What should Capitals fans expect from each of these prospects?
Here are the best-case scenarios for all six of the Washington Capitals' 2013 draft picks. Each player appears in the order he was drafted, along with the position he plays and the round and overall number of his selection.
Note: All statistics courtesy of EliteProspects.com unless noted otherwise.
Left wing Andre Burakovsky was a bit of a surprise as the Capitals' first-round selection, with fellow wingers Hunter Shinkaruk and Valentin Zykov still on the board at the time. Shinkaruk and Zykov were ranked sixth and seventh, respectively, among North American Skaters on the final 2013 NHL draft prospect rankings, while Burakovsky was ranked sixth among European Skaters, according to NHL.com.
That being said, Washington found a good one in Burakovsky, a native of Austria who now lives in Sweden. Burakovsky played for Sweden at the 2012-13 World Junior Championship, at both the U-18 and U-20 levels. At U-18, he had four goals and five points in five games. At U-20, he had one assist in three games.
Professionally, Burakovsky played for Malmo of the Allsvenskan, Sweden's second division. He scored four goals with seven assists for 11 points in 43 games, with eight penalty minutes and a minus-two rating. An NHL scout helped justify Burakovsky's performance to Ryan Kennedy of The Hockey News:
He’s had a tough year. It’s tough for those kids who are on the cusp of the big team but are too good for the junior team. They go on the road trips, but don’t play very many minutes.
Here is a more detailed evaluation of the 18-year-old from EliteProspects.com:
A flashy and offensively very gifted player. Equipped with great hands and puckhandling ability. Like his father, also a gifted shooter and has the tools to put up big numbers. Also a quite agile player with strong skating skills. Can work on his defensive game, and become stronger and more consistent.
Plus, HockeysFuture.com described Burakovsky as a "very creative player with a strong wrist shot who loves scoring goals. He is extremely good at picking corners and putting shots in under the crossbar."
Do those two scouting reports remind you of any Washington Capitals player, past or present? I was thinking Alexander Semin.
Before Burakowsky can cement those comparisons to Sasha, however, he will require some seasoning. Ryan Kennedy of The Hockey News suspects Burakowsky will gain experience through playing hockey in North America:
Another player who might be in a major junior uniform in the future is Washington Capitals first-rounder Andre Burakowsky, who had a tough, up-and-down year back home in Sweden, but clearly has the skill set of an elite scorer. The CHL Import Draft is on July 3 and Burakowsky would be a candidate. “I have to talk to my agent,” he said. “But maybe.”
BEST-CASE SCENARIO: Top-six forward
My colleague Dave Ungar predicted the Capitals would select a defenseman with the 53rd pick of the draft when he compiled a full seven-round 2013 mock draft for the Washington Capitals. He was right in terms of position, as the Caps selected Madison Bowey.
The Winnipeg native played for Canada at the 2012-13 U-18 World Junior Championship. He scored two goals and had two assists with six penalty minutes and a plus-three rating in seven games.
In junior hockey, the 6'1", 201-pound Bowey played for the Kelowna Rockets of the WHL, scoring 12 goals and adding 18 assists for 30 points with 75 penalty minutes and a plus-41 rating in 69 games. Bowey finished 13th in the WHL in plus/minus rating, per WHL.ca.
Per his 2013 NHL draft prospect profile, Bowey played for the same WHL team as current NHL defensemen Shea Weber, Duncan Keith, Luke Schenn and Josh Gorges. NHL Network analyst Craig Button said about Bowey that "he's not as rugged as [former Kelowna defensemen] Luke Schenn and Shea Weber, but he's every bit as competitive.”
Here is an assessment of Bowey by an anonymous NHL scout, as told to Ryan Kennedy of The Hockey News:
Seeing him last year I thought he would be an offensive defenseman juggernaut kind of guy. I’ve been disappointed this year in that regard, but having said that, he’s a very good skater, very mobile and makes a great outlet pass right on the tape. I still like him. Not very physical, but he doesn’t get beat often thanks to his skating.
BEST-CASE SCENARIO: Top-four defenseman
In Sanford, the Capitals are getting a player who director of amateur scouting Ross Mahoney admitted was "raw," according to Katie Carrera of The Washington Post. Mahoney further explained to Carrera that Sanford's upside makes him well worth the pick:
His improvement during the year was tremendous. He’s committed to going to a very good school, he’s got good size and I think we saw a big improvement because he was playing against better players in a better league.
