Capitals 2004 draft review

By pbadmin

The Washington Capitals selected 13 players in the 2004 Entry Draft including seven forwards, five defensemen, and one goaltender. Six of the selections were out of European leagues, including two from Russia, two from Finland, one from Sweden and one from Switzerland. The team’s three first round picks, including first overall, allowed it pick up some significant talent.

Alexander Ovechkin, LW
Round 1 – 1st overall
Dynamo Moscow, RSL
6’2” 200 lbs.

The Capitals won the NHL Entry Draft lottery months ago and although reportedly were offered several trade options, instead stuck to the original plan of selecting the best available player. Many people are claiming this is the best prospect to ever come out of Russia. Time will tell, but many Caps fans still have a bitter taste in their mouth left from another Russian, 1996 draft pick Alexander Volchkov. Ovechkin is familiar with current Capital Alexander Semin who has done his own courting for the Caps prior to the draft. “We spoke at the World Championship in Finland,” stated Ovechkin at the draft. “He said that it’s a nice team, great guys. He likes the Capitals.” Odds are that Ovechkin will remain in Russia until the 2005-06 NHL season or until a new CBA is in place as well as an agreement with the International Ice Hockey Federation.

Jeff Schultz, D
Round 1 – 27th overall
Calgary, WHL
6’6” 212 lbs.

Obviously tall and lanky, Schultz is a good skater, given his size, and a smart player who will need to grow into his body and improve his toughness to play in the NHL. He was voted as the WHL Calgary Hitmen’s top defenseman at the team banquet at the end of the year last year, ahead of former Caps prospect Patrick Wellar. Schultz is more of a project that needs to play more physical before making the jump into the professional level. Scouts make a wide variety of player comparisons from Mike Rathje to Cory Cross. Either way he will make a great positional defender in the NHL some day, however he needs to pick up a mean streak along the way and improve some more on his skating.

Mike Green, D
Round 1 – 29th overall
Saskatoon, WHL
6’2” 198 lbs.

Green was actually ranked ahead of Jeff Schultz by NHL Central Scouting and for good reason, he is a good skater who is also smart. He’s not terribly big but has a great outlet pass and is a good bet to play pro very soon. Tenacious, workhorse, and great character are just a few words to describe him. Had he played on a better team this season, he may have been selected before the Caps were on the board for their second and third selections of the draft. Expect Green to remain in Saskatoon for another couple of seasons, working on a multitude of skills including quarterbacking the power play and distributing the puck.

Chris Bourque, C
Round 2 – 33rd overall
Cushing Academy, USHSE
5’8” 170 lbs.

With two “safe” picks in Schultz and Green, the Caps rolled the dice with Bourque. He’s a classic high risk/high return type pick. He was a surprise by many fans since most scouts did not have Chris Bourque in their top 100. The son of famed defenseman Ray Bourque, Chris plays with an edge and has a nose for the net. As a result, he was big goal scorer for his prep team in New England. He is also a leader both on and off the ice. At the Capitals Prospect Camp ongoing this week, he has been making his presence known by being the most aggressive and competitive player on the ice.

Mikhail Yunkov, C/W
Round 2 – 62nd overall
Krylja, RSL
6’0” 180 lbs.

Seen as another “safe” pick, Yunkov is a solid two-way center and a very good passer. Higher-profile players taken later such as Lepisto and Hedman, and the other Russian, Ovechkin, put Yunkov a bit under the radar. Scouts consider Yunkov one of the best Russian playmakers available this draft and perhaps he could work well with Ovechkin (even though the two have never played together).

Sami Lepisto, D
Round 3 – 66th overall
Jokerit, Finland
6’0” 176 lbs.

A 1984 birthdate means Lepisto could turn pro earlier than most 2004 draftees. He will need to see if his skills can be translated into the North American game, but most agree after a strong performance at this year’s World Junior Championship that he could be a solid fourth to sixth defenseman. Scouts say he can play tough, but his biggest assets are his playmaking ability and competitive style of play. The Capitals will likely let Lepisto continue to play in Finland’s top league, but could possibly make the jump into the pros within the next three to four years.

Clayton Barthel, D
Round 3 – 88th overall
Seattle, WHL
6’3” 205 lbs.

