Ranking the Best Options for Washington Capitals' Round 1 Pick in 2014 NHL Draft
The 2014 NHL draft presents the Washington Capitals with a critical opportunity to add a key piece to a lineup largely made up of players who have made six postseason appearances in D.C. over the last seven years.
And with the No. 13 pick in hand, a potential franchise cornerstone could be had.
No, this isn't the deepest pool of prospects, but given that the Caps have been very successful in picking up key cogs on a consistent basis despite rarely having lottery selections, there's reason for hope.
George McPhee has done well to call the names of first-rounders such as Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Mike Green, Karl Alzner, John Carlson, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Alexander Semin, Marcus Johansson, Filip Forsberg and Tom Wilson over the years. And, regardless of whether the longtime general manager is ultimately still in charge by draft day, this franchise's scouting staff has an exceptional track record.
Heading into one of the most important summers in franchise history, here's a look at the team's best options when it is on the clock at No. 13.
5. Josh Ho-Sang
Since Semin left town in 2012, the Capitals have failed to find a forward capable of providing a game-breaking offensive presence for when Backstrom and Ovechkin are kept in check.
Well, if their best options are unavailable at No. 13, Windsor's Josh Ho-Sang is an intriguing possibility, as the dynamic scorer possesses some of the most elite skills of any center in the field.
An explosive playmaker with soft hands, the former Toronto Marlboros star's OHL season came to an end after being suspended (per TSN), but his 32-goal, 85-point campaign confirmed this: Ho-Sang has all the tools to be a top-six offensive catalyst at the next level, but his size remains a question.
4. Jared McCann
Since Sergei Fedorov departed D.C., in 2009, the Capitals have slotted Mike Ribeiro, Brendan Morrison, Jason Arnott, Brooks Laich and Mikhail Grabovski at the No. 2 spot on the depth chart at center, but none have provided what's needed to put Washington among the NHL's elite down the middle.
If he's still around when the Caps approach the podium, Sault St. Marie's Jared McCann is a guy who could one day fill that void behind Backstrom, though it may take a year or two of development before he earns a regular spot in the big club's lineup.
A 6'1" pivot with good speed and offensive abilitites, McCann is reliable on draws and in his own end, and his 2013-14 totals of 27 goals and 62 are pretty impressive for a 17-year-old.
His ceiling may be somewhere in the range of 20-25 goals and 50-55 points, but with his competitive streak and relentless attitude, that would be just fine with the fans in Washington.
3. Nick Ritchie
Generally regarded as a safe bet to be a top-10 selection, Ritchie has all the attributes scouts look for in a power forward. His 6'3", 229-pound frame give him the size to overpower opponents, and his production demonstrates his ability to use it to his advantage.
Coming off a breakout 39-goal, 74-point season with Peterborough, Ritchie could be ready to make the jump to the NHL in the fall, but if taken by the Caps, he'd probably follow in the footsteps of 2012 first-rounder Tom Wilson and ease his way into regular duty.
Wilson's actually a nice comparison to Ritchie, as the two have similar builds and styles of play, though the Petes winger is clearly blessed with more high-end offensive gifts.
He won't be the physical wrecking ball Wilson has been since earning a roster spot with Washington last fall, but Ritchie has the skill and confidence to step in and put up big numbers immediately.
2. Roland McKeown
As the International Scouting Services' No. 2 right-handed rearguard, Roland McKeown is regarded as one of the most promising defensive prospects of his class.
And for the Caps, who boasted one of the game's most porous defensive units in the game in 2013-14, McKeown perfectly fits the profile of the type of defenseman this team needs.
Not the most physical defender available, McKeown has a solid 6'1" frame and elite-level skating and puck-handling abilities. As a result, he projects to be the type of two-way, puck-moving presence needed to one day replace Green.
The 18-year-old plays in all situations, and after another impressive season with Kingston of the OHL that saw McKeown post 43 points in 62 games, there's no reason to think he couldn't be a top-four guy in the NHL.
More importantly, the Caps sorely need an injection of talent on the back end, and after Aaron Ekblad and Haydn Fleury, McKeown is the next blue-chipper available.
1. Haydn Fleury
In an ideal world, the Caps would find a way to move up and grab one of the most polished defensive prospects of the last decade in Aaron Ekblad. Unfortunately, given that he's a virtual lock to go before the Edmonton Oilers approach the podium at No. 3, making a move to acquire Haydn Fleury should be the top priority for Washington.
Like Ekblad, Fleury possesses good puck-moving skills and has the ability to kick an offense into gear with a crisp first pass, as his 46 points in 2013-14 with Red Deer of the WHL show.
An imposing 6'3" rearguard, Fleury's only going to add weight to his 207-pound frame, and as TSN's Bob McKenzie said earlier in the year, he's got the makings of an effective all-around blueliner:
Haydn has all the attributes of a two-way defenseman. Excellent skating base and he uses it defensively and to jump into the attack offensively. Very good puck skills and he passes well out of his zone and in the offensive zone to create scoring chances. Very good awareness with the puck and is threat with his shot which makes it hard to keep him from contributing. Competitive and continues to gain confidence and get better.
It's possible McPhee (or whoever is in charge of Washington's hockey operations by late June) will attempt to package the No. 13 pick, Green and a high-end prospect to move up in order to grab Ekblad, but if not, Fleury has to be the Caps' next prize.