Where Did Everybody Go? Capitals First Round Draft Picks Could Be Few And Far Between On Opening Night

Photo: NHL

The Washington Capitals have generally been a team that has populated their lineup with numerous first-round picks from the NHL draft. However, the 2022-23 opening night roster could have a dearth of Capitals first-rounders, especially first-rounders selected by the Capitals after the 2010 draft.

Alex Ovechkin (2004), John Carlson (2008), Marcus Johansson (2009) and Evgeny Kuznetsov (2010) are Capitals first round draft picks that will likely make the opening night roster. After that….well….things thin-out quickly.

CAPITALS FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICKS (2004 – 2022)

DRAFT YEAR

PLAYER

POS

PICK

2022 OPENING NIGHT STATUS

2004 Alex Ovechkin LW 1 Team Captain and starting
2004 Jeff Schultz D 27 Bought out after 2012-13
2005 Mike Green D 29 Left in Free Agency in 2015
2005 Sasha Pokuluk D 14 Never made NHL
2005 Joe Finley D 27 No qualifying offer after 2012-13
2006 Nicklas Backstrom C 4 On injured reserve
2006 Semyon Varlamov G 23 Traded to Colorado Avalanche in 2010
2007 Karl Alzner D 5 Left in Free Agency in 2017
2008 Anton Gustafsson C 21 Never made NHL
2008 John Carlson D 27 Alternate Captain and starting
2009 Marcus Johansson F 24 Returned to the team in 2022 and starting
2010 Evgeny Kuznetsov F 26 First line center and starting
2011 None
2012 Filip Forsberg LW 11 Trade to Nashville in 2013
2012 Tom Wilson RW 16 On injured reserve
2013 Andre Burakovsky LW 23 Traded to Colorado Avalanche in 2019
2014 Jakub Vrana LW 13 Traded to Detroit Red Wings in 2021
2015 Ilya Samsonov G 22 No qualifying offer after 2021-22
2016 Lucas Johansen D 28 To Be Determined
2017 None
2018 Alex Alexeyev D 31 On injured reserve for Hershey Bears
2019 Connor McMichael C 25 To Be Determined
2020 Hendrix LaPierre C 22 With Hershey Bears
2021 None
2022 Ivan Miroshnichenko LW 20 Avangard Omsk — Not cleared to play

2004 Entry Draft – Left Wing Alex Ovechkin (Pick #1 Overall), Defenseman Jeff Schultz (Pick #27 Overall), and Defenseman Mike Green (Pick #29 Overall)

Ovechkin joined the team for the 2005-16 team and has been with them ever since. He has been the team Captain since midway through the 2009-10 season and will definitely be in the Capitals’ opening night lineup

Schultz joined the Caps during the 2006-07 season and remained with the Capitals through the 2012-13 season when the Caps bought out his contract. He then signed a contract with the Los Angeles Kings.

Green joined the Caps near the end of the 2005-06 season and remained with the Cap through 2014-15 when he left the team in free agency and signed with the Detroit Red Wings.

2005 Entry Draft – Defenseman Sasha Pokulok (Pick #14 Overall) and Defenseman Joe Finley (Pick #27 Overall)

Pokulok never did make it to the NHL level. His last year in the Capitals organization was 2008-09 as the Caps did not extend him a qualifying offer.

Finley never did play for the Capitals and they did not extend him a qualifying offer after the 2010-11 season.

2006 Entry Draft – Center Nicklas Backstrom (Pick #4 Overall) and Goaltender Semyon Varlamov

Backstrom joined the Caps in 2007-08 and has remained with them ever since. He had hip resurfacing surgery during the 2022 offseason, will not be in the Caps’ opening day lineup, and is expected to be out long term.

Semyon Varlamov joined the Caps in 2008-09 and remained with them through the 2010-11 season. He was traded to the Colorado Avalanche during the summer of 2011 for two draft picks. He currently plays for the New York Islanders.

Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

2007 Entry Draft – Defenseman Karl Alzner (Pick #5 Overall)

Alzner first joined the Caps in 2007-08 and remained with them through the 2016-17 season when he left the team in free agency and signed a contract with the Montreal Canadiens.

Photo: NHL

2008 Entry Draft – Center Anton Gustafsson (Pick #21 Overall) and Defenseman John Carlson (Pick #27 Overall)

Gustafsson never made it to NHL. After playing just one game with the Hershey Bears in the AHL in 2009-10, he returned to Sweden to play hockey.

Carlson joined the Capitals midway through the 2009-10 season and has been with them ever since.  He will be in the Capitals’ opening day lineup.

Photo: NHL

2009 Entry Draft – Forward Marcus  Johansson (Pick #24 Overall)

Johansson joined the Capitals for the 2010-11 season and remained with them through the 2016-17 season. After that season, he was traded to the New Jersey Devils for two draft picks. The Caps reacquired him from the Seattle Kraken at the 2022 trade deadline and re-signed him for the 2022-23 season. He will likely be in the Caps’ opening day lineup for 2022.

Photo: NHL

2010 Entry Draft – Forward Evgeny Kuznetsov (Pick #26 Overall)

Kuznetsov has been with the Capitals since the end of the 2013-14 season and is currently their first-line center. He will be in the Caps’ opening day lineup, and could theoretically be the most recent Capitals first round draft pick (2010) on the 2022 opening night roster.

Photo: NHL

2011 Entry Draft

No picks as they traded a first-round pick to the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for Troy Brouwer

2012 Entry Draft – Left Wing Filip Forsberg (Pick #11 Overall) and Right Wing Tom Wilson (Pick #16 Overall)

Photo: Keith Srakocic/The Canadian Press/Associated Press

Capitals traded Forsberg to the Nashville Predators for Martin Erat and Michael Latta at the 2012-13 NHL Trade Deadline. He remains with the Predators, to this day

Wilson has been with the Caps since the 2012-13 playoffs. His first regular season was 2013-14. He will be starting the 2022-23 season on Long Term Injured Reserve due to a knee injury in the playoffs that required surgery.

2013 Entry Draft – Left Wing Andre Burakovsky (Pick #23 Overall)

Burakovsky was with the Caps from 2014-15 through 2018-19. The Capitals traded him to the Colorado Avalanche for two draft pick after the 2018-19 season. He now plays for the Seattle Kraken after leaving the Colorado Avalanche in free agency after the 2021-22 season.

Photo: NHL

2014 Entry Draft – Left Wing Jakub Vrana (Pick #13 Overall)

Vrana was with the Capitals from 2016-17 through 2020-21. He was traded to the Detroit Red Wings at the 2020-21 trade deadline along with Richard Panik and draft picks for Anthony Mantha.  He remains with the Detroit Red Wings.

Photo: NHL

2015 Entry Draft – Goaltender Ilya Samsonov (Pick #22 Overall)

Samsonov was with the Capitals from 2019-20 through 2021-22. He became a restricted free agent after 2021-22 and the Capitals chose not to give him a qualifying offer. He signed a contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs for 2022-23.

2016 Entry Draft – Defenseman Lucas Johansen (Pick #28 Overall)

Johansen played one game with the Capitals during the 2021-22 season. He has spent five years in the Capitals’ organization, nearly all with their AHL farm team, the Hershey Bears. Injuries have hampered his development. He is currently in Capitals training camp but could be the odd man out come final cut day.

2017 Entry Draft

No first-round picks as the Capitals traded it to the St Louis Blues in the Kevin Shattenkirk deal

2018 Entry Draft – Defenseman Alexander Alexeyev (Pick #31 Overall)

Alexeyev played one game with the Capitals during 2021-22. He has spent three years in the Capitals’ organization, nearly all with their AHL farm team, the Hershey Bears. He has been “lent” to the Hershey Bears as he continues in his recovery from shoulder surgery.