Barthel is a solid WHL defenseman known for his toughness. He will need to work hard, but is a good blue-collar prospect for the Caps right now. At this week’s Prospect Camp, Barthel has actually been one of the steadier defensemen. Considered a dark horse, he is similar to Patrick Wellar. He plays a physical game and is effective at positioning in his own zone.

Oscar Hedman, D
Round 5 – 132nd overall
Modo, SEL
6’0” 207 lbs.

Yet another smart, puck-moving defenseman, Hedman will probably stay in Sweden for a couple of years before the Caps make a decision on signing him. He was ranked prior to the draft by many scouts in the top 100. Capitals scout Calle Johansson is high on him and despite Hedman not being that great of a skater or shooter, he is a gamer. He is a smart defender who can make plays happen both with and without the puck. He is playing in the Swedish Elite League which for a player at his age is impressive enough.

Pasi Salonen, W
Round 5 – 138th overall
IFK Jr, Finland Junior
5’11” 187 lbs.

Pasi Salonen is a skilled forward who will get time to develop in Finland. Some think he may be just as skilled as Petteri Nokelainen and Lauri Korpikoski, but since he did not make the U-18 Finnish team and also was injured for the first half of this season there is not much hype on Salonen being generated by the scouts. He could be a big sleeper pick for the Capitals.

Peter Guggisberg, W
Round 6 – 166th overall
Davos, Switzerland
5’11” 183 lbs.

Guggisberg is the first Swiss player ever taken by the Capitals. He was also ranked 42nd by Central Scouting prior to the draft. With a good combination of great speed and dynamic scoring, Guggisberg is an interesting pick with a rare combination of skills. The downfall may be his size.

Andrew Gordon, RW
Round 7 – 197th overall
Notre Dame, SJHL
5’11” 180 lbs.

Another skilled forward, Gordon was awarded player of the week in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League late in the season to help get Notre Dame into the playoffs. He was also ranked in the top 10 of rookie scoring last season. Gordon is a great passer who is smart with his shooting selection. Gordon and fellow Caps prospect Andrew Joudrey have played together in the past. He will be attending St. Cloud State University.

Justin Mrazek, G
Round 8 – 230th overall
Estevan, SJHL
6’3” 185 lbs.

The Capitals looked to the Estevan Bruins’ Justin Mrazek in the eighth round, 230th overall. He was the only goaltender taken by the team in the entire draft. Mrazek, who garnered a scholarship to Union College after just one season in the SJHL, went 14-16-5 with a 3.14 GAA and .903 save percentage in 2003-04. The Regina product backstopped the Yorkton Harvest to the Air Canada Cup Regional Championship. He is a big Western Canadian goalie who will have plenty of time to develop.

Travis Morin, C
Round 9 – 263rd overall
Minnesota State, WCHA
6’2” 175 lbs.

Morin is a skilled forward who has three more years of NCAA eligibility at the University of Minnesota. Morin plays well at both ends of the ice. Tall but with a very skinny frame, he doesn’t shy away from the physical play and is able to finish his checks. Morin shows some remarkable upper body strength and the ability to protect the puck well. He is a tenacious competitor whose play along the boards is quite good. He is defensively responsible and plays very well in one-on-one situations. His great puck handling and passing skills enables him to play the point in power play situations. He possesses a good, quick release as well. Morin is a good skater with powerful strides, but it is one area that could use some improvement. With more body weight, Morin could be a very intimidating and much stronger presence on the ice.

Overall

The Capitals took a no brainer pick with Alexander Ovechkin and then began to focus on defense. They gathered up five defenseman with the following seven picks. By the middle to end of the draft, the Caps took their chances with several hit or miss prospects with the odds in their favor given the surplus of picks earned in 2004. Ovechkin will make the biggest and earliest splash. However, it would not be surprising to see one or two more players taken late in the draft such as Pasi Salonen or Peter Guggisberg become players within the next three to five years. Defenseman take a little longer to develop most of the time, therefore more than likely the influx of defensemen in this draft will not likely make a huge impact on the team until 2008-2009 (with exception to Green or Schultz).

Seth Keggins, Rick Davis and DJ Powers contributed to this article. Copyright 2004 Hockey’s Future.