Who will the Caps draft this year?
The Washington Capitals remain one of the tougher teams to figure out as far as draft strategy and direction are concerned.
The 2013 NHL draft is coinciding with an almost perfect storm of trade rumors and compliance buyouts that stand to make pretty much anything a possibility between now and when the draft begins.
Caps' general manager George McPhee has gone on record as saying the Caps will talk to pretty much anyone about a trade leading into the draft.
As McPhee said in an article that appeared on CSNWashington.com, "We’ll talk to everybody and see where it goes."
That's real helpful, isn't it?
With the Caps, they could just stockpile draft selections, as they did a year ago. With their salary cap situation as difficult as it is, they might not have much of a choice. Depending on how the draft goes for the Capitals, and what selections they make, we might also get a glimpse as to their possible free-agency strategy.
Or something else entirely could be in the works. Will the Caps try and move Mike Ribeiro as part of a draft-day deal to give some unnamed team exclusive rights to reach a deal with Ribs before he becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 5?
Will the Caps be able to move someone like Jeff Schultz as part of a draft-day deal?
And what about players like Vincent Lecavalier or Danny Briere? How might these players factor into what happens between now and tomorrow?
Perhaps the biggest question, though, is who the Caps will draft if no deals are made.
The Caps have eight picks in the 2013 NHL draft, one in each round and two picks in the fifth round. They currently own the 23rd overall pick in the draft, and there is no consensus at all as to whether the Caps will look to improve their offense or whether they will focus on defense.
After researching many mock drafts and scouting reports, I therefore present to you the full seven-round 2013 mock draft for the Washington Capitals.
Team: Baie-Comeau (QMJHL)
Height/Weight: 6'0", 210 lbs.
When you read the scouting reports for Valentin Zykov, a common theme seems to emerge:
A Russian-born player who plays a North American style of hockey.
If that is not a perfect fit for the Caps, then I don't know what is.
Zykov had a pretty average career going for him in Russia, but once he came over to North America, something clicked. In 67 games with Baie-Comeau of the QMJHL, Zykov had 40 goals, 35 assists and 75 points. That is better than a point-per-game clip, and the Caps could absolutely use someone like that.
Zykov actually led all first-year QMJHL players in goals and points.
His profile at draftsite.com really seems to be sold on the fact that Zykov is committed to playing an NHL style of game and, unlike many other Russian-born players, he has no desire to go back to Russia.
At 6'0" and 210 lbs, he is a big, physical and gritty player who can score and be physical in equal proportions. I can envision a line with Zykov and Tom Wilson together and that would pose many problems for many teams around the NHL.
Zykoz's profile at mynhldraft.com goes into even more detail about what a hard worker he is, how he has good instincts, how he has exceptional vision and just how physically imposing he is for an 18-year old.
Admittedly, Zykov is not as tall as, say, Anthony Mantha—another QMJHL prospect projected to possibly fall to the Caps—but he plays a more physical style of game, and the Caps need that more than the pure sniping ability of a player like Mantha.
I also do not see the Caps going for defense with their first-round pick this year. The temptation might be there to draft a player like Nikita Zadorov, the 6'5" Russian powerhouse from the London Knights of the OHL.
But the Caps have players like Dmitry Orlov and Tomas Kundratek waiting in the wings, both of whom deserve more playing time this coming season.
No, I think the Caps will focus on the offense first, and getting a Russian-born player who can already play an NHL style of game will pay immediate dividends for the Caps.
It would also certainly make Evgeny Kuznetsov more comfortable about coming to Washington if another Russian player was around.
I doubt Alexander Ovechkin would complain too much either.
Most mock drafts have Zykov going anywhere between 14th and 27th. If Zykov is available at No. 23, I think the Caps take him and don't look back. He would be an excellent fit for what the Caps need to do to be competitive in their new division and he has immense upside potential.
Linus Arnesson will bring much needed physicality to the Caps defense.
Team: Djurgardens IF (SWE)
Height/Weight: 6'2", 190 lbs.
With the 53rd overall pick in the 2013 NHL draft, the Caps will shift to the defensive side of the puck and select Linus Arnesson, another big bodied 18-year old who is already playing in the Swedish Super-elite league.
What I really like about Arnesson is that he is not going to get confused with a two-way defender anytime soon. Let's face it, in Mike Green and John Carlson, the Caps have all the two-way defenders they need.
No, Arnesson just plays good, solid, physical and fundamentally sound defense. That is exactly what the Caps need at this point in time.
Arnesson's profile at draftsite.com raves on about his upside potential. He is tough, smart, moves his feet well and just does not make mistakes. Finding video on Arnesson can be a little hit and miss, but from what I did see, he definitely has an edge to him. The Caps need more of that.
His profile at mynhldraft.com indicates that he has the potential to be a shutdown defender and reiterates that he plays a mistake-free brand of hockey.
