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Looking back at the Capitals’ 2009 NHL Draft: How Washington struck gold in the first round

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USA TODAY Sports

Looking back at the Capitals’ 2009 NHL Draft: How Washington struck gold in the first round

The NHL Draft takes place on June 21 and 22. The Capitals hold the 25th overall pick and will be looking for future stars among all the hopeful prospects.

But just how successful has Washington been in finding those stars? How much value have the Caps found through the draft?

NBC Sports Washington will be looking at how Washington has drafted over the last 10 years. Today’s draft: 2009

Capitals picks

24th overall pick (first round): Marcus Johansson F

Johansson has played 588 career NHL games with 120 goals, 214 assists and 334 points. He scored 102 of his 120 goals in seven seasons with the Caps. Johansson’s time in Washington came to an end in 2017 when he was traded to the New Jersey Devils for a second- and a third-round pick. The second-round pick was originally from the Florida Panthers and turned into the 46th overall pick in the 2018 draft. The Caps used it to select defenseman Martin Fehervary. The third-round pick quite literally helped Washington win the Stanley Cup.

The Capitals traded a conditional third-round pick to the Chicago Blackhawks for defenseman Michal Kempny in February 2018. Washington had their own third-round pick and Toronto’s, which New Jersey traded to them for Johansson. The condition of the pick was that Chicago would receive the higher of the two which ended up being Toronto’s.

55th overall pick (second round): Dmitry Orlov D

The Caps found a top-4 defenseman in the second round with Orlov. He has played in 447 games with the Capitals and, along with Matt Niskanen, has been a part of Washington’s top shutdown pair for the last several years. He has cut back on some of the turnovers that plagued his early career and is under contract with the Caps through the 2022-23 season.

85th overall pick (third round): Cody Eakin F

Now with the Vegas Golden Knights, Eakin’s current claim to fame is taking a phantom major penalty for his hit to Joe Pavelski in Game 7 of Vegas’ first-round matchup against the San Jose Sharks.

Washington certainly found value here as Eakin has played in more NHL games (537) than any other player selected in the third round of the 2009 draft. Only 30 of those games were with the Caps, however, as he was traded to the Dallas Stars along with a second-round pick in 2012 for Mike Ribeiro.

115th overall pick (fourth round): Patrick Wey D

Wey’s career ended after just nine NHL games due to concussions. Wey struggled to return to the ice after two concussions and retired in 2015.

145th overall pick (fifth round): Brett Flemming D

Flemming struggled to break through at the AHL level and spent the majority of his time within the Capitals’ organization playing in the ECHL. After that, he went overseas. He just completed his third season in the Czech league.

175th overall pick (sixth round): Garrett Mitchell F

Mitchell has put together a solid AHL career and even was the captain of the Hershey Bears from 2015 to 2018. He played in one game for the Capitals and just finished his first season in Europe playing in Slovakia.

205th overall pick (seventh round): Benjamin Casavant F

After putting up some promising numbers in the QMJHL, Casavant played a year in France then played another three seasons in very minor leagues in Canada.

Other picks related to the Caps

The Caps acquired the 45th overall pick from the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for Brian Sutherby in November 2007. The Caps ultimately traded the pick away to the Montreal Canadiens in February 2008 for goalie Cristobal Huet. The Atlanta Thrashers ultimately ended up with the pick and took forward Jeremy Morin.

Takeaways

This was a really good draft for Washington. Orlov remains a major fixture on the blue line and the team got good value in the third and fourth rounds. Eakin was flipped for a second-line center, which the team desperately needed. Wey looked promising until his concussions completely derailed his career.

The big win, however, was the first-round pick. The Caps turned the 24th overall pick into Michal Kempny, Martin Fehervary and 500 productive games from Marcus Johansson.

That is one hell of a pick.

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Prospect Joe Snively was cheering outside Capital One Arena when the Capitals won the Stanley Cup

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Prospect Joe Snively was cheering outside Capital One Arena when the Capitals won the Stanley Cup

There were many incredible aspects to the Capitals’ 2018 Stanley Cup run, but one of the best was how fans took over the streets in the Stanley Cup Final. Little did we know that a future Cap was among the faithful outside of Capital One Arena.

Forward prospect and Herndon, Va. native Joe Snively was signed as a college free agent in March 2019. He is an alum of the Little Capitals local youth hockey program and, not surprisingly given his background, he grew up as a Caps fan.

For all Washington fans, June 7, 2018, is a day that will never be forgotten as it was the day the team won its first Stanley Cup. We all have our own story of where we were that day and how we watched. Snively is no different.

“I was downtown DC outside the arena watching on the big screen,” he told Mike Vogel in an interview at the team’s development camp.

“It was a great feeling,” Snively continued. “At that time I didn’t know I’d have the opportunity to sign with the Capitals and it was an amazing feeling. I’ve been a Caps fan ever since I started watching hockey and it was great to see them after all those years in the playoffs to win the Cup. It was amazing.”

The Alex Ovechkin era is important to Washington hockey not just because he brought the city a Cup, but because of the increased interest at the youth level. Interest early on should increase the sport and the team’s popularity. That, in turn, should lead to more youth participation which should lead to a more competitive youth program and homegrown talent entering professional hockey. The increased interest from that should further boost hockey in the region thus repeating the cycle.

