The 2012 NHL Draft is just days away and the Washington Capitals will be very busy. The draft can solve a lot of problems, but it can also provide more questions than answers. With that being, below is a FAQ of sorts regarding the Caps and this year’s NHL Draft.
First things first. When is the NHL Draft?
It begins Friday at 7 p.m. with the first round live on NBC Sports Network. Rounds two through seven begin Saturday at 10 a.m. and will be broadcast on NHL Network.
Looks like I’ve got my weekend plans already. Where is it being held?
This year’s draft will originate from CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh. Obviously, the NHL did not consult with Caps fans on that decision.
How many selections will the Caps have?
As of now, the Caps have a league-high 11 draft picks, which is more than they had in the last two years combined (10).
Eleven? That’s a lot. Are they good ones?
It looks that way. The Caps have multiple first-round draft picks for the fourth time since 2004 and the first time since 2008, when they selected Anton Gustafsson at No. 21 and John Carlson at No. 27.
Anton Gustafsson? Who’s that?
Well, Gustafsson is the son of former Cap Bengt-Åke Gustafsson, but unlike his father, Anton never played for the Caps. He was more or less a bust.
Anyways, back to the draft picks…
Right. The Caps will select 11th and 16th, the former pick coming from the Colorado Avalanche as part of the Semyon Varlamov trade last summer. The 11th selection is Washington’s highest since 2007 when Karl Alzner was the fifth overall pick; the Caps’ last four first-round picks have been 21st or later.
The remaining selections are as follows:
- No. 54 (second round; acquired from Colorado via Boston in the Varlamov trade)
- No. 77 (third round)
- No. 100 (fourth round; acquired from the Winnipeg Jets in the Eric Fehr trade last summer).
- No. 107 (fourth round)
- No. 137 (fifth round)
- No. 167 (fifth round)
- No. 195 (seventh round; acquired from the Calgary Flames in a trade for Keith Seabrook’s rights in 2009)
- No. 197 (seventh round)
- No. 203 (seventh round; acquired from the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Tomas Vokoun trade June 4)
Have the Caps ever selected 11th overall?
Yes, once. Washington snagged defenseman Brendan Witt at No. 11 in the 1993 NHL Draft.
What about at 16th?
The Caps have actually never had the 16th pick before.
So I know where the Caps are picking, but the better question is who are they going to pick?
If I knew that, then I would not be writing from my parents’ basement (I actually write from my own room in my own apartment; I never even had a basement growing up, but this isn’t about me). Anyways, what I can tell you is that this year’s draft is more defense-heavy, which, while important, is not necessarily the Caps’ biggest need.
Since becoming general manager in 1997, George McPhee has used 10 of his 19 first-round selections on forwards. Washington’s prospect pipeline is thinnest at forward (particularly top-six forwards), so bulking up that area should be on top of Washington’s priority list.
Yet, according to McPhee, the Caps’ draft policy has always been to “take the best players” regardless of position, so that will be the theme of the weekend.
Is it possible that Washington will trade any of their draft picks?
Of course. Based on McPhee’s comments Thursday, however, the Caps’ plan “is to make picks.” McPhee was not shy in expressing his opinion of last summer’s draft, which he believed was weak (especially around the end of the first round where the Caps were slated to pick at No. 26). Sensing that, the Caps elected to trade that selection to the Chicago Blackhawks for Troy Brouwer.
“Where we were picking [last year], we were concerned with the mock drafts that our scouts were doing that we weren’t going to get a real difference maker at the end of the first round,” McPhee said. “It didn’t look like a top player would fall to where we were picking. That’s why we made the decision to trade the first pick for Brouwer. I thought it was great example of our amateur department working real well with our pro scouting department. We made a decision that worked real well for us.”
“This year, we like the draft a lot,” he continued, adding that he believes that Washington can grab that difference maker that was missing last summer. “We like what we think we can get at 11 and 16. We have a lot of picks this year, so we’ll be making a lot of picks.”
As McPhee reiterated Thursday, Washington’s modus operandi has been to build a team from within: drafting players, developing them in the minor leagues and calling them up when ready. Of the 17 players currently under contract for next season, nine of them were drafted by Washington (three of the four restricted free agents – Carlson, Mike Green and Mathieu Perreault – were also Caps draft picks).
While McPhee did not completely shut down the idea that the Caps could be involved in trades this weekend, it seems more likely that they will hold onto as many picks as they can.
“We’ll see what develops,” McPhee said, noting that making trades is much easier during the summer than during the season because fellow general managers are “far more forthcoming” in regards to their needs. “You have lots of discussion about the draft itself and you have lots of discussion with the teams around the league about what they’re doing with their personnel.”
“I expect more [of that talk],” he continued. “Everybody’s planting their seeds this week and we’ll see what they reap next week as a result. It will pick up as we move along.”
What is the likelihood that any of the draft picks make an immediate impact in Washington?
It is definitely possible that the 11th and 16th picks could do just that (never say never), but more than likely, both of them will see extended time in Hershey. As for the other/later draft picks, most of them will also join the Bears or South Carolina Stingrays, while others may elect to return to juniors or college.
Yet, you will get a chance to see them in action sooner rather than later as they will attend the Capitals Development Camp, which runs from July 9-14 at Kettler Capitals Iceplex.