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)
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|
|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|
|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|
|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.
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.
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.
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.
2011 Entry Draft
No picks as they traded a first-round pick to the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for Troy Brouwer
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
2021 Entry Draft
No first-round picks since they traded it in the deal where they acquired Anthony Mantha
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.
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