After just one pick in the first two rounds of the previous two drafts, the 2012 NHL Draft was a chance for the Washington Capitals to restock their prospect cupboards. The Capitals entered the draft with a total of 11 picks, and ended up keeping 10 of them. Though General Manager George McPhee dealt the club's second round selection to the Dallas Stars, packaging it with Cody Eakin, the return – Mike Ribeiro – was a significant one.
McPhee said that the he had inquired about Ribeiro at the trade deadline, but the Stars, in a playoff battle, weren't ready to deal the playmaking center. In Riberio, a veteran center of 737 career NHL games, the Capitals add both skill and depth down the middle. At 32 years old, the former Dallas Star pivot still has quite a bit left in the tank – he registered 63 points last season in 74 games. He'll provide insulation for Nicklas Backstrom and third-year center Marcus Johansson; though either he or Johansson could see time on the wing at some point this season.
In total, the Capitals selected six forwards, three defensemen, and a goaltender. Their first five picks were all forwards, including first-rounder Filip Forsberg, who they were more than happy to grab with the 11th overall pick after the Swede fell in relation to his projected draft ranking.
Filip Forsberg, RW – Leksands IF (Allsvenskan)
1st round, 11th overall
Height: 6'2 Weight: 181 lbs
Many mock drafts had the all-around winger going in the top five picks, but after the New York Islanders started a run in which seven straight defensemen were selected, the Washington Capitals were thrilled to be able to take Filip Forsberg. Described as a two-way winger who plays a complete game, Forsberg can do it all. He possesses above-average speed with an elusive skating stride, and while his offensive instincts are a notch below Nail Yakupov (EDM) and Alex Galchenyuk (MTL), he just may be the more complete player. And it's not as though his offense is limited; in 43 games for Leksands IF last season, he scored eight goals and added nine assists.
He has been considered a prized prospect for quite some time. In 2011, at just 16, he represented Sweden at the Under-18 World Championships. He was also the youngest member of the gold-medal winning Swedes at the last year's World Juniors, picking up one assist in six games in limited action. He'll return to that team next year where he'll be expected to carry much of the load offensively.
The Capitals have had success in drafting players from Sweden out of the first round as both Backstrom and Johansson have become important pieces to the team's success. They are hopeful that within a few years the same can be said about Forsberg.
Tom Wilson was not drafted for his offensive instincts. That is not to say that the Toronto native won't develop his offensive skills as he matures as a player, but it is safe to say that the Capitals were more intrigued by his 6'4 frame and punishing style of play.
"I think I'm done growing, but definitely some good muscle to put on," said Wilson, adding that he'd like to top out at about 215-220lbs.
Wilson is a beast in the corners, is great at creating space for his teammates, and is not afraid to get his nose dirty in front of the net; all of which are evidenced by his 141 penalty minutes in just 49 games this season.
While comparisons are premature, some suggest that Wilson could develop into a Milan Lucic-type power forward if he reaches his ceiling. Regardless of that, given the Capitals perceived lack of physicality over the years, the selection of Wilson may be one of their smarter picks to date, assuming he pans out.
He recorded just 27 points last season, but his increased production in the playoffs may have helped his draft stock also; in 13 post-season games he was second on team scoring with 13 points. With players like Andy Bathgate and Jamie Devane leaving next season, he'll see his role increased, and his offensive production will reflect that.
A Saskatoon native, Stephenson was ranked as the 33rd best North American skater by Central Scouting. At just 5'11, he isn't the biggest player on the ice, but he's certainly no pushover. He recorded the fourth hardest shot at the CHL Top Prospects game, and finished first at the combine in pushups with 52.
In an injury-shortened season last year, Stephenson still managed to finish fourth in Pats scoring with 42 points in 55 games, and with Jordan Weal (LAK) likely to leave next year, he'll be the team's go-to offensive player. He brings a combination of grit and determination to the game, and though cliché, he certainly leaves it all on the ice. As with the majority of mid-round picks, he's a few years away from making any sort of impact in the pro ranks, but he does have the right skill set and character to develop into a solid bottom-six forward.
A versatile forward who has played both wings and spent some time down the middle throughout his early career, Thomas Di Pauli is a strong two-way player. And while he has spent time at every forward position, he is perhaps most effective at center, where he's above average on faceoffs. He plays a high-tempo game and isn't afraid to finish his hits; in fact, it's one of his strongest assets – many scouts say he projects as a solid bottom-six forward if he is to reach his potential.
In 55 games with the U18 NTDP last season, Di Pauli scored 11 goals and added 10 assists, picking up 22 penalty minutes along the way. He also scored a goal in six games for the gold-medal winning U18 American team. He is committed to playing at the University of Notre Dame next season, where he'll round out his game for the next few years.
