Caps make draft history by picking Australian

Caps make draft history by picking Australian
June 28, 2014, 4:30 pm
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(Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports)

Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan orchestrated his first NHL draft this weekend, fortifying the organization with, among others, a player who models his game after Marian Gaborik, a goaltender they traded up to get, an Australian who was introduced to hockey by watching the movie “Mighty Ducks” and a center who would like to follow the footsteps of Zach Parise.

Here’s a breakdown on the Caps’ body of work at the 2014 NHL draft Friday and Saturday at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, with evaluations from Capitals assistant general manager and director of amateur scouting Ross Mahoney:

Round 1 [13th overall] Jakub Voracek, C

Age: 18

Hometown: Prague, Czech Republic

Ht/Wt: 5-11, 172

2013-14 Stats: Vrana put up 16 goals and 12 assists in 48 games in the Swedish junior and senior leagues.

Worth noting: Vrana said he’s most often compared to his favorite player growing up, fellow Czech Marian Gaborik. He has two years remaining on his contract with Linkoping of the Swedish Hockey League, where he’ll play against men.

Mahoney’s take: “We’re looking at him for sure to be a top-six forward. He’s a very good skater, he’s competitive and he has a gift -- he can score goals. He’s proven it everywhere he’s played, especially in the bigger games.”

[MORE: New Capital Vrana 'finisher' style of play (VIDEO)]

Round 2 [39th overall] Vitek Vanecek, G

Age: 18

Hometown: Havlickuv Brod, Czech Republic

Ht/Wt: 6-foot-1, 181 pounds

2013-14 Stats: 2.64 GAA, 921 save percentage in 38 games in Czech Republic Junior League

Worth noting: The Caps traded two later picks [44th and 74th] to the Buffalo Sabres to select Vanecek, who caught the Caps’ eyes at the Ivan Hlinka tournament.

Mahoney’s take: “We thought he was one of the reasons why the Czech team had such a good tournament. He’s a very athletic, very competitive goalie and we didn’t think we could get him later.”

Round 3 [89th overall] Nathan Walker, LW

Age: 20

Hometown: Cardiff, Great Britain

Ht/Wt: 5-foot-9, 185 pounds

2013-14 Stats: 5 goals, 6 assists in 43 games with AHL Hershey Bears

Worth noting: Walker is the first Australian ever taken in the NHL draft. He was introduced to hockey when he saw the movie “Mighty Ducks” and moved with his family to the Czech Republic when he was 13 to pursue his hockey career. Walker attended Caps training camp and impressed Adam Oates in the preseason.

Mahoney’s take: “It’s unbelievable. When he comes up to you and says, ‘Hey, mate, how are you?’ it’s a little different. You usually don’t get that from a hockey player. He’s ahead of some of the other players we drafted.”

Round 5 [134th overall] Shane Gersich, C/LW

Age: 17

Hometown: Chaska, Minn.

Ht/Wt: 5-foot-10, 165 pounds

2013-14 Stats: 16 goals, 14 assists in 63 games for USA U-18 team

Worth noting: His uncles are former NHLers Neal and Aaron Broten, with Neal a member of the 1980 Miracle on Ice U.S. Olympic team. Described as an explosive player, Gersich said he grew up emulating Minnesota native Zach Parise. He’ll play for Omaha of the USHL next season then attend North Dakota.

Mahoney’s take: “A good skater, really good hands, but he was in a checking role this year. We think he’d be an excellent third-line center [in the NHL]. He;s a very good two-way player. He’s very intelligent. We know he has the ability to score and make plays and he’ll be more offensive for Omaha.”

Round 6 [159th overall] Steven Spinner, C

Age: 17

Hometown: Eden Prairie, Minn.

Ht/Wt: 5-foot-11, 192 pounds

2013-14 Stats: 24 goals, 35 assists in 45 games for Eden Prairie, Team South East

Worth noting: Ranked 96th among North American skaters. Will play in USHL next season.

Mahoney’s take: “He’s a really determined player, one of those guys who really battles in the corners and takes the puck hard to the net. A very honest player.”

Round 7 [194th overall] Kevin Elgestal, RW

Age: 18

Hometown:  Gothenburg, Sweden

Ht/Wt: 6-foot-1, 176 pounds

2013-14 Stats: 13 goals, 22 assists in 44 games for Frolunda of Sweden’s Under-20 team

Mahoney’s take: “He was used in a checking role on the national team. He didn’t put up big points but he skates well, really works hard, and is the first one in on the forecheck and he takes pucks hard to the net. A very similar style to Spinner.”