Snively is just the first example.

It kind of makes you wonder how many other future Caps were in that crowd watching the team win the Cup.

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20 Burning Capitals Questions: Can the power play get back to an elite level?

20 Burning Capitals Questions: Can the power play get back to an elite level?

The long, endless summer is only halfway done. The Capitals last played a game on April 24 and will not play another one until Oct. 2. 

But with free agency and the NHL Draft behind them now, the 2019-2020 roster is almost set and it won’t be long until players begin trickling back onto the ice in Arlington for informal workouts.  

With that in mind, and given the roasting temperatures outside, for the next three weeks NBC Sports Washington will look at 20 burning questions facing the Capitals as they look to rebound from an early exit from the Stanley Cup playoffs, keep alive their Metropolitan Division title streak and get back to their championship form of 2018.   

The list will look at potential individual milestones, roster questions, prospects who might help and star players with uncertain futures. Today we look at a power play that dipped out of the top 10 last season. Can a unit that has been so consistent for so long get back to that top level? 

This comes back to tactics more than personnel. The same players are back who have been part of this unit for years. Alex Ovechkin is the ultimate weapon in the left face-off circle, John Carlson mans the point, Nicklas Backstrom and Evgeny Kuznetsov do their thing on the half wall and below the net and T.J. Oshie is the trigger man in the slot. 

Those five players all had 227 minutes of power-play time last year or more. Ovechkin had 17 goals which is about standard for the best ever. Kuznetsov came next with eight goals and 13 assists. Backstrom had four goals, but 17 assists. Carlson had two goals and 27 assists. 

Oshie missed 13 games so his numbers are a little down, but in the games he did play he still hit six goals and eight assists. Tom Wilson was Oshie’s primary replacement in that bumper position and he had three goals. 

Not too bad for Blaine Forsythe’s group. He’s the assistant coach who has run the power play the past five years. You can’t argue with the track record. Unfortunately, the expectations for Washington’s power play are massive given that talent level and it’s fair to say it fell short at 12thoverall in the NHL at 20.8 percent.

Again, 49-for-236 isn’t bad. It’s just the talent level says it should be better. The Capitals were seventh in 2017-18 (22.5 percent), fourth in 2016-17 (23.1 percent), fifth in 2015-16 (21.9 percent), first in 2014-15 (25.3 percent), tied for first in 2013-14 (23.4 percent) and first again in 2012-13 (26.8 percent). The last time Washington finished outside the top 10 on the power play was in 2011-12 when it cratered to 18th (16.7 percent). 

There are a few issues that could be tweaked. The Capitals managed just 236 power-play chances. That tied for 16thin the league. To even break into the top 10 in that category they’d need 16 more penalties drawn. 

Only three times after Oct. 22 did they score two power-play goals in the same game and never more than that. How does that even happen? They had two or more power-play goals four times in the first eight games alone, including four on opening night. After that? It was one and done, 

Kuznetsov is one of the best in the game at getting the puck into the offensive zone. Fans loathe it, but the drop pass – or “the slingshot” – has become an effective way, when used properly, to get the puck into the offensive zone on the power play. It just didn’t seem to work all that well for Washington last year. 

One wonders if Forsythe will make some tweaks there. Kuznetsov was often the player on the receiving end of the drop passes, which can keep the penalty kill off balance, but can also waste precious seconds when it doesn’t work. Then you have to regroup and try again. 

It’s not going away, though – even for those who want to slingshot the drop pass to the moon. It’s used all over the league. Some teams like to use two players as options when coming up ice using the slingshot. That’s easier to defend in some ways, but it also gives your team a certain level of unpredictability. 

Maybe teams have just become better at defending the Capitals on the PK simply because they have had the same personnel and coaching for years now. Opposing coaching staffs have hours of video on this group to break down and analyze. 

But there’s no reason to change too much. That Ovechkin one-timer is the ultimate weapon and you don’t want to stifle the creativity of players like Backstrom or Kuznetsov.

Maybe quicker unit changes would help keep players fresh. Ovechkin is almost always going to be out there for the full two minutes and it would be silly to take that shot off the ice. But developing a more reliable second group might help, too. 

Last year’s “second” unit by ice time was Lars Eller, Jakub Vrana, Wilson, Brett Connolly and Dmitry Orlov/Matt Niskanen. Connolly is gone via free agency. Niskanen is gone via trade. One wonders why Andre Burakovsky was hardly used (18:25), but he’s gone, too, in a trade. 

Will be interesting to see if Forsythe can come up with a more reliable second group centered around Ovechkin, Eller and Vrana, who deserves more power-play time even if he’s buried on this roster, and Wilson as the big body in the middle. Richard Panik was fifth on the Arizona Coyotes in power-play minutes last season (146:16) so maybe he has a role there. 

The very best Washington power plays in recent years had secondary players like Marcus Johansson and Justin Williams around before the salary cap cleaved that depth. The Capitals were still a very good power play in 2018-19, but they could use more of that. These are minor changes that could get them back toward the very top of the league and helps take pressure off its 5-on-5 play. 

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