2019 Entry Draft – Connor McMichael (Pick #25 Overall)

McMichael played for the Washington Capitals during the 2021-22 season and one game during the 2020-21 season. His opening day role is still to be determined. He may be in the lineup for opening day but could also be sent to the Hershey Bears at the start of the season, as he is one of the few Capitals prospects that is waivers-exempt.

Photo: Capitals

2020 Entry Draft – Hendrix LaPierre (Pick #22 Overall)

LaPierre played in six games with the Washington Capitals for the 2021-22 season but primarily played junior hockey. He has been assigned to the Hershey Bears to start the 2022-23 season.

Photo: NHL

2021 Entry Draft

No first-round picks since they traded it in the deal where they acquired Anthony Mantha

2022 Entry Draft – Forward Ivan Miroshnichenko (Pick #20 Overall)

Photo: Avangard Omsk

Miroshnichenko will play with Avangard Omsk in the KHL as soon as he is cleared to play. He has been recovering from Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and has been cleared to skate but not yet cleared to play

Conclusion: Three of the Capitals’ first-rounders from 2004-09 should be in the opening day lineup: Ovechkin, Carlson, and Johansson.

One other first-rounder, Nicklas Backstrom, will start the season on injured reserve. Only one first-round pick from the 2010 NHL Entry Draft or later is a safe bet for the Capitals’ opening day lineup, that being Evgeny Kuznetsov. One first-rounder drafted past 2010, Tom Wilson, will also start the season on injured reserve.

There might be one or two more first-rounders in the lineup, depending on the final roster decisions. Connor McMichael could be in the lineup as either a center or a winger on either the second or third line. But he could get sent to Hershey due to the surplus of forwards still vying for roles, including Aliaksei Protas, Brett Leason, Joe Snively, or Axel Jonsson-Fjallby.

Lucas Johansen is also a possibility for opening day but he is likely an extra defenseman; however, there is also the possibility that he could be waived and sent to Hershey.

By Diane Doyle

Related Reading
We Could Have Had….?!”: Washington Capitals’ Draft Day Misses: 2014 – 2016
We Could Have Had….?!” Part 2: Washington Capitals’ Draft Day Misses: 2017-2021
“We Could Have Had…?!”: Washington Capitals’ Draft Day Regrets – 2011-2013
21st Century Capitals: A Look At the Capitals’ Draft Picks Since 2000
A Retrospective On The Last Decade of Draft Picks by the Washington Capitals
Draft Class Grades (Updated): Grading the Capitals’ Draft Picks in the Last 10 Years — Pre-2019 NHL Entry Draft Edition
Reviewing All Of The Washington Capitals First Round Draft Picks And How They Turned Out
Capitals’ Draft Class: 2004
Capitals’ Draft Class: 2007
Capitals’ Draft Class: 2008

About Diane Doyle

Been a Caps fan since November 1975 when attending a game with my then boyfriend and now husband.
This entry was posted in Draft, History, News, NHL, Players and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Where Did Everybody Go? Capitals First Round Draft Picks Could Be Few And Far Between On Opening Night

  1. Anonymous says:

    It’s like a first round draft pick ghost town.

  2. Anonymous says:

    More like zombie land where Mojo keeps coming back

  3. steven says:

    Ghost town or Zombie Land, its just plain sad. What would be interesting to do would be to list the players we received in trade for out 1st rounders and where they are today. Sad what happened to Finley as he had so much potential. It feels like the team still has not fully recovered from loosing these 2 picks, Forsberg and Gustafsson.

  4. Jonathan says:

    Anton Gustafsson appears to be retired now. His last game was in 2021. Most of his years on ice was in Switzerland. After he left the Bear in 2010, he went to play for the Langnau Tigers (Swiss-A) with whom 6 seasons over the course of his career (broken up a couple times). He played one full season in his native Sweden in 2012-2013 for Asploven HC, playing 41 games with 8 goals and 13 assists. His best season after that game for Hershey was with the Tigers in 2015-2016 playing 43 games with 11 goals and 15 assists.

