Washington Capitals 2012 NHL Draft Picks: Grades, Results and Analysis
Few teams head into the 2012-13 season with the identity crisis that the Washington Capitals are facing.
For years, the Capitals were a team that depended on an explosive offense to bludgeon their opponents. That philosophy was fairly successful during the regular season, but it left them with egg on their faces in the postseason because they could not sustain the attack, despite the presence of Alex Ovechkin and Alex Semin.
Former head coach Bruce Boudreau tried to get the Capitals to buy into playing a more defensively sound game, but the progress was too slow for Washington general manager George McPhee and Boudreau was sent packing early last season. McPhee brought in former Capitals agitator Dale Hunter as head coach and he was more successful than Boudreau had been. After qualifying for the playoffs in the final days of the season, the Capitals upset the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins in the first round of the season and pushed the New York Rangers to seven games before being eliminated.
The path would seem to be clear, but Hunter resigned his position shortly after the team's defeat. McPhee will not have a new coach in place prior to the draft. The chances are he will look for a coach who preaches responsibility at both ends like Hunter.
McPhee had 10 picks in this year's draft, including two in the first round.
Here's a closer look at them.
1st Round Pick, Center Filip Forsberg
The draft was not an overly pleasant experience for Forsberg, because he had to sit and watch a slew of defensemen get drafted before the Capitals selected him with the No. 11 pick in the draft.
That unpleasant memory will fade away if Forsberg develops the way scouts expect him to on the ice. Forsberg did an excellent job in international competiton and the Capitals like the way he handles the puck, passes and shoots when he has the opportunity. Even though he spells his name the same way, he is not related to former NHL great Peter Forsberg. However, he has patterned his game after the former Avalanche star.
1st Round Pick, Right Wing Thomas Wilson
The Capitals found success in the closing weeks of the regular season and throughout the playoffs by playing a physical game. That's just where Wilson should excel. He is a 6'4", 205-pounder who bounced bodies for Plymouth of the Ontario Hockey League with regularity. He was voted the best body checker in the league. While Wilson did not have stellar offensive numbers, he battled through a number of injuries and Caps scouts believe he has solid offensive potential.
3rd Round Pick, Left Wing Chandler Stephenson
The Capitals are hoping Stephenson can develop into a legitimate goal scorer at the top pro level. He scored 22 goals while playing Regina in the Western Hockey League last year. The scouts also like his skating balance and speed. According to Washington's scouting director Ross Mahoney, Stephenson has good hands, athletic ability and has the intelligence to develop into a solid contributor. He is the cousin of former NHL player Joey Kocur, who was known for his fighting ability. Stephenson is not that kind of player and was named the most sportsmanlike player in the WHL.
4th Round Pick, Center Thomas DiPauli
DiPauli was born in Italy and he picked up the game when his family moved to Illinois when he was 13. He has made a very swift development and he is solid in all aspects of the game. He can carry the puck, pass it and shoot it fairly well. He also understands defensive play and works hard at that aspect of the game. He is a solid checker who scored 10 goals and 10 assists for the U.S. Under-18 team.
4th Round Pick, Right Wing Austin Wuthrich
Wuthrich has a long way to go before he can think about contributing at the NHL level. However he has size and strength at 6'1" and 190 pounds and he is not afraid to go into the corners. He played on the U.S. Under 18 team and he scored 7 goals and had 10 assists. He is planning to play at Notre Dame next season.
5th Round Pick, Defenseman Conner Carrick
Carrick also played for the U.S. Under 18 team. He is a mobile defenseman with speed and agility who is planning to play at the University of Michigan this season. The Capitals are high on him as far as his overall ability is concerned but he will need some time to develop. He had 18 points in 53 games while playing for the Under-18 team.
6th Round Pick, Right Wing Riley Barber
Barber is a solid looking offensive prospect who has the skills to become a factor for the Capitals if he continues to develop. Barber is a 5'11", 180-pound winger who can carry the puck through traffic, take it into the offensive zone and then make accurate passes. Barber has a slew of moves and also has a hard, accurate shot. Barber's father Don played in the NHL for four teams between 1988 and 1992
7th Round Picks, D Christian Djoos and Jaynen Rissling; G Sergei Kostenko
The Capitals know that 7th-round picks don't usually hit, but they selected two defensemen and a goalie with their seventh-round picks. Djoos lacks size but he is an excellent stickhandler with good passing ability. He needs to improve his skating and his strength. Rissling has size and is a punishing checker. Kostenko is athletic and competitive, but he needs to develop his skills. He had a .884 save percentage for his Russian junior team.