The 2014 NHL Entry Draft, to be held in Philadelphia, is less than a week away. The Capitals hold the 13th overall pick in the draft — a higher slot than the organization has been used to in recent years. Only the 2007 and 2011 drafts have seen the Capitals have a higher position than this year, when they picked Filip Forsberg at 11th overall and Karl Alzner at 5th overall, respectively. What should we expect?
The Capitals don’t have much history with the 13th pick. In fact, they’ve only held it once in their entire franchise history. Yet that pick turned out pretty well: in 2002, the Capitals took Alexander Semin 13th overall, and with almost 500 points in his NHL career (though plying his trade now with the Carolina Hurricanes), he has arguably been a successful selection.
Since 2000, teams with the 13th overall selection have developed solid and not-so-solid results. What are some names that stand out as substantial selections? Ron Hainsey (2000), Ales Hemsky (2001), Dustin Brown (2003), Drew Stafford (2004), Jiri Tlusty (2006), Lars Eller (2007), and Zack Kassian (2009) have all carved out big and small places in the NHL.
Some not-so-great players taken at 13th since 2000? Well, only one REALLY stands out: Marek Zagrapan (2005) who played zero NHL games, 227 AHL games, and now plays in the Czech Extraliga. But one could possibly add Colten Teubert (2008) to the list, too, as he’s recently signed to play in the Deutsche Eishockey Liga after only 24 NHL games with the Edmonton Oilers.
And it’s obviously too early to analyze younger players who still have time to establish themselves in the NHL, like Brandon Gormley (2010), Sven Baertschi (2011), Radek Faksa (2012) and Josh Morrissey (2013). But if this recent history tells us anything, it’s that the Capitals are in a good position to get at least a serviceable NHL player, if the cards fall the right way.
But what are those cards saying? Well, a glance at the upcoming draft’s prospect rankings show myriad options for the Caps at thirteen. Recurring names like Kasperi Kapanen, Kevin Fiala, and Brendan Perlini appear at the spot — all wingers. Yet a glance at the handy Mock Draft Database at DC Pro Sports Report shows defenseman Haydn Fleury as the mode selection for the team, one of the few blueliners found in first-round mocks.
With all these options, what has the team said about their game plan going into Friday’s first round? Newly-minted assistant GM Ross Mahoney had this to say:
“Every draft class we talk about that,” [Mahoney] said. “We have a look at whether we move up or even move back, depending on who’s there, who might be there when it’s our turn to pick. Those are things we’re still discussing as an organization. We’ve had meetings and we just finished doing the combine up in Toronto. We still some have more meetings to do. That’ll be part of our strategizing, to see if we should move up or we should move back or stay where we are.”
“Our philosophy has always been to take the best player that’s available to us,” he said. “You don’t want to pass on a player specifically for a position and then you have that player turns out to be a much better player than the positional player you took. Having said that, all things being fairly equal, you obviously want to try to be strong down the middle. Good defenders, good defensemen, but we’ve always tried to take the best player.”
It sounds like the team could just about do anything. Between trading out of their position to taking the best player available, Caps fans won’t really know what to expect until the day of the draft. Under George McPhee in recent years, the Capitals have either stayed put or traded out (notably in 2011 for Troy Brouwer) of the first round. But with a new regime in place, one has to imagine that anything can happen — it’s only a waiting game until this Friday in Philadelphia.
For another handy draft preview, check out the official Capitals Draft Guide.