    I’m thrilled he was able to have a long career and make his own way. He was obviously an asset to his team.

  5. Anonymous says:

    It’s so “Capitals” that the only likely first round picks to start are from 12-15 years ago.

    • Jonathan says:

      Tom Wilson was 10 years ago. The last 9 years our draft picks have been low 1st rounders except for Vrana of year 8.

      Years 10,9, 8, and 7 are on other teams now. (Forsburg, Burakovsky, Vrana, Samsonov)

      Years 6 and 4 are defensemen, who, like goalies, traditionally develop slower than forwards.

      Year 6, Lucas Johansen is finally going to make the team this year.

      Year 5 and year 1 we had no #1 draft picks.

      Year 4, Alex Alex is injured, and had a chance to make the club, and still may see time this year with the club.

      Year 3, McM played many games last year, may not make the club, but is still young and needs a little more development.

      Year 2, who would expect a low round draft choice to make the club?

      Year 0. He’s not Ovi.

  6. Jonathan says:

    2004 and 2005, we had 5 1st round draft picks. Only two of those picks could be called a success. All other 1st rd draft picks could be called a success except 2008 with Anton Gustafsson can be considered a success at this point. Lucas Johansen’s story is yet to be fully written. I define a success as a long or current tenured career in the NHL. Of those 17 first rounders since 2006, a few of them are in development, and like Johansen, their story is yet to be written. I included McM in this, despite some NHL time. He’s not quite settled in at that level yet. Of the 1st rounders who were drafted since 2006 and aren’t in development, only one didn’t have an NHL career; that’s 11 out of 12 picks! Many of them were low 1st rounders because the team was doing better with Ovi. Maybe you think that is to be expected, but I don’t. I bet it’s above average over the course of that time in comparison with other NHL clubs. It’s a tribute to the scouting staff and the selection process of the Caps since 2006. Some of them you may feel has ‘underperformed’, that is, didn’t reach their expected ceiling; but that’s common, because projection is what it is: a guess. Athleticism may or may not be there as expected. The game rules change, and changes the value of certain attributes too making some more valuable and others less. Some positions take more time in development, and some players need more time. Samsonov’s full story is yet to be written. It’s possible he improves. Burakovsky’s development stalled. I don’t know if he’s improved since leaving Washington, but he does produce, even you may want more, he does produce. MoJo didn’t turn out to be the center we were hoping he would be; although he was listed as both LW/C, but he’s had a solid career, especially in his first go round with the Caps. Those three you might name as under performers, although MoJo and Burakovsky is questionable. The three were taken 23, and 24th in the draft, and the five players taken after both of them only one of those 10 players has comparable statistics (Kyle Palmieri taken after MoJo). Most of those 10 never had NHL careers. These weren’t bad selections by any means. They were great selections. Even the “underperformers”.

    • Jonathan says:

      The two were taken 23 and 24th in their respective drafts, and Samsonov taken 22.

    • steven says:

      One thing that I am surprised that the Caps never did was take one of their low 1st rounders and pair it with a player to move up in the draft. Maybe they tried but never read anything about it.

    • Dan+Hornbaker says:

      Great post/insight Jonathan. Also, I think when we consider the several of the likely names on next years opening roster this number will be impressive again:

      CMM
      LaPierre
      Johansen or Alexeyev
      Ovi
      Kuzy
      Wilson
      Carlson

  7. KimRB says:

    Griping about this is a little silly, I believe, because the team had an incredible run. From 2000 to 2015 16 of 19 1st round picks made the NHL. Dallas Stars fans would gladly exchange their 2st rounders four ours, since they had some spectacular flamethrower (Scott Glennie jumps to mind). And the jury is still out on Lapierre, McMichael, and maybe Alexeyev.

    Did you have to go and remind us of Forsberg? (gnashing teeth) That’ll never stop hurting!

  8. Greg M says:

    Side note, check out Karl Alzner’s podcast Alz Caps. He will forever be a Cap and his heart will forever be in this city.

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