With few elite players in pool, Washington picks 11th, 16th
Once known for one of the sport's best pool of prospects, the Capitals have had their ranks thinned by graduation and attrition in recent years. They have an opportunity to address that this weekend in Pittsburgh at the annual NHL draft.
General manager George McPhee and his staff of scouts and executives hold the Nos. 11 and 16 picks in Friday's first round. In a draft class with only a handful of elite prospects but decent depth as far down as the second round, there should be an opportunity to rebuild the organization's pipeline, crucial for adding young, cheap talent in a salary-cap system.
"There seems to be more defensemen than forwards," McPhee said. "But when you talk to your scouts, the answers you usually get are 'Good or bad draft, we're going to find players.' Good scouts find players in any kind of draft."
|NHL draft first round|
|When » Friday, 7 p.m.|
|Where » Consol Energy Center,|
|TV » NBCSN|
|The Capitals have a league-high 11 picks, including Nos. 11 and 16 in the first round.|
Washington has a league-high 11 draft picks, including those two valuable first-round selections. The No. 11 pick was acquired in last summer's trade with Colorado for goalie Semyon Varlamov. That's just high enough that the front office hopes an elite player slips to them. One player whose stock is falling, according to multiple NHL sources, is Russian center Mikhail Grigorenko.
The 18-year-old Russian is a big body at 6-foot-3, 200 pounds with loads of skill. But his lackluster play in the second half of the season for the Quebec Ramparts, his Quebec Major Junior Hockey League club, dimmed that star power some. A disastrous playoffs in which his team blew a 3-0 series lead in the second round didn't help. Add in that he's a Russian with the ability to play at home in the Kontinental Hockey League if he so chooses, and there's a chance Grigorenko could be available to Washington. Whether they want him is unknown. But McPhee has never been shy about selecting Russians despite the risks. His 2010 first-round pick, Evgeny Kuznetsov, is the world's No. ?1 prospect, according to the Hockey News, but he just re-signed with his KHL team for two more years, spurning a certain roster spot with the Caps next season.
"Our policy has always been take the best player," McPhee said. "We don't care where they're from. Doesn't matter."
Of course, Grigorenko may not last quite that far anyway. And if the Caps are unimpressed with the players who are at No. 11, they can always swing a trade. That's exactly what they did last season, sending a first-rounder to Chicago for forward Troy Brouwer.
It doesn't hurt that McPhee added a late second-round pick -- completing the Varlamov trade Friday by using his option on Boston's 2012 second-rounder (No. 54) as opposed to Colorado's second-rounder in 2013. The Caps have picks in every round, including two in the fourth and three in the seventh. Trades are possible, but it's difficult for any general manager to pass up the chance to add multiple prospects.
"Because that's the way you build a team. And that's the way we've built this team," McPhee said. "We like where our team is. We've sort of built it in the traditional manner. You build from the net out, and we have two terrific young goaltenders that we've drafted. We have a terrific young defense. They're mostly all homegrown drafted players. You have to draft well in this league to have a good team. I think we've been drafting well, so why not keep making picks?"