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Looking back at the Capitals’ 2018 NHL Draft: A strong draft to follow up a Stanley Cup championship

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Looking back at the Capitals’ 2018 NHL Draft: A strong draft to follow up a Stanley Cup championship

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: 2018

31st overall pick (1st round): Alex Alexeyev

Despite having to wait for the final pick of the first round, Washington got a steal in Alexeyev who looks like he can be a top pairing NHL defenseman.

Alexeyev is a smart, mature player with good mobility. He has good vision and poise on both ends of the ice, is a talented puck-handler and has good size. The only real concern for him is his durability as injuries have limited him to fewer than 50 games in all three of his seasons in the WHL.

There is good news on the injury front, however. Alexeyev suffered a scary looking knee injury after a knee-on-knee collision that ended his season in Red Deer. He had to be taken off in a stretcher. This happened three months ago in March. Caps general manager Brian MacLellan said on Thursday however that Alexeyev had avoided serious injury and would participate in the team’s development camp starting on Tuesday.

“[Alexeyev’s] healthy,” MacLellan said. “I don't think it was as bad as initially expected. He'll be at development camp here and fully healthy.”

46th overall pick (2nd round): Martin Fehervary D

The Caps traded Marcus Johansson to the New Jersey Devils in 2017 for a second and a third-round pick. Washington traded the third-round pick away for Michal Kempny, but kept the second-round pick and used it to select Fehervary.

This is a player the team is very excited about and who they quickly signed to an entry-level deal after drafting him. He is a very fast skater who uses his speed to cover opponents closely and can use his body and stick to break up plays. He is seen as a high-character player and a future leader. He was originally seen primarily as a defensive shutdown player, but showed there may be more offensive upside to his game than previously thought with five points in five games at the World Junior Championships.

47th overall pick (2nd round): Kody Clark F

The Caps snagged a second pick in the second round in a trade with the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for Philipp Grubauer and Brooks Orpik. Washington used the pick to select Clark, the highest picked forward by the Caps since Jakub Vrana in 2014.

That puts a lot of undue pressure on Clark who most likely projects as a third-line winger in the NHL, though Ross Mahoney told me in January he was hopeful he could potentially develop into a second-liner.

Clark scored 17 goals and 29 assists in 57 games in the OHL last season. He is not going to be a 30-goal scorer in the pros, but he is a hard-working, grind it out sort of player who could be in the 15-20 goal range in the right situation. Perhaps aware of this, Clark is working to add more of a physical edge to his game.

62nd overall pick (2nd round): Traded

The Caps traded away two second-round draft picks to the Montreal Canadiens for Lars Eller. The first was for 2017, this was the second. Montreal traded the pick to the Edmonton Oilers who selected goalie Olivier Rodrigue. The Oilers signed him to an entry-level deal in May so they see something in him. His numbers in the QMJHL have been average to above average, but he was great in the World Juniors Under 18 tournament for Team Canada with a 1.33 GAA and .949 save percentage in three games.

93rd overall pick (3rd round): Riley Sutter F

Sutter was limited to 38 games this past season in the WHL by an injury, but overall he has had a successful junior career with the Everett Silvertips and is hopeful he will be in Hershey next season. He is a power forward primarily.

124th overall pick (4th round): Mitchell Gibson G

Gibson played last season in the USHL and will be headed to Harvard in the fall to begin his collegiate career. We will have a better sense of what he projects to be there.

155th overall pick (5th round): Traded

The Caps traded this pick to the Minnesota Wild in June 2017 in order to get Tyler Graovac and expose him in the expansion draft. Rules stipulated you had to expose a certain number of forwards with a certain level of experience and the Caps needed one more or they would risk having to expose a player from their core who they really did not want to lose.

Minnesota took the pick and selected forward Damien Giroux who, as captain of the Saginaw Spirit in the OHL, scored 30 goals and 21 assists last season.

161st overall pick (6th round): Alex Kannok-Leipert D

The Caps traded up to get Kannok-Leipert, swapping sixth-round picks with the Vancouver Canucks and sending an additional sixth-round pick in 2019 to Vancouver. He had a very good season in the WHL and is primarily a physical stay-at-home defenseman. He has been praised for his leadership and intangibles and could potentially be the team captain in 2019.

186th overall pick (6th round): Traded

In the trade with Vancouver, the Canucks used this pick to select forward Artyom Manukyan. In 62 games in the KHL last season, Manukyan scored three goals and 12 assists. He was very productive in the MHL, but at the higher level he has struggled so there does not appear to be much NHL upside for him.

