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Looking back at the Capitals’ 2012 NHL Draft: The Forsberg draft

Associated Press

Looking back at the Capitals’ 2012 NHL Draft: The Forsberg draft

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: 2012

11th overall pick (first round): Filip Forsberg F

I know, I know. You don’t want to think about it, but it happened. Washington acquired a first-round pick from the Colorado Avalanche and a second-round pick in 2012 or 2013 in exchange for goalie Semyon Varlamov. The Caps used that first-round pick on Forsberg. Less than a year later, Forsberg was traded to the Nashville Predators for Martin Erat and Michael Latta.

We all know how things went from there.

Erat was a decent player in Nashville, but this trade was a complete disaster. He played just 62 games for the Caps scoring a whopping two goals and 25 assists before he was traded to Arizona with John Mitchell for Chris Brown, Rostislav Kelsla and a fourth-round pick. Latta gave the Caps 113 games, four goals and 13 assists as a depth player.

Forsberg…do you really want to see this? OK…In his seven NHL seasons, Forsberg has scored 145 goals and 160 assists as one of Nashville’s top offensive players.

19th overall pick (first round): Tom Wilson F

On to happier topics. For a while, this pick looked like a real reach and that Wilson would never be able to live up  to being a first-round pick. Once Barry Trotz and Todd Reirden starting treating Wilson like a top-six player and not just a goon, he started to play like one. He has scored a combined 75 points in his past two seasons and has provided Washington’s top-six with an edge few teams have in the modern era of the NHL.

It is rare to have a player as physically imposing as Wilson who can also skate well and produce offensively. He is an incredibly unique player that is incredibly hard to match up against. When Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov are on the ice and teams have to worry about where Wilson is, that is a tremendous asset.

The fact that Wilson was selected in the draft that was held in Pittsburgh is also some delicious irony.

46th overall pick (second round): Traded to the New Jersey Devils

In February 2011, Washington traded this pick and Dave Steckel to New Jersey for Jaosn Arnott. Arnott was one of many players the team tried to insert into its second-line center hole and yet another center who just did not seem to fit. Second-line center was an issue for the Caps almost throughout the entire Ovechkin era up until Evgeny Kuznetsov finally took ownership of that role.

Different center, same story as Arnott and the Caps fell in the second round of the playoffs in 2011, Arnott’s lone postseason run with Washington.

Arnott was a rental for the Caps and gave them 11 regular season games, plus another nine in the playoffs.

The Devils would trade the pick to the Minnesota Wild who took forward Raphael Bussieres who never reached the NHL and who played last season in the LNAH.

54th overall pick (second round): Acquired and traded

This was the second pick Washington acquired from the Avalanche for Varlamov. The Caps traded the pick to the Dallas Stars along with Cody Eakin for Mike Ribeiro. Dallas used the pick on forward Mike Winther.

Washington may have only gotten 48 games out of Ribeiro, but that was 48 more than Dallas got from Winther. The highest level of hockey Winther reached was the WHL.

77th overall pick (third round): Chandler Stephenson F

Stephenson has spent that last two seasons with the Caps and has become an important piece of the team’s depth. Watching him play, you think he would be able to make more use of his skillset with great speed and good hands. For now, he is a depth player best suited for the fourth line and the penalty kill, but still a solid draft pick.

100th overall pick (fourth round): Thomas DiPauli F

Washington acquired this pick from the Winnipeg Jets along with Danick Paquette for Eric Fehr. Paquette spent some time with Washington’s ECHL and AHL affiliates. Fehr played 35 games for Winnipeg then returned to the Caps for another three seasons.

After four years of college hockey, DiPauli elected to leave the Caps’ organization as a free agent as is his right. He signed with the Pittsburgh Penguins and has spent the past three seasons playing for the AHL affiliate Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.

The college free agent rule in the NHL is a highly scrutinized one. I won’t ever criticize a player for taking advantage of an opportunity that is afforded to them in the rule book, but it sure seems like that rule makes a lot more sense to take advantage of if you are a highly touted prospect. DiPauli showed some potential at Notre Dame, but was a middle of the pack prospect. For him, his best opportunity of making it to the NHL was to stay with the Caps who, as the team that drafted him, had a vested interest in seeing him succeed and make it to that level. Perhaps he never would have gotten there, but I think he would have had a better chance with the team that drafted him in the hopes he could one day be an NHL player rather than a team that signed him thinking of him as an AHLer.

107th overall pick (fourth round): Austin Wuthrich F

After four years at Notre Dame, Wuthrich played in the ECHL for two seasons, but never progressed beyond there.

