Forward was the obvious need for the Capitals heading into the draft and Washington moved to address that need selecting center Connor McMichael with the 25th pick in the NHL draft on Friday. McMichael is now the first forward the team has taken in the first round of the draft since Jakub Vrana in 2014.
For a team in need of offense, the draft went about as well as possible for the Caps. Despite being seen as an offensive-heavy draft, nine defensemen were selected before Washington’s 25th pick ensuring there would be several forwards with high-upside available.
McMichael, 18, is a bit undersized at just under 6-foot, 182 pounds, but it is understood at the 25th pick there will be some downside to a player. He recorded 36 goals and 36 assists in 67 games with the London Knights in the OHL this season, an improvement of 56 points from the previous year.
There is no part of McMichael’s skillset that will wow you, but he is very good at multiple areas of the game. His shot was described by London associate general manager Rob Simpson as “tricky.”
“There’s not a lot of backward swing in it,” Simpson said. “It’s hard for goalies to read the roll of the puck off his blade. It’s something with the way he holds the stick or releases it from the ice. By the time the goalie picks up if the puck is going high or low, it’s already by him.”
Mike Morreale of NHL.com wrote of McMichael, “The left-handed shot is one of the smartest players in the draft. He has a solid two-way game with a skill set that’s still developing.”
The Caps put a premium on players with a high hockey IQ which explains why they valued him so highly.
Sweet signature, eh? pic.twitter.com/n4MfczF1jN— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) June 22, 2019
That’s the good news. The bad news is that the initial reaction to this pick is that it was a reach by Washington. With more defensemen than expected selected early, there were some unexpected players who were seen as having a higher upside available to the Caps such as Arthur Kaliyev and Ryan Suzuki. Instead, Washington went with McMichael who Corey Pronman of The Athletic ranked has ranked as the 52nd best prospect of the draft.
There are some red flags with a player like Kaliyev which is why he slid down the draft and McMichael seems like the safer pick, but he also may have been someone the Caps could have traded back a few spots and still have been able to select.
The NHL draft will continue on Saturday with Rounds 2 through 7. Washington currently holds a pick in the second, fourth, fifth and seventh rounds.
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