hits on one or both, he might be able to reload the Capitals in quick order when Backstrom and Ovechkin depart the district. Higher potential value with lower-value picks. Well played.

By Jon Sorensen

About Jon Sorensen

Jon has been a Caps fan since day one, attending his first game at the Capital Centre in 1974. His interest in the Caps has grown over the decades and included time as a season ticket holder. He has been a journalist covering the team for 10+ years, primarily focusing on analysis, analytics and prospect development.
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14 Responses to MacLellen’s “Risky” First Round Draft Picks Are Necessary, And A Sound Long-Term Strategy

  1. Anonymous says:

    Completely agree. Mid-level stars can be obtained through other means. Top tier stars don’t grow on trees. Taking a “flyer” on both players is a smart move.

  2. Anonymous says:

    “That’s a bold strategy, Cotton. Let’s see if it pays off”

  3. Anonymous says:

    What’s up with that dude’s hat?

  4. Anonymous says:

    AA was a risky pick as well as his knee was injured.

    I see AA, HL and IM all in the line up within 3 years… lets see…

    I am fine with the pipeline but think we need a big D ready to step in.

    • Anonymous says:

      AA and Iorio both look like top 4 players. Chesley from this year’s draft gives us another solid prospect in the pool. Don’t forget MF just made the transition so he’s still the future too. It’s not particularly deep but it’s not barren. Some of those guys may yet develop into big minute eaters for us.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I have faith in their process. Lapierre already showed he can play on a short term basis& looks bigger stronger this year in development camp and dominated. So he looks to be on schedule or ahead of schedule to be a top 6 F. Miro physically and everything looks fine. It’s about time and patience. Probably 2 years.

  6. Lance says:

    I prefer taking calculated home run swings. They’ve been drafting good character guys with skill. I love their recent drafts. Star players are so hard to acquire you almost have to find them in the draft or else you’re paying 8 or 9 million a year to a free agent. That’s dicey and eats your cap space. Bottom 9 forwards and bottom 4 defensemen can be acquired via trade and free agency.

  7. steven says:

    Risky…maybe, however from the position that the Caps ahve been drafting the past 10 years or so, 20th or lower, call ittaking a chance and some will pay off others like samsonov will not. If you look back at their drafts some have panned out Ovie, Backy, Wilson, Stevens, Witt, Semin, Vrana, Gonchar, Fehr, Burakovsky, Kuznetsov, Carlson, Green and others havent like Volchkov, Veitch, Beech, Slaney, Boynton, Baumgartner, Forsberg, Eminger, Peake, Pokulok, Carroll, Savage, Kharlamov, Svejkovsky, Gustafsson,Sutherby, Finley and the case for McMichael, Johansen, Alexeyev, Lapierre and Miroshnichenko is still out. I would venture to say that if you looked at the other teams i the league, just at their drafts, they would be about the same; some good some bad in the first round. The hyped players are always a crap shoot but if you can find a player in the later rounds then you have done well.

    • Patrickj says:

      Over the years, the Caps have been better at drafting players than at making trades.

      • steven says:

        Agree as there are few trades that have worked out for the Caps, I can only think of the trade for Oshie, Jensen, trading Johansson did get us Fehevary.I would think that the Chimera trade was a good one. And the Emminger trade worked out as he brought us the 1st round pick that was usedtopick Carlson. Another good one was trading Zednick for a pick that they chose Ruth and then a year latre the trade Ruth for Federov, that one was good. I think that their success rate with trades is peobably just under 50% which is not bad considering how many draft picks they traded away and how many they received. If you weremaking out on every trade then other teams would be leary in trading with you. Sad many of their recent trades have been cap related and good players have been lost Chandler Stephenson and Siegenthaler come to mind.

  8. Marky says:

    I wasn’t expecting Miroschnichenko to be there myself, even with the diagnosis on him so I am happy they could have 2 top 6 forwards picked in the 20’s of the draft. This kind of opportunity doesn’t come along often at all. Nice work. I like the risks they’ve taken with these two.

    • steven says:

      Undrestnad you train of thought but I look at samsonov and wonder why all the other teams passed on him and after several years it is obvious especially when the Caps let him go for nothing. Sometimes the man crush that the past and current GM have on Russian players, I think, gets in their way. Hopefully IM will work out better than sammy did.

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