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