The Capitals added six players to their prospect pool during this year’s NHL Draft, all of which came on Saturday afternoon spanning from the second to sixth rounds.
The team added four defensemen (two right-handed, one left-handed), a center and a goalie that they hope can help add to the team’s farm system, which has been a bit depleted through the years as the Capitals make runs at the Stanley Cup.
But the headline of this year's class was how heavy the team went at the blue line.
“I thought maybe where we were picking, there were going to be defensemen that were going to be available,” assistant general manager Ross Mahoney said. “We’ve always said that, that we’ll take the best player. I think it was good to be able to get some defensemen, and the first couple are right-handed defensemen, which I think helps to fill a bit of a void that we have as far as young defensemen.”
The team chose right-handed defenseman Vincent Iorio, out of the WHL’s Brandon Wheat Kings, 55th overall with their first selection of the draft. The Capitals liked his upside offensively as he continues to develop. Mahoney even thought that he’d go in the first round.
“He’s a big kid, about 6’2 ½, 6’3, skates really well, good hands, moves the puck well,” Mahoney said. “Probably didn’t get to show as much offensively this year, as I think he will in the future because he played behind Braden Schneider, who the Rangers traded up last year to take at 19.”
They followed up with another right-handed shot defender in Brent Johnson (no, not that one) out of the USHL’s Sioux Falls Stampede in the third round. With Martin Fehervary and Alexander Alexeyev set to join the NHL roster as soon as October, the Capitals felt they balanced out their blue line prospect pool a bit, while adding more young players to the mix.
The Capitals added two more defenders, Joaquim Lemay (119th overall) and Dru Krebs (176th), before the day ended. Both are left-handed shots.
Lemay played 15 games for the Salmon Arm Silverbacks in the British Columbia Hockey League, while Krebs played 23 games for the Medicine Hat Tigers in the WHL.
They added Haakon Hanelt at 151st overall as the team’s first, and only, forward selection of the day. Hanelt turned 18 just shy of two months ago and played hockey last season for Eisbaren Berlin of the DEL, which is the highest level of German hockey.
The Capitals closed their draft with the selection of Chase Clark, a 6-foot-6 goaltender who played three games in the USHL in the 2020-21 season. He spent the majority of his time for the Jersey Hitmen of the National Collegiate Development Conference where he posted a .935 save percentage in 22 games.
“Really interesting guy, he was playing in New Jersey, the Hitmen, and we had video from him there,” Mahoney said of Clark. “But then we saw him play also in the USHL and he was really impressive for a big, 6-foot-6, 200-pound goalie. Pretty controlled, pretty athletic, and that’s not easy at that height, that age and that position.”
Mahoney mentioned last week he was hopeful that, with the unique and challenging year that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought on, the Capitals would be able to find value in some players that otherwise wouldn’t be there in the middle rounds. Saturday, he and the Capitals think they’ve found a solid draft class to work with.