137th overall pick (fifth round): Connor Carrick D

Carrick is a player with tremendous skill, but who also seemed to get pushed around for trying to play bigger than he is. At 5-feet-11, 192 pounds, he is not quite Christian Djoos level small, but his problem is that he always seems to want to play a physical game and he just does not have the frame to do it. Still, for a fifth-round pick, you could do a lot worse.

Carrick spent the majority of his time with the Caps organization playing in Hershey. He scored one goal and five assists in 37 games with Washington. His lasting legacy, however, is helping the team get out from under the Brooks Laich contract. Carrick was packaged with Laich and a second-round pick and sent to the Toronto Maple Leafs for Daniel Winnik and a fifth-round pick. Toronto took Carl Grundstrom with their pick and he currently plays for the Toronto Marlies in the AHL. Washington took Beck Malenstyn with its pick and he currently plays in Hershey.

167th overall pick (sixth round): Riley Barber F

Barber has been with the Caps’ organization since he was drafted, but has played in only three NHL games and is set to become an unrestricted free agent. After scoring 31 goals with Hershey this season, there could be some interest from teams looking for depth offense. Depth offense is definitely a need for Washington, but Barber seems set on exploring other opportunities around the league.

195th overall pick (seventh round): Christain Djoos D

The Caps traded Keith Seabrook to the Calgary Flames in July 2009 for future considerations and they finally cashed in with a seventh-round pick in 2012. That pick turned into an important one as the team selected Djoos.

Djoos played 22 games on the third pair with Brooks Orpik in the team’s 2018 Cup run and looks to be a third-pair player again next season. Whenever you can find an NHL player in the seventh round of the draft, you deserve some kudos. Don’t believe me? Just look at Washington’s other two seventh-round picks.

197th overall pick (seventh round): Jaynen Rissling D

The majority of Rissling’s North American hockey career was spent in the ECHL. He managed five games with the Milwaukee Admirals in the AHL, but that was as high as he climbed. He played last season for the Nottingham Panthers in England.

203rd overall pick (seventh round): Sergei Kostenko G

Kostenko’s North American hockey career consists of nine games played in the ECHL.


This draft will always be defined by Forsberg. There is just no escaping it. After taking him 11th overall, less than a year later general manager George McPhee elected to trade him away. What happened in that year that made him think this would be a good trade? Had he soured on Forsberg and if so, why?

This is when the pressure to win and the frustration of repeated playoff failures really started to wear the organization down. Yes, they were in win now mode and in order to make the roster better, sometimes you have to give up a big-time prospect. The real mistake here was not the decision to trade Forsberg, but the inability to get anything close to equal value for him. Even at the time, everyone knew Erat and Latta was not a good trade. Whatever McPhee thought about Forsberg was irrelevant, the market for him should have dictated a higher return. Instead, McPhee seemingly settled for a fourth-liner and a middle-six forward for a highly regarded first-round prospect. That return was not nearly good enough to justify this move.

Forsberg overshadows everything else that happened in the draft which is too bad because it actually was a pretty good one for Washington. Wilson is a unique player who really seems to baffle the rest of the NHL. Plus, the team found a lot of value with later picks with Stephenson (third round), Carrick (fifth round), Barber (sixth round) and Djoos (seventh round).


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How Jakub Vrana could be game changer for Caps over next two seasons

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How Jakub Vrana could be game changer for Caps over next two seasons

The Capitals took care of their last major order of business this summer by signing restricted free agent Jakub Vrana to a two-year contract extension. 

The deal: Two years, $6.7 million with a salary-cap hit of $3.35 million. That’s not bad for an RFA who posted 24 goals in his age 22/23 season.

Washington now has 13 forwards under contract and six defensemen plus both goalies. According to the invaluable web site, that leaves salary-cap space of $935,706. That's tight. 

The Capitals need to add one more depth defenseman to get to seven. Christian Djoos received a qualifying offer of $715,000, but as an RFA himself elected to go to arbitration. That hearing is July 22. Chandler Stephenson, another RFA, also chose arbitration. The forward has his hearing on Aug. 1. There might be room only for Djoos unless another move is made. 

During his age 22/23 season, Vrana broke through with a career-high in goals (24) and points (47) and established himself as a legitimate top-six forward on an aging team that needs its young talent to produce if it wants to continue as a Stanley Cup contender.

With captain Alex Ovechkin, 33, center Nicklas Backstrom, 31, and right wing T.J. Oshie, 32, in the top six, Washington has kept a good mix with Vrana, 23, Tom Wilson, 25, and Evgeny Kuznetsov, 27, all still in their 20s. Vrana, especially, plays at a speed few others on the roster other than Carl Hagelin can match.  

Since the 2010-11 season, a player who began a season 22 or younger scored 24 goals just 95 times. The list of 55 players who accomplished that feat is littered with stars (Connor McDavid, Nathan McKinnon, Patrick Kane, Taylor Hall) or young phenoms (Sebastian Aho, Auston Matthews, Jack Eichel) and there are very few one-hit wonders or busts on that list. 

