The NHL draft seems a lot trickier than other major sports drafts. I think it’s because hockey is such a global sport, and especially with the lack of coverage in the USA, it’s hard to figure out which players are the top overall and which players are hidden gems.
As far as the Caps are concerned, it was interesting to see what General Manager George Mcphee would do strategy-wise coming into today’s draft.
The Caps, I think, are still considered contenders. I’m not sure how serious of a contender they are, but that doesn’t matter for draft strategies. The general consensus in any sport is that if you are a contender, you draft for need and you try to pilfer high-risk, high-reward players. If you are not a contender, the consensus is to just blow it up and rebuild around star-power picks at the top of the draft, and to stick with “high floor” guys in the later rounds, because those teams can’t afford to blow draft picks.
With this in mind, GMGM drafted Andre Burakovsky from Sweden. I won’t pretend to be well-versed in hockey scouting, but it seems that people agree that Burakovsky is a top ten talent that dropped for a couple reasons. This could be attitude, work ethic, or IQ. I’m not sure. But regardless of the reason, I like the pick. As I just noted above, if you are a perennial playoff contender, you can afford to swing for the fences on prospects because you have the foundation and stability to survive a blown draft pick. Burakovsky certainly looks like he fits that mold, and he also looks like a replacement for Forsberg, whom the Caps traded a couple of months ago.
The Caps blue-line is my biggest concern going forward, and GMGM addressed that by drafting Madison Bowey, a Canadian defenseman. Despite being a second round draft pick, Bowey was a very highly related Canadian defenseman prospect, and he comes from a WHL club with a great defensive pedigree in Kelowna. Hopefully, Bowey will fulfill his potential and become a staple on Washington’s back-end in a few years.
GMGM then traded a few later picks to move up to the last pick in the second round to draft American Zach Sanford. Sanford won’t be in the league for a few years, but he has also been tabbed with great potential. While I don’t know many specifics about Sanford, I applaud the aggressive move to trade up to draft another second-rounder. The Caps aren’t rebuilding and aren’t devoid of talent, so they don’t need to be drafting five or six guys a year. That’s why I like the move to jump up and secure a player who you think will possibly be a hidden gem or a steal.
So far, it seems GMGM has added a few more solid prospects to the Caps organization and has done so at good value. Let’s hope we’ll remember this draft a few years from now…