Eliteprospects.com echoes the sentiment and notes that Arnesson is just a solid and sound overall defensive prospect.
From the Caps' perspective, what is there not to like about Arnesson? He is already playing solid, mistake-free defense at the highest level of competition in Sweden. He is 6'2", weighs in at 190 lbs. and will probably add some more size and muscle to his frame.
He can shut down the opposition and is very difficult to move once he has his mind made up. He is going to be a defense-first type of defender, similar to Karl Alzner. Pairing Arnesson with Green or Carlson would add some balance and depth to the Caps' defensive lines, and that, quite obviously, would be a very good thing.
Some mock drafts I have seen have Arnesson being taken before No. 53. Then again, I have seen some where he slips to the third round.
If, however, Arnesson is there at No. 53, then he fits in very well with what the Caps need out of a defensive prospect, and he would make an excellent edition to the Caps' evolving defense.
Gage Ausmus will add some more depth and grit to the Caps defense.
Team: US Under-18 (USAH-NTDP)
Height/Weight: 6'1", 185 lbs.
With the 84th overall pick in the 2013 NHL draft, the Caps will stick with bolstering their defense a bit more.
General manager George McPhee has had a tendency to look to the United States National Development team for draft picks over the years—three picks last year came from there, for instance—and in 2013, GMGM will again select a solid player from the USND team.
I like Ausmus because he is another more defense-oriented defenseman. I know that sounds redundant. But if you have been a Caps fan for any length of time, then you know exactly what I am talking about.
The Caps need more blueliners who will actually play the body, block shots, get physical and get dirty.
While a work in progress, Ausmus fits the bill here. He is only slightly smaller than Linus Arnesson but has the same sort of physicality to him.
Hockeybuzz.com had this to say about Ausmus:
Ausmus is a steady defensive defenseman who plays an intelligent positional game with a bit of physicality. At the U18 Worlds, Ausmus was frequently matched against other teams' top offensive players and averaged over 21 minutes per game. Ausmus is considered an average skater and puckhandler, which knocked his rankings down to 148th on the final CSB list. In actual game action, however, he doesn't make many mistakes with or without the puck.
Mistake-free hockey is exactly what the Caps need out of their blueliners, and Ausmus is that kind of player.
His profile at draftsite.com also mentions how he will be able to handle the bigger forwards in the game and is not shy about jumping into the play.
There is a lot to like about Ausmus. I do not think he is quite as NHL ready as Arnesson, but he has all the potential to be an excellent defenseman for the Caps for years to come.
Team: Lulea HF (SEL)
Height/Weight: 6'2", 190 lbs.
With the 114th pick in the 2013 NHL draft, the Capitals will turn back to the offense and try and get Alexander Ovechkin some more help by drafting 17-year old Slovakin left winger Peter Cehlarik.
Cehlarik, despite his youth, has seen his draft stock rise as of late. He is an excellent skater, and, as you can see from the video highlights, he has a very quick and accurate release.
I also like his vision and the way he seems to have a nose for the net.
His profile at draftsite.com mentions his high skill level despite his age and despite playing against some pretty stiff competition.
A fantastic summary of what makes Cehlarik such an intriguing prospect can be found here at inlouwetrust.com, where New Jersey Devils blogger Mike Stromberg discusses why Cehlarik might actually be taken in the second round.
As you read through the article, a common theme is how smart Cehlarik is and that he has great size and strength for being only 17. He could very well get bigger, stronger and faster.
Cehlarik also closed out last season strong as he scored three goals and had six points on Lulea's top team in just eight Elite league games. All told, Cehlarik had 28 goals, 32 assists and 60 points in 56 games for Lulea's various teams last year.
Those are all impressive numbers, and this young man has enormous potential.
It is very unclear where Cehlarik will land. His stock has absolutely been rising. I have seen mock drafts with him going anywhere between the second and fifth rounds. It's rare for a prospect to be that hard to pin down. Such appears to be the case with Cehlarik.
If, however, he is still available at No. 114—and there is certainly a chance of that—then the Caps would be very wise to draft Cehlarik and solidify their offensive future even more.
Team: Rouyn-Noranda (QMJHL)
Height/Weight: 5'9", 188 lbs.
With the 127th overall pick in the 2013 NHL draft, the Caps will continue to look to the QMJHL for prospects, and they will find an excellent right winger in Rouyn-Noranda's Sven Andrighetto.
I know he is a bit on the small side at just 5'9". But I honestly love the way this guy plays the game. He is intense and fast, has really great moves, has fantastic instincts, is a good forechecker and just seems to have a way to be in the right place at the right time.
If you don't want to take my word for it though, then take a look at Andrighetto's player card at eliteprospects.com. His numbers in the QMJHL have been nothing short of spectacular.
In the past two regular seasons for the Huskies, Andrightetto has played in 115 games, with 67 goals, 105 assists and 172 points.