At worst, those players have provided steady production for several seasons. The Capitals are hoping for a lot more from Vrana, who scored his 24 goals and got his 47 points with limited power-play time (93:28) on the second unit. 

That might not change much this year, but it’s intriguing to think what Vrana could do if injuries strike and he’s moved up. He was on the ice for 59 goals at even strength and just 37 against, which was the best differential among all Capitals forwards last season.   

The two-year bridge contract is no real surprise. The Capitals took the same tact in 2017 with Andre Burakovsky, their 2013 first-round draft pick. But Burakovsky, while he scored some huge goals in the Stanley Cup playoffs, struggled to maintain consistency in his game and never had a year like Vrana’s 2018-19. He was traded to Colorado last month in part because of the salary-cap crunch and he just drove coaches crazy for the better part of five years.

Vrana is in essence betting on himself. If he is able to make another leap and get to that 30-goal mark, he will still be a restricted free agent after the 2020-21 season at age 25, but one with vastly more leverage. He would be arbitration eligible. He was not eligible this summer. He would be in line for a big payday on a long-term deal from Washington - or would have just two years left before unrestricted free agency after the 2022-23 season.

A similar RFA case happened with the Toronto Maple Leafs and forward Kasperi Kapanen this summer. The Leafs gave their young winger a three-year bridge deal worth $9.6 million and a $3.2 million salary-cap hit. They, too, were facing a tough salary-cap crunch. Kapanen was the 22ndoverall pick in 2014. Vrana was 13ththat same year. Kapanen had 20 goals and 24 assists (44 points) this past season. Vrana gets more power-play time, but Kapanen kills penalties (125:22).    

So Vrana in the end received a little more money than the Kapanen deal and can re-set his contract sooner if he breaks out big. Washington believes that he can and will because Vrana’s skill is undeniable. 

Go back and look at some of his best goals from last season. They often came off the rush when opposing defenders simply couldn’t deal with him or when he snuck behind a defender for a rip off and a scoring chance. He is almost always the last regular on the ice after practice. He’s scored a big goal in a Stanley Cup clincher.

The Capitals now have a balanced top nine with a solid mix of veterans and in-their-prime players. Vrana still has to prove he can build on the promise of last season and his pointless playoff series against Carolina in April, while allowing for a possible shoulder injury, shows his game isn’t a finished product quite yet. 

But Vrana is the one young under-25 forward on the roster – likely in the entire organization – who has the raw talent to become a 30-to-40 goal, 60-to-70 point player. That’s the package the Capitals hoped they were taking in the first round five years ago. Now we will see if Vrana can get there. 



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Jakub Vrana's top 5 moments as a Capital so far

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Jakub Vrana's top 5 moments as a Capital so far

Jakub Vrana has made it through his entry-level contract and signed a new deal Tuesday for two-years, $6.7 million.

To celebrate his new bridge deal, we look back at the top 5 moments from Vrana's last three seasons with the squad.

5: Vrana's first goal

Against the Buffalo Sabres on the road, Vrana introduced himself to Capitals fans with a tap-in off an Evgeny Kuznetsov feed to beat Robin Lehner.

It would be the first of 40 goals he's scored in his young Caps career.

4: Pick-pocketing the Flyers

They say the best offense is a good defense, but Vrana didn't have to settle on this goal.

With a nifty poke check at the Caps defensive blue line, Vrana went full blast towards the Philadelphia Flyers defense, beat them, then roofed a shot for his 13th goal of the season.

3: Helping to lift the curse against the Penguins

Vrana scored his first-ever playoff goal against the Penguins during the 2018 Stanley Cup run, but it was his Game 5 dagger that put Caps fans on their feet.

Thanks to a cross-crease feed from Alex Ovechkin, Vrana was able to slot the puck past Matt Murray in the dying minutes for the game-winning goal. The Caps would add two more, going on to win 6-3.

2: Stanley Cup Celebration

It's no secret the boys partied hard after they won the Cup in 2018, and Vrana presented us with one of the greatest moments during the epic celebration. 

This moment with Joe B. will never, ever get old. The party continued at the Stanley Cup parade a couple days later. 

After a solid show along the parade route, Vrana graced us with his stellar dance moves.

1: Game 5 Stanley Cup Final opening goal

Big players come up in big games, and Vrana proved to be one of those players in the Capitals' 2018 Stanley Cup run.

In enemy territory against the Vegas Golden Knights with the Stanley Cup on the line, Vrana powered down the ice and roofed a wrist shot past Marc-Andre Fleury for the opening goal of Game 5.

Here's to hoping we see many more big moments in the years to come from Jake the Snake.