Austin Wuthrich, F – U.S National Development Team (USHL)
4th round, 107th overall
Height: 6'2 Weight: 185 lbs
Just seven selections after picking Thomas Di Pauli, the Capitals selected one of his future teammates – University of Notre Dame forward Austin Wuthrich. After going undrafted last year, Wuthrich proved he has considerable offensive potential in his freshman season with the Fighting Irish, posting 17 points in 36 games. As the season progressed, he saw his ice-time increase, which is impressive for a freshman given the crop of forwards on Notre Dame – T.J. Tynan (CLB), Riley Sheahan (DET), and Anders Lee (NYI).
The Alaska native was ranked 94th by Central Scouting heading into the draft, but his play tailed off a bit towards the end of the year. That said, he already has the physical tools to compete in the NHL, and he's proven that he can already contribute in a league that boasts some of the NHL's top prospects. If he can develop any semblance of an all-around game under Notre Dame head coach Jeff Jackson, he could become an effective pro.
Connor Carrick, D – U.S National Development Team (USHL)
5th round, 137th overall
Height: 5'11 Weight: 191 lbs
Though he isn't exactly huge by defenseman standards, Connor Carrick plays a large game. He has a mean streak, and is prone to making big, open-ice collisions; though, at times, that can hinder his game as he'll take himself out of position. That's one thing that he's going to need to work while playing for Michigan State University next year. With limited offense, he projects as a solid two-way, tough-nosed defenseman.
In 21 games last year for the NTDP, Carrick scored just once and picked up four assists, but that was in limited action on a team that boasted eventual first-round pick Jacob Trouba (WIN) and potential top pick in next year's draft, Seth Jones. Essentially, Carrick is a low maintenance rearguard who can do a little bit of everything. He likely won't reach first pairing status in the NHL, but he could round into a solid bottom defenseman.
Riley Barber, RW – U.S National Development Team (USHL)
6th round, 167th overall
Height: 6'0 Weight: 194 lbs
The Capitals went back to the well in the sixth round, selecting their fourth straight NTDP player (Austin Wuthrich played for the team in 2010-11). In 24 games, Riley Barber posted 11 points, while picking up 59 penalty minutes, proof of the fact he plays a gritty, two-way game. He's a good skater but needs to find another level to set himself apart from the average gritty winger. Consistency will be the key going forward for Barber, who has committed to the University of Miami (Ohio).
Barber was also an integral part of the gold-medal winning U18 United States team along with Carrick and DiPauli. In six games, he picked up three points, and showed off his physicality and defensive prowess. Still a project, however, it'll be a year or two until the Capitals really see what they have in the big winger.
Christian Djoos, D – Brynas J20 (SuperElit)
7th round, 195th overall
Height: 5'11 Weight: 158 lbs
With the first of their three seventh round selections, the Capitals took severely undersized Swedish defenseman Christian Djoos. At just 158 lbs, he needs to put on quite a bit of muscle before even being considered a legitimate NHL prospect, but, playing in Sweden, he has time to develop and round out his game before the Capitals even consider what to do with him in the future.
He played the majority of last year for Brynas' under-20 team, recording 24 points in 40 games, and was also a member of the Swedish under-18 junior team, in which he scored one goal and added two assists in six games. His strongest asset is his skating, while his offensive skills have been developing over the past two seasons. Of course, his size limits his ability to effectively shut down the opposition, but he plays his angles well and knows when to jump in on the rush. Djoos is definitely one of the more interesting selections out of the seventh round, and he could very well be a steal a few years down the line.
Jaynen Rissling, D – Calgary Hitmen (WHL)
7th round, 197th overall
Height: 6'4 Weight: 222 lbs
Just two picks after the selection of Christian Djoos, the Capitals took another defenseman – one that couldn't be more than Djoos. At 6'4 and 222 lbs, Rissling is a hulking, physical presence who led the Calgary Hitmen in penalty minutes with 124 in just 55 games. While he isn't a big open-ice hitter by any means, he's not afraid of dropping the gloves, having done so 10 times in 2011-12.
One of the biggest concerns about his game may be his foot-speed. He hasn't had much problem keeping up at the junior level, but it will be a major issue if he has professional aspirations. Physicality aside, Rissling possesses some offensive upside, having registered a career high 23 points in 2011-12. He'll be an important part of Calgary's blue line next season.
Sergei Kostenko, G – Kuznetskie Medvedi (MHL)
7th round, 203rd overall
Height: 5'11 Weight: 187 lbs
With their final pick in the draft, the Capitals took a flier on twice passed-over Russian goaltender Sergei Kostenko. The soon-to-be 20-year-old played for Kuznetskie Medvedi last season, recording a 2.98 goals against average and a .897 save percentage through 40 games. It was in the playoffs that he elevated his game, however, with a 2.11 goals against average and a .918 save percentage.
Kostenko backed up Andrei Vasilevski (TB) at the World Juniors this past season, and played a few games during the CHL-Russia Subway Series. He's an athletic goaltender with quick reflexes and has been someone the Capitals say they've been scouting for the past couple of years, obviously liking his development. He grew up playing with current Capitals defenseman Dmitri Orlov, so there's the familiarity factor if the Capitals plan on bringing him across the pond anytime soon.