217th overall pick (7th round): Eric Florchuk F

As the Stanley Cup champs, the Caps had the final pick in the draft and made Florchuk the NHL’s Mr. Irrelevant for 2018. He scored 21 goals and 29 assists in 68 games in the WHL last seasons and will look to build on that in 2019-20.

Takeaways

Obviously it is going to take a while before we know just how good of a draft this was for Washington, but the early projections are good. Alexeyev and Fehervary both look like top-four defensemen and that alone will make this a great draft if both pan out.

In addition, I could potentially see Clark and Sutter have depth roles one day after a few more years of development.

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Looking back at the Capitals’ 2017 NHL Draft: The lost draft

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Looking back at the Capitals’ 2017 NHL Draft: The lost 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: 2017

27th overall pick (1st round): Traded

As part of the trade for Kevin Shattenkirk, the Caps sent their first-round pick to the St. Louis Blues. The Blues, in turn, traded the pick to the Philadelphia Flyers in a package that netted them Brayden Schenn. The Flyers used the pick to select forward Morgan Frost. Frost just wrapped up a pretty impressive OHL career where he scored 221 combined points in the past two seasons in just 125 games.

58th overall pick (2nd round): Traded

Washington sent two second-round picks to the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for Lars Eller. The Canadiens used this pick on forward Joni Ikonen, who Montreal placed on unconditional waivers in May, thus releasing his rights. Eller has played in 243 games with the Caps with 43 goals and 56 assists. He is under contract through the 2022-23 season and scored the Stanley Cup-clinching goal for Washington in 2018.

89th overall pick (3rd round): Traded

The Caps sent a third-round pick to the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for defenseman Mike Weber. This would prove to be Weber’s last NHL season. As a rental, he played in just 10 regular season games for Washington and two playoff games.

The trade seems to have worked out for Buffalo as the Sabres selected defenseman Oskari Laaksonen who has looked impressive in Finland and is progressing nicely towards becoming an NHL player in the near future.

120th overall pick (4th round): Tobias Geisser D

Washington actually kept this pick and took a real live player with it! They potentially got a good one as well in Geisser who has the tools to be an NHL player, it is just a matter of putting it all together.

Geisser is compared to his fellow countryman Jonas Siegenthaler in that he is a tremendous skater despite his large frame. At 6-foot-4, 201 pounds, Geisser needs to take advantage of his size and learn to play a more physical game. He is very smart in his own end but has the skills to be more of a two-way player if he can develop more offensively.

One positive in his development is that Geisser elected to come to North American and play in Hershey last season rather than stay in Europe. At 19, he was already playing in the AHL. That should help speed along his development and in a year he could be competing to make the NHL roster.

151st overall pick (5th round): Sebastian Walfridsson, D

Walfridsson has failed to stand out while playing in Sweden. A future in the NHL feels like a longshot at this point, especially with Washington considering how many quality defensive prospects the team has.

182nd overall pick (6th round): Benton Maass D

This looked like a savvy pick by Brian MacLellan initially. Maass had just finished his final year in high school when he was selected by the Caps. He had not yet even played a year of college hockey. His freshman year in New Hampshire made you take notice of him as he stepped into a starting role and scored four goals and 13 assists in 36 games as a defenseman. An injury limited his playing time and production in his sophomore year where he scored only one goal and five assists in 30 games.

Maass is a mobile, two-way defenseman with good size, but has not shown enough yet to make you think he could be an NHL player. He is only 20, but this will be his junior season at New Hampshire. That is a big year for college players considering the rule that allows them to become free agents after four years in college. If a team thinks a player has NHL potential, they often try to sign him to an entry-level contract after his junior season to avoid seeing him go back to college for a fourth year and potentially reach free agency the following summer. Maass has shown some potential, but not nearly enough yet for Washington to consider trying to coax him to the pros next year.

213th overall pick (7th round): Kristian Roykas-Marthinsen F

Roykas-Marthinsen was a productive scorer in Swedish junior hockey and had a successful first season in the WHL scoring 13 goals and 16 assists in 62 games. The NHL may be a bit of a stretch for him, but he played well enough to at least show it is too early to write him off. That’s not a bad outlook for a seventh rounder.

Takeaways

Never. Trade. A. First. Round. Pick. For. A. Rental.

Ever.

Full stop.

