The Washington Capitals made seven selections in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. Diversifying their picks like usual, the Caps selected a player out of Russia and Sweden, took two from the WHL, and one each from the OHL, QMJHL, and the USHL. This crop included four forwards and three defensemen. For the first time since 2003, General Manager George McPhee did not draft a goaltender.
Many around the league thought that the Capitals could trade their first-round pick for a roster player, but McPhee stood pat in the 24th position.
"We’re not going to force anything," explained McPhee. "If there’s something there that makes sense, we’ll do it."
Obviously, nothing made sense on this draft day for the Capitals in regards to possible deals.
The draft is incredibly important for the Capitals, who take a "build from within" approach year after year. McPhee stated, "We’re really happy with where the organization is right now… But there’s always ways to improve."
With the success of recent draft picks playing for Hershey and Washington, McPhee will continue to build through the draft and stay the course to try and establish long-term success.
Marcus Johansson, C – 5’11 189 lbs – SEL, Farjestad
1st round, 24th overall
There was speculation that the Capitals might have tried to trade their first pick for immediate help down the middle, but ultimately, they settled on a potential future NHL center in Marcus Johansson. The Sweden native played 45 games for Farjestad last season, putting up five goals and five assists, and gained valuable experience with the team on its way to the SEL title. Also playing in the 2009 WJC, Johansson recorded two goals during the tournament, and his feisty play in the championship game against Canada was the selling point for McPhee.
Johansson is an effective two-way player with a quick wrist shot. Always responsible in his own end, he boasts a strong overall game and can play center and wing. While there were other players on the board who probably had more offensive abilities or pure skill, Johansson is considered to be a "safer" pick if he can stay healthy. With concussion problems haunting his past, it will be interesting to see how he develops and if he is able to stay concussion free.
Dmitri Orlov, D – 6’0 197 pounds – KHL, Novokuznetsk
2nd round, 55th overall
Slated to possibly go in the first round, Orlov was considered to be a steal when he was sitting there at No. 55. He excels in all of the offensive aspects of the game. He skates extremely well and his passing and shooting skills are exceptional. Even though he is considered small for a defenseman, Orlov is strong at his core and doesn’t back down from the physical side of the game. If he can improve his overall effectiveness in his own end, he could turn out to be a gem in the late second round.
Orlov has expressed interest in coming to North America already as early as next season. Due to the fact that Orlov is Russian, this is probably the main reason that he fell in the draft. But coach Bruce Boudreau doesn’t think getting him to North America will be too much of a risk.
"I guess it’s a risk, but we’ve got a pretty good ambassador on our team to convince guys," he said.
With a need for depth at the center position in the organization, the Capitals took the 2009 CHL Top Prospect Game MVP Cody Eakin. An incredibly agile and fast skater, Eakin fell into the Caps lap much like Orlov did. Registering a balanced 24 goals and 24 assists in 54 games this past season, the Winnipeg native posses the ability to beat defensemen to the outside with his speed. Eakin also has both an above average shot and passing abilities, which always make him an offensive threat. Eakin is very responsible in his own end.
Adding more strength while not sacrificing speed is a must if Eakin hopes to make it to the NHL in the near future. The former Canadian U-18 standout has a great chance to play for Team Canada at the next U-20 WJC.
Wey made tremendous strides this year in the USHL, going from six points in 2007-08 to 34 points in 2008-09. Even with these offensive contributions, Wey’s overall skill set is more tuned to the defensive side of the game. The soon to be Boston College Eagle has great mobility for a big man, a strong poke check, and solid positioning. Solid, but not flashy when hitting, Wey makes a strong outlet pass out of the zone which helps his teams rush up the ice. If there is any weakness that needs to be worked on, it is his shot. Most big defensemen have strong, low shots, and Wey should have plenty of time to work on this playing for coach Jerry York at Boston College.
Brett Flemming, D – 6’0 172 lbs – OHL, Mississauga
5th round, 145th overall
With their fifth-round pick, the Capitals took Brett Flemming, a small offensive defenseman out of the OHL. Possessing above average offensive instincts and a strong pass, Flemming does have a lot to work on before he is ready to turn pro in a couple of years. He skates fairly well, but needs to work on his defensive game and positioning. Flemming needs to be more physical, especially along the boards. Adding more strength to an already small frame will help him to accomplish this goal, however. He plays a similar style to current Hershey Bear and Capitals’ prospect Patrick McNeill.
What Mitchell lacks in talent and finishing ability, he makes up with an incredible work ethic and hard-nosed play. Even at his size, Mitchell is able to play a very effective checking role for the Regina Pats of the WHL. The Regina native’s tough play is evidenced by his 140 penalty minutes in 71 games in 2008-09. Playing hard every shift does not necessarily translate to offensive results though, as evidenced by 10 goals and 15 total points all of last season. The main knock on Mitchell is that he has no finishing ability. If he can improve the offensive aspects of his game just a little, Mitchell could turn out to be an excellent role/energy player in the NHL one day.
Benjamin Casavant, LW – 6’1 213 lbs – QMJHL, PEI
7th round, 205th overall
The Capitals’ seventh-round pick was definitely their "boom or bust" pick for the 2009 Draft. Casavant has all of the offensive ability in the world. He has a laser shot, slick passing abilities, and great hockey sense. The huge problem was that he ranked as one of the worst skaters in the entire draft. With poor acceleration, top speed, or lateral mobility, Casavant will have to improve this before he is ready to take on the pro game. With 39 goals and 80 points in only 69 games in 2008-09, his offensive talent cannot be denied. The Capitals’ are hoping that he can increase his foot speed and skating ability so he is able to become a more well-rounded player and prospect in the near future.