Washington Capitals 2014 NHL Draft preview

By Josh Buckingham

Andre Burakovsky - Washington Capitals

Photo: Forward Andre Burakovsky had a strong first season in the OHL, posting 41 goals and 46 assists in 57 games. Burakovsky was selected 23rd overall in the 2013 NHL Draft. (courtesy of Terry Wilson/OHL Images)

The Washington Capitals enter the 2014 NHL Draft under new leadership, following the firing of longtime general manager George McPhee. Brian MacLellan, McPhee's assistant, was promoted to the GM position.

Hiring MacLellan was a surprise given that owner Ted Leonsis stated that he wanted fresh eyes on the team. The longtime front office employee for the Capitals was able to land the job by being honest in his interviews as well as being on board with hiring Barry Trotz. It will be very exciting to see what this new management will decide to do with the team moving forward into the draft and beyond.

Top 10 Prospects:

1. Evgeny Kuznetsov, C/W
2. Andre Burakovsky, LW
3. Madison Bowey, D
4. Philipp Grubauer, G
5. Riley Barber, RW
6. Chris Brown, LW
7. Connor Carrick, D
8. Nate Schmidt, D
9. Michael Latta, C
10. Patrick Wey, D

Team Needs

The Capitals two main weakness are up the middle with center icemen and on the back end with two-way defensemen, which are widely considered the two most important positions in order to make a deep playoff run.

The organization signed a legitimate number two center in Mikhail Grabovski, but he struggled to stay healthy in his first season with Washington. It is likely that they will sign him to a deal with decent term prior to free agency. If they get this done their center ice situation will look much brighter, as the crop of free agents at that position is very thin this offseason.

On the blue line they lack depth and experience with only one shutdown pairing in John Carlson and Karl Alzner. Mike Green has been a serious disappointment since being signed to a three-year extension and now has one year left on his deal and he may be dealt at the draft or prior to the season.

They also lack scoring wingers especially on the left hand side, but it is tough to tell how things will shake up given ex-coach Adam Oates' tendency to have wingers play on their handiness side.

Organizational Strengths

The Capitals have two potentially dynamic forwards Evgeny Kuznetsov and Andre Burakovsky. Kuznetsov made an instant impact joining the Capitals for their final 17 games. There will be high expectations for him moving into next season. On the other hand, Burakovsky lit it up in junior playing for the Erie Otters of the OHL. He has a legitimate chance of making the Capitals roster with a training camp and preseason.

Riley Barber is another prospect on the rise after a successful sophomore season with the Miami RedHawks. Barber has top six forward potential, but needs another year or two to get stronger.

In net is another area of strength for the Capitals as they have a potential star in German netminder Phillip Grubauer. He stepped in last season because of injuries and his strong play earned him more starts than anyone expected. If starting goaltender Braden Holtby continues his shaky and inconsistent play, Grubauer will be waiting in the wings to take over. For the meantime, it seems as if the Capitals plan on signing an experienced netminder to assume the backup role and have Grubauer start as many games as possible in Hershey.

Organizational Weaknesses

The Capitals lack prospect depth at both center and defense. Of their 10 top ranked youngsters only one is listed as a true center, Michael Latta, and his upside is as solid third line centerman. One tendency of the Capitals has been to have wingers transition to center, but this has never really worked out for them. A prime example of this is with Marcus Johansson.

On the blue line the Capitals only have one slam dunk top four two way prospect in Madison Bowey. He made some great developmental strides last season and will return to junior as captain of the Kelowna Rockets of the WHL. Other than Bowey, they have Connor Carrick, Nate Schmidt, and Patrick Wey who project as mostly depth guys.

Draft Tendencies

Under McPhee, the Capitals had a tendency of taking big risks in the draft, opting to select players that were labeled as high-risk, high-reward prospects. These prospects were mostly European as well. This draft has a good chance of being different as they will most likely turn the tables and take a defenseman prospect in a defense thin draft.

Washington owns picks 13, 44, 74, 104, 118, 134, 164, 192, and 194 in the 2014 NHL Draft. They picked up a 4th round, 118th overall pick from the New York Islanders in return for Jaroslav Halak. They also acquired the 192nd overall pick from the Nashville Predators for defenseman Jaynen Rissling, a seventh-round pick himself in 2012.

Hockey's Future Staff Mock Draft Results:

13. Haydn Fleury, D, Red Deer Rebels (WHL)

Haydn Fleury is a hulking rearguard that plays a very steady two-way game and possesses a ton of offensive upside. For his size, he is a great skater that loves to rush the puck and is willing to take risks. He has not taken full advantage of his gigantic frame and has yet to develop a mean streak. Fleury could be another high-risk, high-reward prospect, but the chances of him paying off big should be good.