For the Caps, their 2020 NHL Draft strategy is ‘best player available’


There's no rest for the weary. The Stanley Cup was awarded to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Sept. 28 and on Tuesday, just over a week later, the first round of the 2020 NHL Draft will take place. When the Capitals' turn comes at pick No. 24, they won't be targeting any specific positions.

"We’ll take the best players available to us regardless of position,” Capitals assistant general manager Ross Mahoney said.

Taking the best player available is almost always the strategy for most teams in every NHL draft. It is a bit different from other leagues such as the NFL. In the NFL, most first-round draft picks are not only expected to play right away, but start. In the NHL, very few players play in the NHL right away. Most players will take several years to develop before reaching the NHL, making drafting for a need useless.

Whatever a team's needs are now may be very different in two or three years. Goalie certainly did not appear to be a position of need in 2015 for the Capitals when they drafted Ilya Samsonov, but it sure seems like a good thing they did at this point with Samsonov poised to start and Braden Holtby headed to free agency.

"We’ve always tried to take the best player available to us," Mahoney said. "I think we’ve shown that over the last number of years whether it’s been taking forwards or taking goaltenders. There’s been a couple years probably when it’s been very close as far as the talent of the different positions and maybe we’ve gone one way."


Last year was one of those years.

Before 2019, the Caps had not selected a forward in the first round since Jakub Vrana in 2014. With the system completely bereft of high-end offensive talent, it was expected Washington would focus on offense and they did, taking center Connor McMichael in the first round, winger Brett Leason in the second and center Aliaksei Protas in the third.

But with the team's system considered one of the worst in the NHL, Washington just needs talent at pretty much any position heading into the 2020 draft. Maybe they pass on a left defenseman, they have plenty of those, but everything else should be on the table.