In the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, the Washington Capitals continued to look towards North American defenders, with some gifted forwards later on. Character and leadership were the common denominators among them. The Capitals also traded down a number of times to gain extra draft picks in what is expected to be a very strong 2008 draft.
Of the 10 players selected, the first three were defensemen, followed by six forwards and a goaltender. All were North American.
Washington took three players out of the USHL, tied for Colorado for the high among NHL teams this year.
Karl Alzner, D — Calgary Hitmen WHL
Height: 6’2 Weight: 206
1st Round, 5th Overall
With the fifth overall pick, the Capitals chose Calgary Hitmen defender Karl Alzner. Alzner was widely viewed as the best defenseman in the draft class. He is a well-rounded, good puck-moving defenseman who uses a combination of positioning and size to be a force on the ice. His NHL readiness could have been the deciding factor in Washington choosing Alzner over other highly touted players on the board, such as Jakub Voracek and Sam Gagner. When asked if he was ready to play in the NHL, Alzner responded, "some of my strengths are that I’m able to make passes quick, I can make quick decisions and for the most part good decisions, so once I get the chance to play with some highly skilled players who are open all the time for passes, then maybe from there I’ll better be able to answer that question."
Not an enormous offensive point producer, Alzner is still an adept passer, tallying 8 goals and 39 assists in 63 games in 2006-07. He hopes, however, to develop a complete game in the NHL. "I want to be stronger, I want to be able to hold my own in the corners, also make my offensive decisions a little bit better… I really want to polish off my offensive game so I can become more of a well-rounded defenseman."
What separates Alzner from the pack is his approachable, light personality. Clearly someone who likes to talk, Alzner is a team-first player who will do whatever his coach and the team asks of him. When asked about his limited ice time with Team Canada at the 2007 World Juniors, Alzner responded, "I play whatever role I’m thrown into. I used that time on the bench to watch some of the best Canadian players in the CHL and in the college ranks, it was such a good learning experience for me… I’m just as good of a cheerleader as I am a player."
In Alzner, the Capitals have not just a potential No. 1 defender of the future, but someone who could easily become a fan favorite in the years to come.
Josh Godfrey, D — Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds OHL
Height: 6’1 Weight: 195
Drafted: 2nd round, 34th overall
With their second pick of the draft, the Capitals went to the defensive well again, except this time it was the offensive type, taking Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds defenseman,Josh Godfrey. Godfrey was ranked 141st by Central Scouting but was expected to go anywhere between the second and fifth round. Undrafted in 2006 and not expected to go as high as he did, Godfrey said of getting picked so high, "I thought I would jump up a lot, but I didn’t think I’d move up that much.. but I’m pleased with it… I knew the Capitals were interested and I am happy to be going there."
The owner of a 99.7 mph slap shot, Godfrey is an absolute sniper from the point. With 24 goals and 33 assists in 68 games, including seven goals in a six-game playoff series against the Saginaw Spirit, Godfrey opened the eyes of scouts who saw potential power play quarterback in the making. When asked about what he needs to improve, Godfrey responded "I’d like to get better defensively, you can never be too well conditioned."
With the Capitals’ prospect system teeming with defenders, Godfrey will need to make some noise to separate himself from the pack. "It will be a challenge, but I always look forward to a challenge and hope to jump ahead of those guys."
Teddy Ruth, D — U.S. National Team Development Program
Height: 6’1 Weight: 199
Drafted: 2nd round, 46th overall
Seen as much less of a gamble than Godfrey, Ted Ruth is a solid defender who brings reliability, leadership and a tough work ethic to the Capitals. He had 16 points and 64 penalty minutes in 39 games with the USNTDP this year.
Ruth is a gritty, old school, stay at home defender who possesses good passing ability and a nice shot. When asked about his game, Ruth responded, "I’m more of a defensive defenseman… I’m a strong skater and I move the puck well. I play a lot like Scott Stevens."
Ruth will begin attending the University of Notre Dame this fall.
