TORONTO – The Capitals closed the book Saturday on the 2013 NHL Draft Combine and General Manager George McPhee returned to Washington with a wealth of knowledge.
“You try to gain as much information as you can,” McPhee said of the combine experience. “You interview the players, you watch them workout, you look at the body types and then you put all of that together with the way that they play and you try to pick one that’s going to play and make a difference for your club.”
According to Director of Scouting Ross Mahoney, the Capitals met with 71 prospects at the combine with interviews typically lasting 15-20 minutes each. A total of 153 draft eligible prospects were in Toronto for the six-day combine which culminated with two days of vigorous fitness testing.
“You watch them play all year on the ice, and then we come here this week and we have an opportunity to get to know them as people,” Mahoney said. “It’s another piece of the puzzle that we can look at. We’ve evaluated the skating, the shooting and all of those [on-ice] attributes so now it’s about evaluating them through the interview process and their off-ice training.”
The Capitals own eight picks in the June 30 NHL Draft, including the 23rd overall selection. Washington has picked 23rd overall twice before, selecting forward Miika Elomo in 1995 and goaltender Semyon Varlamov in 2006.
Initial reports suggest that the 2013 NHL Draft class will emerge as a strong group with plenty of depth and that the perceived margin separating a mid-first round pick to an early second-round pick is slim.
“I guess five years from now we’ll find out if it’s a deep draft or whatever people say,” Mahoney said. “My experience has been that there are some drafts that you think going in are deep and they turn out not to be so deep, or vice versa. So until they’re 24 or 25-years-old it’s hard [to predict]. I know people like to speculate, but I just leave it.”
“The only time that this process is frustrating,” McPhee said, “is when you feel like it’s a weak draft and you tend to notice those more than the strong drafts. Generally speaking there are good players in every draft. Every once in a while you get a draft where you say ‘geez, there isn’t a whole lot there.’ We don’t have many of those but when you’re in the middle of one of those it’s sometimes tough to find a player. But in most drafts, you get excited about certain people being there when it’s your turn to pick and the pressure thing is that you hope you get the right one.”
While Mahoney and the Capitals’ regional scouts have kept tabs on this year’s draft eligible prospects throughout the season, the combine provides a rare opportunity for McPhee to meet with the 17 and 18-year-old NHL hopefuls. The Capitals’ GM admits that when it comes to selecting a player at the draft, much of the legwork and responsibility comes from his scouts.
“I’m trying to learn as much as I can so that I know who they’re talking about,” McPhee said. “If I know something about these kids then I can ask better questions of our scouts and if we’re asking better questions, then usually we’re getting better answers.”