Washington Capitals‘ General Manager George McPhee went on record before the 2011 NHL Entry Draft saying there was a paucity of true stars-in-the-making available. As such, it’s no surprise he traded away his first round pick (26th overall) to the Chicago Blackhawks for budding power forward Troy Brouwer. With the deal, the Capitals only had four selections, all on day two of the draft. At the end of the day, the Capitals walked away with the rights to four young players, including one forward, two defensemen, and a goaltender. Three of the four players are playing in the United States, and either are already playing at the college level or will be in the near future. The other was playing in Norway but is expected to play in North American in the coming season.
With their first selection of the draft on day two, Washington tabbed goaltender Steffen Soberg, who bounced around Manglerud’s system in Norway. In 27 games with the big club, he posted a a bloated 4.17 goals against average and .884 save percentage en route to a 5-21 record. Manglerud had an awful season, notching a paltry 10 wins in 45 games, good for second-to-last place in the GET-ligaen. For young kid playing a men’s league, Soberg struggled, as to be expected. However, he was named to the all-rookie GET team, demonstrating how effective he was at a young age for a poor team. At the World Junior Championships U-18 tournament, he really shined for the overmatched Norwegians. In six games, he posted a mediocre 3.90 goals against average, but also a sparkling .931 save percentage. Playing for a less than stellar national team, he kept them in games and was named one of the top three players on his team. He was the backup at the WJC U-20 tournament, seeing action in three games, in which he posted a 3.57 goals against average and a .913 save percentage.
Not the biggest player, Soberg displays incredible athleticism and quickness, a good glove hand, great anticipation, and a fiery competitive side in his game. He’s a battler in net, keeping his subpar teams in games they don’t deserve to win and he’s known for his will to win.
After discussions with the Capitals, Soberg decided to cross the pond for the 2011-12 season to play against better competition in the CHL. In the 2011 CHL Import Draft, he was taken sixth overall by the Swift Current Broncos (WHL). He’s expected to win the starting role for the Broncos and show his stuff in a more renowned league. Like most players selected after the first few rounds, he’s more of a long-term project. Look for him to do well with a better team and he could be a star on the rise in net sooner rather than later.
With their second pick of the draft, the Capitals selected a physically imposing defender in Patrick Koudys from RPI of the ECAC (NCAA). What really stands out about him is his size: he has a pro-style frame already, even as one of the youngest players in the entire NCAA. He suited up for 31 games, notching a goal, two assists, and fourteen penalty minutes. Central Scouting had him ranked as the 76th-best North American skater, so the Capitals may have gotten a steal long-term.
He uses his reach effectively, but also got more involved in the physical side of the game in his freshman year at RPI. Additionally, he showed some of the raw potential he has on the offensive side of the game. He only posted three points on the season, but by many accounts, his ability to move the puck confidently up ice only improved as the season went on. As he continues to get stronger and adjust to the college game, look for him to develop into a stronger two-way player on the back end. Long-term, he projects to be a reliable defenseman who can chip in a bit on offense. However, as with most late round picks, he’s more of a project that will take more time before contributing in the Washington organization.
He’ll return to RPI next season for his sophomore campaign and look to build on an impressive freshman season. He’ll most likely exhaust his NCAA eligibility before signing with the Capitals, giving him the much-needed time to continue his development. If he continues to grow with each passing season, he could be a serviceable NHL defenseman down the line.
Travis Boyd, a skilled playmaker from the USNTDP, was the Capitals’ third selection of the draft. In 24 games, Boyd notched five goals and 13 assists, good for a tie for first on the team in assists and fifth in points. He also posted six points in six games for Team USA at the U-18 WJC.
Boyd is an offensive beast, with great hands and above-average hockey sense. He reads the play well and can distribute the puck, as evidenced by his high assist totals. He needs to add strength to his undersized frame, but if he does, he should be able to effectively contribute in a variety of situations including the power play and the penalty kill. Like Soberg and Koudys, Boyd will take longer to develop, but could be a good player for the Capitals down the line.
Boyd will suit up for the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers for the 2011-12 season, where he’ll likely spend the next few seasons honing his game. Like Koudys, he’ll probably exhaust his NCAA eligibility before he’s ready to join to pro ranks. If his offensive game translates to the college level, he could conceivably also contribute on the offensive side in the pros. Long-term, he’ll need to continue his development before he’s ready to crack an NHL lineup.
Garrett Haar, D – Fargo Force (USHL)
7th round, 207th overall
Height: 5’11 Weight: 190 lbs
With their final selection of the draft, the Capitals took another player from the USHL in defenseman Garrett Haar of the Fargo Force. In 51 games with Fargo, he posted seven goals and 16 assists. He tied for second in goals by defenseman on the team and also notched a solid plus-nine. In five playoff games, he added three points as the Force were knocked out in the second round by the Dubuque Fighting Saints.
Haar has been described as an above average skater with a competitive nature. He needs to add strength in order to handle the rigors of the pro game, however. Like all of the Capitals’ selections, Haar is more of a long-term project that will hopefully given plenty of time to round out his game.
Originally committed to Northeastern University, Haar withdrew his commitment after Northeastern’s head coach left the program to join the Toronto Maple Leafs organization. He’ll return to Fargo for the 2011-12 season and will likely pursue his college options during the season before making a firm commitment. Down the line, he could be a useful, balanced player in the NHL.