Phil Desimone, C — Sioux City USHL
Height: 6’0 Weight: 185
Drafted: 3rd round, 84th overall
The USHL player of the year and CCM USHL Forward of the Year, Phil Desimone showed vast improvement over his three seasons with Sioux City of the USHL. Going from a relative unknown to one of the USHL’s leading scorers with 73 points in 60 games in 2006-07, Desimone earned himself a scholarship to the University of New Hampshire, where he will begin play this year. The captain of his Sioux City team, Desimone is a speedy forward with skills to impress and leadership abilities. He will need to work on his two-way game to become an NHL-ready player, but has all the tools for it.
Brett Bruneteau, C — Omaha Lancers USHL
Height: 5’11 Weight: 180
Drafted: 4th round, 108th overall
What Brett Bruneteau brings is not blazing speed or incredible size, but hockey sense and leadership. The US team captain in the Under-17 Five Nations Cup and grandson of former Detroit Red Wing Eddy Bruneteau, Brett has the determination and a sense for the game that could help him rise above the criticism he faces. Bruneteau will spend one more year in the USHL, then make his move to college with the University of North Dakota in 2008-09.
Brett Leffler, RW — Regina Pats WHL
Height: 6’1 Weight: 197
Drafted: 5th round, 125th overall
Brett Leffler is a quintessential checking line forward. He brings high energy, high physicality and is a real irritant to other teams. He had a modest 13 goals and 13 assists in 69 games in 2006-07 for the Regina Pats, also tacking on a whopping 114 penalty minutes. Leffler does have some offensive potential which makes him a good chance to take with a fifth-round pick.
Dan Dunn, G — Wellington Dukes OPJHL
Height: 6’5 Weight: 200
Drafted: 6th round, 154th overall
Dan Dunn is a 19-year-old who takes up a lot of space in net. He has quick reflexes and plays an athletic style of goalie for the Wellington Dukes of the Ontario Provincial Junior Hockey League. As far as goalies go in the 2007 draft, Dunn is considered a possible sleeper due to his size and mature skill. Dunn had a 1.83 goals against average and a .939 save percentage in the 2006-07 season.
Justin Taylor, C — London Knights OHL
Height: 6’0 Weight: 192
Drafted: 6th round, 180th overall
Justin Taylor played alongside Dunn for the Wellington Dukes of the OPJHL before being promoted to his hometown team the London Knights of the OHL. In his 2006-07 season with Wellington, Taylor had a solid 20 goals and 32 assists in 37 games. In his short time with London, he had 6 goals and 12 assists in 31 games playing behind 2007 first-round draft picks Sam Gagner and Patrick Kane. Taylor is a hard-working player who excels on special teams. His skating skills and ability to win battles along the boards could lead him to become one of the top forwards on the Knights.
Nick Larson, C — Omaha Lancers USHL
Height: 6’1 Weight: 175
Drafted: 7th round, 185th overall
An aggressive, hard-working power forward with the ability to play any special situation is what Nick Larson brings to the Capitals. With decent size, Larson plays much bigger, battling through traffic to make plays happen. More of an old-style NHL player, Larson lacks the hockey sense that could turn him into a dominant player, or make him truly effective in the new style NHL where vision and hockey sense reign. In 2006-07, Larson played his rookie season with the Omaha Lancers of the USHL where he recorded 3 goals and 2 assists in 10 games. He has signed on to play for the University of Minnesota starting in 2008.
Andrew Glass, LW — Nobles High School
Height: 5’11 Weight: 180
Drafted: 7th round, 199th overall
Andrew Glass was drafted out of Nobles High School in Massachusetts where he had 17 points in 18 games in the 2006-07 season. Slated to play for the Ohio Junior Blue Jackets of the USHL this fall, Glass will attend Boston University beginning in 2008. Called one of the top players his age in New England by his former coach Chris Masters of the Boston Junior Bruins, Glass is a good stick handler with the agility to beat defenders one on one. He can keep puck control in traffic which makes him a good penalty killer, but will need to use his body to his advantage to be a successful player at the higher levels.
Holly Gunning contributed to this article. Copyright 2007 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.