He made tremendous improvements in his overall game with the Huskies during the 2012-13 season. His goals dropped a bit, but his assists almost doubled. He also learned to be more responsible as he had a plus-25 rating, as compared to a minus-23 the previous season.
In the QMJHL playoffs in 2012-13 though was where Andrighetto made it impossible to overlook him any longer. In 14 games, he had eight goals, 22 assists, 30 points and a plus-four rating.
The Hockey Writers ran a good article on Andrighetto near the end of December of 2012—and his stock only rose higher since then.
Once again, the Caps would be adding a player in Andrightetto who could add some depth and balance to an offense that will need it.
At 20- ears old, he is a bit more NHL ready than some of the other prospects discussed, and his compact explosiveness would give the Caps some much-needed intensity.
Team: Sodertalje SK (Allsvenskan)
Height/Weight: 6'2", 187 lbs.
With the 144th overall pick in the 2013 NHL draft—and in keeping with my theme of the Caps adding size and physicality to their evolving defense—I think the Caps should take a chance on Robin Press.
Admittedly, drafting Press might be a bit of a stretch. Then again, for a late fifth-round pick, the Caps could do worse than take a chance on a 6'2", 187 lb. blueliner who is probably going to get much better with some more time to develop.
Press would be a project: There is no doubt about that. Still, there is some good and real potential here.
His profile at draftsite.com discusses how Press did not even commit to defense until Christmas of 2011. Prior to that, it appears he doubled as a forward. That means that on top of his size, he would have good puck-handling skills and two-way ability.
Obviously, those are traits the Caps are quite fond of as far as defenders are concerned.
Press also appears to like the physical stuff, and, again, that is the sort of thing the Caps will need to succeed moving forward.
Press will need to learn the finer details of playing defense, and some more time over in Sweden will help his cause greatly.
What I like about Press is that he seems to have some natural defensive tendencies, solid instincts and great size on which to really improve his game.
It will take some time, but the payoff with Press could be huge.
Team: Erie (OHL)
Height/Weight: 6'1", 190 lbs.
With the 174th overall pick in the 2013 NHL draft, the Caps will look to another of the North American leagues, the OHL, and select Stephen Harper (not to be confused with the Canadian prime minister) of the Erie Otters.
The jury is still out on Harper. If you review his profile at draftsite.com, you will see the issues present. Harper, like many of the prospects we have looked at in this article, has good size.
What I also like about Harper is that he plays well on the power play and the penalty killing units so he has some versatility that the Caps can use.
The concern with Harper is that he did not make many strides forward in Erie last season, and his development seemed to stagnate some.
If you review Harper's player card at eliteprospects.com, you can see that Harper had a solid rookie season with the Otters in 2011-12 with 24 goals and 11 assists.
In 2012-13, though, his goals dipped to 18, but his assists went up to 20. Six in one, a half dozen in the other to be sure. Still, that is not quite the sort of progression one would like to see from a player with the potential of Harper.
Nevertheless, Harper has the tools and skill set necessary to be a very good power forward and winger for the Caps.
His draft profile at The Hockey Writers.com outlines how with Harper the sky might just be the limit:
Not only was an “A” added to the front of his jersey, but he also willingly took on the added responsibility of mentoring McDavid, a request that was honoured by the Otters. This was a sure sign of trust from the organization, one that brought with it increased responsibility and confidence.
Harper’s game did show signs of maturation in his second OHL season, as evidenced by a more balanced scoring line of 18 G & 20 A in 67 GP. Harper also bulked up prior to this past season, and a bump in his PIM suggests that he took some strides in developing a more physical presence on the ice.
So, did Harper really take a step back, or were his semi-stagnant numbers more a sign of him just developing a more well-rounded and overall game?
Despite the issues with consistency, there are mock drafts out there projecting Harper to go as high as the second round. I doubt that will happen. If he is still available for the Caps at No. 174, I would consider that a steal and a great pickup for Washington.
Team: Victoria (BCHL)
Height/Weight: 6'1", 168 lbs.
With their final pick in the 2013 NHL draft, the Washington Capitals will take another blueliner with good size and good potential in Nolan DeJong of the Victoria Grizzlies of the British Columbia Hockey League.
As can be noted from his draft profile at draftsite.com, DeJong is more of the two-way defender the Caps have seemed to favor over the years.
He has good size but needs to get stronger.
He has good reach but needs to be more aggressive.
He is a strong skater but needs more experience.
Of course, it has to be remembered that he is only 18, and he is going to play for Michigan this coming season. That experience will certainly help improve his game.
DeJong will be another work in progress for the Caps, but he does have the size, strength, speed and skill set that will help the Caps remain competitive moving forward.
I believe you will see his game improve and balance out with some additional experience.
As far as seventh-round picks go, the Caps would make a good investment by drafting DeJong and giving him a chance to develop and solidify his game.