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Are Caps targeting defenseman in first round?


Are Caps targeting defenseman in first round?

In their 40-year history the Capitals have had 51 first-round draft picks and have used more of them on defensemen [17] than any other position.

Considering the Caps have taken only forwards in the first round over he past six years – Marcus Johansson in 2009, Evgeny Kuznetsov in 2010, Filip Forsberg and Tom Wilson in 2012, Andre Burakovsky in 2013, and Jakub Vrana in 2014 – and have two up-and-coming goaltending prospects in Philipp Grubauer and Pheonix Copley, the Caps could be aiming for a defenseman with the 22nd pick of this year’s draft, which will take place Friday night and Saturday morning at BB&T Center in Sunrise, Fla.

Last year, only five defensemen were taken in the first round of a forward-heavy draft, all of them within the first 19 selections. In 2013, nine defensemen were taken in the first round, eight of them within the first 18 picks. And in 2012, a total of 13 defensemen were taken in the first round, including 10 in the first 22 picks, with Pittsburgh’s Olli Maatta arguably the best of them at No. 22.


Based on that sample size, it’s anyone’s guess which defensemen might be available if the Caps retain their first-round pick at No. 22 overall.

NHL Central Scouting has nine defensemen ranked among its top 30 prospects. Six of those defensemen are projected to be taken before the Caps pick at No. 22.

So, for the sake of argument, let’s take a look at five defensemen who could be available when the Caps pick at No. 22.

Oliver Kylington, Farjestad (SWE): Smallish by NHL standards [6-foot, 185 pounds] Kylington is an offensive defenseman who was ranked first among European skaters on Central Scouting’s mid-term rankings but fell to six after he ended the season with 10 goals in 45 games with three different Swedish teams. In all likelihood he’ll be gone before the Caps pick at No. 22.

Jeremy Roy, Sherbrooke (QMJHL): Ranked seventh among defensemen, Roy is another smallish offensive defenseman [6-foot, 188] who recorded 43 points [5 goals, 38 assists] in 46 games for Sherbrooke. A right-handed shot, Roy can play either side and is projected as an NHL power-play quarterback.

Gabriel Carlsson, Linkoping Jr. (SWE-JR): If the Caps are looking for the next Brooks Orpik [and they probably should be], Carlsson is a big Swede [6-foot-4], who needs to grow into his frame [183 pounds] before making an impact at the NHL level. He’s ranked second on Central Scouting’s list of European players. He lacks the offensive skills of players like Kylington and Roy, but the Caps will like his size and the fact he had a plus-21 rating with Linkoping's under-20 team.

Thomas Chabot, Saint John (QMJHL): If there is a run of defensemen taken before the Caps select at No. 22, many believe Chabot might be the best choice for the Caps. Described as a two-way defenseman Chabot led Saint John blue liners with 41 points [12 goals, 29 assists] and should be able to pack muscle onto a 6-foot-1, 180-pound frame.

Noah Juulsen, Everett (WHL): Central Scouting bumped Juulsen from No. 38 on its mid-term rankings to No. 22, where the Caps will be picking. A right shot, two-way defender Juulsen is 6-foot-1, 174 and is coming off a nine-goal, 52-point season in which he finished a plus-22.

For those piqued by positional analysis, here’s a composite list on the Caps’ first-round selections:

Defensemen: 17

Rick Green, Robert Picard, Darren Veitch, Scott Stevens, Kevin Hatcher, John Slaney, Sergei Gonchar, Brendan Witt, Nolan Baumgartner, Nicholas Boynton, Steve Eminger, Jeff Schultz, Mike Green, Sasha Pokulok, Joe Finley, Karl Alzner, John Carlson

Centers: 15

Alex Forsyth, Greg Carroll, Ryan Walter, Bob Carpenter, Reggie Savage, Pat Peake, Jason Allison, Alexandre Volchkov, Kris Beech, Brian Sutherby, Nicklas Backstrom, Anton Gustafson, Marcus Johansson, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Filip Forsberg

Left Wings: 9

Yvon Corriveau, Jeff Greenlaw, Trevor Halverson, Alexander Kharlamov, Brad Church, Miika Elomo, Alexander Semin, Alex Ovechkin, Andre Burakovsky

Right Wings: 7

Tim Coulis, Mike Gartner, Jaroslav Svejkovsky, Boyd Gordon, Eric Fehr, Tom Wilson, Jakub Vrana

Goaltenders: 2

Olie Kolzig, Semyon Varlamov

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Blackhawks fans tossed after directing racist remarks at Washington's Smith-Pelly

Blackhawks fans tossed after directing racist remarks at Washington's Smith-Pelly

CHICAGO—Four fans were ejected from United Center on Saturday night for taunting Devante Smith-Pelly as the Capitals’ winger sat in the penalty box.

The fans, according to a team spokesman, yelled “basketball, basketball, basketball” at Smith-Pelly, who is black. Smith-Pelly was in the box for fighting in the third period of an eventual 7-1 loss to the Blackhawks.

The taunts were confirmed by an off-ice official, the spokesman said, and the fans were subsequently removed from the arena.

Smith-Pelly did not speak with reporters after the game but is expected to address the incident at the team’s next media availability. The team is scheduled to practice Sunday at KeyBank Center in Buffalo.

Caps Coach Barry Trotz did not hold back when asked about the fans' comments.

“There’s absolutely no place in the game of hockey or our country for racism,” Trotz said. “I think it’s disgusting, and there’s no place for it. …It just shows ignorance.”

The Blackhawks responded on Twitter with an apology to Smith-Pelly, who is one of roughly 30 black players in the NHL.

February is Hockey is For Everyone month in the NHL.

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3 stars of the game: Caps suffer ugly loss to scuffling Blackhawks

3 stars of the game: Caps suffer ugly loss to scuffling Blackhawks

Just about everything that could go wrong did for the Capitals on Saturday in a 7-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Caps were coming off a strong 5-2 win over the Minnesota Wild on Thursday, but none of that carried over in the trip to Chicago. The Caps took on a Blackhawks team that had lost eight in a row, but Chicago quickly took control in the first period and never looked back.

Washington gave up 21 shots on goal in the first period and found themselves down 3-1 after the opening frame. Things did not get much better from there as they gave up another three goals in the final four minutes of the second.

Here are the three stars of the game.

1. Jonathan Toews: Toews opened up the scoring in the first period with a quick shot from the corner that caught Braden Holtby by surprise.

Later in the first, he recorded an assist as his pass sparked a breakout that led to Brandon Saad's deal that gave Chicago back the lead. The Caps tried to make a game of it in the second period, but Toews intercepted a pass from Brooks Orpik that led to a 2-on-0 with himself and Patrick Kane that Kane netted to give the Blackhawks a 4-1 lead and signaled to everyone that the rout was on. Saturday was only the second three-point night of the season for Toews.

2. Patrick Kane: Toews helped the Blackhawks take control early, but Kane helped provide the knockout punches in the second period. A bad pass from Orpik was intercepted by Toews that led to a 2-on-0 with Kane. Holtby made the initial save on Toews, but Kane was able to knock in the rebound for the goal.

Kane also added an assist on Artem Anisimov's power play goal which extended Chicago's lead to 6-1.

3. Tom Wilson: Before this one got out of hand, it looked like Wilson had erased the tough start for the Caps as he deflected a shot from Matt Niskanen into the net to get Washington on the board.

Saturday's tally was his third goal in two games and his 10th of the season, marking the first time in his career he has reached double digits in goals.