Capitals: Draft Possibilities

By Rick Davis

It’s that time of year again. The time when non-Cup winning teams’ fans attempt to drown their sorrows in hope for the future. With last year’s first top picks Steve Eminger, Alexander Semin, and Boyd Gordon on the horizon, as well as a more experienced Nolan Yonkman and Jakub Cutta (not to mention Maxime Ouellet among others), the future does in fact look pretty bright in Washington.

The Capitals have not made many signals about who they covet in the upcoming draft. The team seems to favor the WHL for draft picks (presumably because the style of play is most similar to the NHL). Of 18 top 100 draft picks since 1998, 13 (72%) have been from the WHL, compared to an NHL average of 15% total WHL picks over the same period. Last year, the Caps “reached” for Boyd Gordon at 17th overall (the CSB rated him 18th among North American players) and he responded with a very good year. However, neither Steve Eminger nor Alex Semin (12th and 13th overall) was from the WHL. For the record, the Caps maintain that they will draft the best available player regardless of league.

The nefarious vacuum on defense created by the departure of Calle Johansson and Ken Klee could force the Caps to deal their first round pick for more immediate help. To have four of six defensemen as first or (essentially) second year players seems like an awfully risky strategy, so don’t be surprised if the Caps didn’t make at least one move to try to stabilize the defense at least a little bit. The rumors swirling around Jagr and Kolzig could come to fruition and bear a decent defenseman or even more draft picks, allowing the Caps to use their first round pick instead of trading it. If the Caps sign Rob Gherson it would give them five goalies between Washington and Portland, although this was not a situation they were afraid of last year before they bought out Craig Billington.

After its first round pick, Washington still has draft picks in the 3rd (originally Chicago’s pick acquired in the Nylander deal), 4th, 5th, 7th, 8th, and 9th rounds (although the 9th may end up being the “future considerations” in the acquisition of Kwiatkowski deal).

A couple players Washington may consider have some local ties:

Some long-time, hard-core Caps fans may remember Stephen Werner. He was a local high school star who was invited to attend Washington’s rookie camp in 2000. Werner was born in D.C., and went to Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School in Maryland before going off to play in the U.S. Under 17 program and UMass-Amherst. Now he’s ranked as the 89th North American player by the CSB and could be the first D.C. native ever drafted by the Caps.

Dale Hunter’s son Dylan Hunter is also available in the 2003 draft. He put up 42 points in 68 games with 41 PIM playing for his dad in London of the OHL last year. He wasn’t ranked by the CSB, but he could still be drafted.