George McPhee says that since the advent of the NHL salary cap, there are only three times during the year that general managers can dramatically alter the look of their teams: the NHL draft, the first day of free agency and the days leading up to the NHL trade deadline.
Two weeks from tonight in Pittsburgh, McPhee will be given one of those opportunities when he holds two valuable commodities the 11th and 16th overall picks of the 2012 NHL draft.
Will he use one or both of those picks to make a blockbuster trade? Or will he play the conservative route and continue to build from within.
A year ago, McPhee dealt the Caps first-round pick 26th overall to the Blackhawks for
Troy Brouwer. But aside from that, he has been hesitant to make significant trades at the draft.
In his 15 years as general manager of the Capitals, McPhee has held two or more picks in the first round just five other times and has had mixed results.
In 2002, the Caps had three picks in the first round and selected defenseman Steve Eminger 12th, right wing Alexander Semin 13th and right wing Boyd Gordon 17th. Eminger was a disappointment, but still garnered a first-round pick from the Flyers that turned into John Carlson.
In 2004, they again had three picks and took left wing Alex Ovechkin 1st, defenseman Jeff Schultz 27th and defenseman Mike Green 29th, each of whom have been major contributors for the Caps.
In 2005, the Caps took defenseman Sasha Pokulok 14th and defenseman Joe Finley 27th and neither made an impact in Washington or anywhere else.
In 2006, the caps drafted center Nicklas Backstrom 4th and goaltender Semyon Varlamov 23rd, who last summer was traded to Colorado for the Avs first pick in this years draft 11th. That would have to be deemed a success.
And in 2008, the Caps took center Anton Gustafsson 21st and Carlson 27th with their two first-round picks. Gustafsson has scored just three goals in his past two seasons with Langnau of the Swiss A League.
So what can the Capitals expect from this draft class?
The Capitals have selected 11th overall just once in their franchise history, selecting defenseman Brendan Witt from Seattle (WHL) in 1993. That same year, the Capitals also had the 17th pick overall and selected center Jason Allison from London (OHL).
Washington has never drafted 16th overall in its franchise history, but has taken Sergei Gonchar (14th overall, 1992), Olie Kolzig (19th overall, 1989) and Kevin Hatcher (17th overall, 1984) near the same point of past drafts.
Other recent notable players to be drafted with the 11th overall selection include Anze Kopitar (LA, 2005), Jeff Carter (Philadelphia, 2003) and Jarome Iginla (Dallas, 1995). Notable players recently selected 16th overall include Nick Leddy (Minnesota, 2009), Steve Bernier (San Jose, 2003) and R.J. Umberger (Vancouver, 2001).