Shattenkirk played 19 games for the Caps and an additional 13 in the playoffs. He was not a good fit which is the risk you run with a rental. You just do not know how a player will fit in with a team when you add him mid-season, especially with so little time before the playoffs.

And if you are saying to yourself, “this trade looks bad because Shattenkirk didn’t work” let me clarify. If the only way you can justify a trade is to say you won’t care about the cost if you win the Stanley Cup, that is a bad trade. Period. Don’t do it.

Value in the NHL draft is very limited. You cannot give up the chance to pick up an NHL player in the first round, maybe the only NHL player you will get in a draft, for 32 games from a veteran. That is not enough.

Now, having said all of that, for a team that did not draft until the fourth round, Washington did pretty well in this draft. Geisser has real NHL potential and there may be some potential in Maass as well if he continues on the trajectory he was on after his freshman season.

You also can’t argue with Washington giving up its second-rounder for Eller. Solid work there.

But the point about the first round remains. Go back and look at the stats for Frost who was taken by the Flyers with the Caps’ pick. That is a player with more value than 32 games from Shattenkirk.

Never. Trade. A. First. Round. Pick. For. A. Rental.

Ever.

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How are the Capitals approaching the 2019 draft? Brian MacLellan will tell you

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How are the Capitals approaching the 2019 draft? Brian MacLellan will tell you

The 2019 NHL Draft is going to have a very different feel to it for the Capitals than in 2018. Just one year ago, Washington was still basking in the glow of the franchise’s first Stanley Cup championship. The draft felt almost like an afterthought. This year, after a first-round exit and with the roster still influx given the team’s salary cap constraints, the draft weekend feels like a significant point in the offseason for general manager Brian MacLellan.

The draft can be a big weekend not just for setting the team up for the future, but also for the present. A lot of trades and business can happen when all the general managers get together. So just what is MacLellan thinking heading into the big weekend? While he would not reveal all his secrtes, MacLellan did reveal his basic strategy and mindset as he prepares for the draft to begin on Friday.

The Caps currently hold the 25th pick in what is expected to be a rather deep draft. Should they hold onto that pick, the need at forward is obvious. Washington has not selected a forward in the first round since taking Jakub Vrana in 2014. The lack of high-end offensive talent in the system seems to be catching up with them this year. With the team up against the salary cap, it will be hard to address the weakness of depth offense. This is where other teams would plug in their top offensive prospects into the bottom-six as cheap fix to fill out the roster.

Washington, however, does not seem to have any obvious prospect candidates who can step into those roles for the upcoming season.

When it comes to the NHL draft, however, it rarely makes sense to draft for need. The vast majority of players in the draft and even the majority of players in the first round will not play in the NHL in their first year after getting drafted. Many of those players will take several years to develop into being NHL players if at all so it makes no sense for MacLellan to draft for need when the needs of the team could be completely different once that player is ready to make the jump to the NHL.

While position would not be the only consideration, MacLellan certainly made clear that the team’s need at forward would certainly play a factor when considering who to take.

“I think it'll factor into our decisions unless we see a defenseman that's clearly above a forward that we like,” MacLellan said. “If the decision is close, I think we're going to go with the forward.”

The good news for Washington is that this draft is expected to be deep in terms of high-end offensive talent. The bad news is that those players could all be gone once the draft gets to Washington’s 25th pick. While the priority may be forward, MacLellan also said there were plenty of skilled defensemen who the scouts were really high on who could be available given how many forwards are expected to go early.

“There seems to be a section in that draft right after those forwards where there's quite a few good defensemen that the scouts really like,” MacLellan said. “You know, overall I think it's a pretty deep draft. A lot of guys are going to play and there's quite a few defensemen in the middle to late first-round that guys like. There's also a group of forwards that our guys like a lot and we're going to balance that decision between the two.”

Further complicating the team’s draft plan is whether or not MacLellan would be interested in moving the first-round pick in a bid to move up or down the draft.

With so many forwards expected to be taken early, that could signal MacLellan would want to trade up to ensure he can snag one, but there are also reports that Washington is focused strictly on winning now.

Elliotte Friedman reported in his 31 Thoughts column that other teams believe the Caps to be in “go for it” mode. In those situations, you typically see teams dangle draft picks as trade bait.

MacLellan tried to play down those rumors by saying the team is always trying to win.

“I don't know that we're ever not in an all-in situation,” he said. “We view ourselves as a contender for the Cup and we want to put the best team forward and make the best decisions to do that. I think we have some good players and some players that are getting a little bit older but are still high-end quality players and we want to surround them with the best team possible.”

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