The "better league" Mahoney was referring to is the Eastern Junior Hockey League (EJHL), where Sanford played the 2012-13 season with the Islanders Hockey Club. Sanford scored 12 goals and added 24 assists for 36 points with 22 penalty minutes in 37 games. In the playoffs, he scored four goals and added four assists with eight penalty minutes in seven games.
The "very good school" Mahoney mentioned is Boston College. With this college powerhouse in mind, Jeff Cox of SB Nation's Western College Hockey Blog wrote "don't be surprised if you hear comparisons to Chris Kreider once Sanford begins playing at The Heights in October."
Long before he was drafted, Sanford played high school hockey at Pinkerton Academy in his native New Hampshire. His coach at Pinkerton, Casey Kesselring, discussed Sanford in depth to Jeff Cox:
He's a dominant offensive player. He has good hands and can really maneuver around the other teams' defensemen...Zach has a long reach. I would tell people that he's just like a human highlight reel...He's gotten better defensively, but he knows he still has some work to do on that part of his game.
BEST-CASE SCENARIO: Middle-six forward
Blake Heinrich is the second defender the Capitals selected in the 2013 draft.
The 18-year-old Heinrich played the 2012-13 season in the USHL with the Sioux City Musketeers. He scored three goals with 17 assists for 20 points with 110 penalty minutes and a plus-12 rating in 42 games. Heinrich ranked 11th in penalty minutes among USHL defensemen.
In the final 2013 NHL draft prospect rankings, Heinrich ranked 81st among North American skaters.
Blake Heinrich plays each and every shift with a physical nastiness. The University of Minnesota Duluth commit is a strong and durable defenseman that bull rushes opponents, forcing turnovers in the process...Heinrich is not big for a defenseman, (5’11-190) but what he lacks in height, he makes up for in strength...has good mobility and does an exceptional job at reading the play in front of him. Heinrich never gives the impression that he is guessing on a play as he has a natural instinct to be in the right place at the right time. An area of Heinrich’s game that needs improvement is his puck control skills. Advancement in this capacity would round out Heinrich’s offensive game and make him a complete player. Overall Heinrich is a blue-collar worker on the ice that is a joy to watch thanks to his ability to play the body. Heinrich could be more offensive, but he’s a good coverage defender that gives very little space to opposing forwards. His playing style is similar to Dennis Seidenberg of the Boston Bruins.
BEST-CASE SCENARIO: Top-four defenseman
Brian Pinho was drafted by the Capitals in the sixth round of the 2013 draft.
A native of Massachusetts, Pinho played his high school hockey at St. John's Prep, totaling 93 points in 45 games over the course of his junior and senior seasons. He will begin attending Providence College in the fall of 2014.
Pinho was ranked 109th among North American skaters in the final 2013 NHL draft prospect rankings.
Shortly after being drafted, Pinho was interviewed by Scott Barboza of ESPNBoston.com. One topic of discussion was how Pinho might fit into the Capitals' system:
I think I can fit in there, being a two-way player, playing my game. Obviously, they have a lot of big scorers like [Alex] Ovechkin, [Mike] Ribeiro, but I think it would be more a two-way, defensive forward, being able to move the puck and see the ice well.
BEST-CASE SCENARIO: Bottom-six forward
The Capitals may have pulled off one of the bigger steals of the 2013 NHL draft when they landed Tyler Lewington with the 204th overall pick.
Lewington was rated 66th among North American skaters in the final 2013 NHL draft prospect rankings. That placed him 15 spots ahead of Blake Heinrich and 43 spots ahead of Brian Pinho, both of whom were drafted by the Capitals before Lewington, in the fifth and sixth rounds, respectively.
Perhaps Lewington would have been drafted higher if he were an NFL prospect, because he stood out in the combine fitness results. Lewington finished first in bench press, push-ups and push strength, and he was sixth in pull strength, per NHL.com.
The 6'1", 190-pound defenseman puts his size to good use. He ranked 16th in the WHL in penalty minutes with 131. That was the most on his team, the Medicine Hat Tigers. And the Alberta native has already made a name for himself at HockeyFights.com.
Capitals director of scouting Ross Mahoney provided his own scouting report on Lewington for Chuck Gormley of CSNWashington.com: "He’s very competitive...More of a stay-at-home defenseman who competes. He skates well, works hard."
Lewington has played the last two seasons with Medicine Hat. In 113 career WHL games, he has two goals, 27 assists and 29 points to go with 177 penalty minutes and a plus-21 rating.
BEST-CASE SCENARIO: Bottom-four defenseman