Photo: Instagram: @Capitals
We took our first look at the Washington Capitals pipeline to the Western Hockey League (WHL) back in the summer of 2018, almost five years ago (here). The original piece primarily focused on Capitals Assistant GM Ross Mahoney and his relationship with Capitals WHL scout Darrell Baumgartner. Since that original post, the pipeline has continued to thrive, so I thought it was worthy to revisit.
Mahoney, who originally hails from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, played his minor league hockey with the Regina Pats (WHL) from 1973 to 1975 and became an assistant coach for the Pats from 1993 to 1995, before beginning his scouting career with the Buffalo Sabres in 1995.
After three seasons scouting for the Sabres, Mahoney returned to Western Canada to serve as a scout for the Vancouver Canucks from 1998 to 2000. Mahoney then joined the Capitals in 2000 as director of amateur scouting until 2014, when he was promoted to assistant general manager.
Mahoney and Baumgartner won a championship together prior to winning the Stanley Cup in 2018. Back in 1995, the tandem won a gold medal coaching a Saskatchewan men’s hockey team at the 1995 Canada Winter Games.
For Baumgartner and Mahoney, both of who currently reside in Regina, the realtionship dates back to their youth, when the two were introduced while working field maintenance at Mount Pleasant Sports Park.
“We’ve had a friendship for many, multiple years,” Baumgartner said, “culminating in a Stanley Cup. We’re two prairie kids from Saskatchewan who enjoyed a gold medal at the Canada Games,” Baumgartner reflects. “It’s a thrill just to be in the playoffs, let alone the Stanley Cup final. I find it more of an honor.”
Photo: Instagram: @Capitals
[Mahoney and Baumgartner celebrated their Stanley Cup victory on July 29th, 2018 in Regina, Saskatchewan, during Ross Mahoney’s Day With The Stanley Cup. Above, the two are photographed at the Royal Regina Gold Club.]
PRODUCTS OF THE WHL PIPELINE
The Capitals have relied on a number of “scouting pipelines”, implemented around the globe, for the identification, assessment, selection and development of their player prospects. But none of the pipelines have been more pronounced in recent years as the Baumgartner-Mahoney WHL Pipeline.
The Capitals WHL pipeline was put in place (intentionally or unintentionally) roughly around the same time that Mahoney became assistant general manager. Since 2015, the Capitals have made a total of 44 draft selections. 16 of those selections came from the WHL, or roughly 36%. That’s more than one in every three draft picks. [Click to enlarge]
Draft data via Hockey DB
11 of the 44 picks remain in the Capitals system (30%), with just Aliaksei Protas and Alex Alexeyev currently playing for the Capitals, or roughly 5.5% of the 16 selections from the WHL.
RESULTS ARE ALL THAT MATTER
So does it matter if the Capitals have an unbalanced number of draft picks from the WHL? Not if the talent is there, and ultimately the results are there. As noted, the two have already won a Stanley Cup together, and that’s half the debate. The other half of the debate is the results of those WHL draft selections.
Right now, one could argue the success rates are on the low end, with just two of the Capitals draft selections from the WHL currently playing for the Capitals. However, Martin Fehervary is the only “non-WHLer” of the 44 draft selections currently playing for the Capitals.
Brett Leason is the only other Capitals WHL draft pick playing elsewhere, while Jonas Siegenthaler, Ilya Samsonov and Axel Jonson-Fjallby are non-WHLer’s selected by the Capitals that have seen some amount of time in the NHL this season for other teams.
The old adage of “stick to what you know” does hold some water in this case, as Mahoney and Baumgartner are very knowledgeable with regards to the WHL. The bottom line is that yes, the success rate of the Capitals WHL selections is on the low side right now, but there is still much to be said about the final results for those players. We will circle back again in another five years to update.
By Jon Sorensen
I don’t think the results have been that bad, given that most of the picks from the WHL have been lower in the draft. The overall success rate of NHL draftees below the 2nd round is pretty low no matter where they come from or who picks them. Of the WHL kids the Caps picked in the first 3 rounds, all are either in the NHL or AHL, and only Sutter has played no NHL games, which is actually a pretty good hit rate.
I think the question for me, is focusing more than a third of your draft capital in one league a sound strategy. The overall results of the 44 picks are subpar imho as well.
Good point. And totally ignoring one of the hockey powerhouses of the world: Finland.
Drafting is tricky work. It’s hard to find guys with elite skills but then you have to project the kid’s work ethic and character. I like picking the highest skill guys and trading the ones who don’t fit in.
There’s an old adage that goes: it’s easier to teach an offensive guy defense, than a defensive guy offense.
Look for skills first, then hope the rest comes around
I think Caps are too dependent on WHL. You’re telling me there aren’t other/better players in the world?