Capitals 2007 draft preview

By Ryan Bright

Capitals Top 10 prospects

1. Nicklas Backstrom, C
2. Eric Fehr, RW
3. Semen Varlamov, G
4. Francois Bouchard, RW
5. Tomas Fleischmann, LW
6. Michal Neuvirth, G
7. Chris Bourque, C
8. Jeff Schultz, D
9. Patrick McNeill, D
10. Keith Seabrook, D

The 2006-07 season was a disappointing one for the Washington Capitals, who were hoping for a better result than fifth place in the southeast division for the third season in a row.  Despite the exciting play of Alexander Ovechkin and a fantastic season by Alexander Semin, the Capitals just could not get the production or consistency from their depth positions to make a run for the playoffs.  On June 22, Capitals management will be in Columbus, Ohio, in an attempt to add the young players necessary to not just help them reach the playoffs, but become post-season regulars.

The Picks (10)
Round 1 – 5th overall
Round 1 – 28th overall
Round 2 – 34th overall
Round 2 – 46th overall
Round 4 – 95th overall
Round 4 – 108th overall
Round 5 – 125th overall
Round 6 – 180th overall
Round 7 – 185th overall
Round 7 – 199th overall

Team Needs

The one glaring need the Capitals have struggled with for years is depth at the forward position, specifically center.  The Capitals have a plethora of young talented forwards, who are not blossoming into the players they have potential of being.  This list of unfulfilled potential includes Jakub Klepis, Tomas Fleischmann, and Eric Fehr.  Fehr has been hampered with back problems, while Klepis and Fleischmann are simply not making the most out of their time in the NHL.  Though Nicklas Backstrom’s 2007-08 debut at center for the Capitals will be an immediate upgrade, there is still not much depth following him on the prospect charts.  Undersized Chris Bourque is the closest center to NHL action in the system, and his ability to play at the NHL level is debatable. 

The Capitals could also use a mature, stay at home defenseman who could stabilize a young, shaky defense corp.  Young defensemen such as Steve Eminger, Mike Green and Jeff Schultz are showing promise, but playing erratically at times.  A sturdy defender could be a nice addition to a matured version of this blue line staff.

Organizational Strengths

The Capitals strength is in their goaltending. They have three goalies in their system that have not yet played in the NHL, but have been touted as having the potential to do so.  Semen Varlamov, Michal Neuvirth and Maxime Daigneault give Washington three opportunities to find their next starting goaltender.  Washington also has a premium in young offensive talent.  Players like Francois Bouchard, Mathieu Perreault and Oskar Osala are currently in their developmental phases, but could very well give the Capitals a great deal of firepower down the road.

Organizational Weaknesses

Depth at the center position is a real issue for the Capitals, who do not have much after extremely talented Backstrom.  Chris Bourque and Mathieu Perreault are both options on the depth chart after Backstrom, but both players have size issues, (Bourque at 5’7 and Perreault at 5’8) which keeps doubters questioning their ability to produce at the NHL level. 

Another weakness lies in the Capitals’ defense.  Though there is young talent in Green and Schultz, as well as Eminger and Shaone Morrisonn, Washington lacks a solid, mistake free defenseman.  Morrisonn has been the exception with his excellent play, but with the others, inconsistency as well as inexperience has hounded them.  Washington could use a steadfast, sure thing defender, who is mature on the blue line and has the talent to become a top two defender to really solidify the top side of the Capitals’ defense.

Draft Tendencies

In the first round, the Capitals tend to choose their forwards and defensemen from a North American background, but will not shy away from special European forwards.  Since the 2000 NHL entry draft, the Capitals have chosen seven North Americans and four Europeans in the first round.  It is safe to say when Washington does in fact draft a European in the first round they do their research, as the only Europeans they drafted in the first rounds since 2000 were Ovechkin, Semin, Backstrom and Semen Varlamov.  When Washington goes defensive with their choice, (which they did five times since 2000) they almost always go North American and towering.  Though they will not keep away from a solid defender simply because he is not 6’5 and up, the average height of their last five first-round defensive picks is 6’2.

Because there is not a lot of top five talent as far as defense goes in the 2007-08 draft, look for the Capitals to pick a player who can fill a more desperate need for them at the center position.  Sam Gagner from the OHL would be a solid choice at No. 5, but with the numerous possibilities on the table for the first four teams in the draft, do not be surprised to see the Capitals take Jakub Voracek of the QMJHL, or even defensemen Karl Alzner, if these players do fall to them.

Hockey’s Future staff mock draft result:
Sam Gagner, C

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