If the Capitals elect to hold onto their first pick of the upcoming NHL draft June 27-28 in Philadelphia, who might be available at No. 13 overall?
And should the Caps be position specific with their choice?
Since 1980, there have been only a handful of impact players taken with the 13th pick, most notably Dustin Brown, who was taken by the Los Angeles Kings in the first round of the 2003 draft and is on the brink of winning his second Stanley Cup.
The Caps made a big splash the previous season when they selected Alexander Semin out of Chelyabinsk, Russia at No. 13. Other solid NHL players taken at No. 13 include Dan Quinn [1983, Calgary Flames], Craig Janney [1986, Boston Bruins], Mattias Ohlund [1994, Vancouver Canucks], J-S Giguere [1995, Hartford Whalers] and Ron Hainsey [2000, Montreal Canadiens].
This year’s draft class has received mixed reviews, with many scouts saying it is deep in overall talent but short on impact players.
With that in mind, whom might be attractive to the Caps at No. 13 and should they focus on one position?
With Braden Holtby [93rd overall, 2008] and Philipp Grubauer [112th, 2010] the Caps have a pair of young goalies capable of developing into NHL starters. With Evgeny Kuznetsov [26th, 2010], Andre Burakovsky [23rd, 2013] and Riley Barber [167th, 2012], the Caps have three promising prospects at the forward position.
But on the back end, the Caps’ future looks a little murky.
Dmitry Orlov [55th, 2009], who suffered a broken wrist playing for Russia at the World Championships, could miss the start of training camp, possibly opening the door for a young defenseman to earn a roster spot.
Connor Carrick [137th, 2012], Nate Schmidt [free agent] and Patrick Wey [115th, 2009] all saw time with the Capitals last season but remain question marks as solid NHL contributors. Madison Bowey [53rd, 2013] had an impact season with the Kelowna Rockets of the Western League with 21 goals and 60 points in 72 games last season and has a shot at turning pro this season, if not in Washington, then possibly in Hershey.
Which brings us back to this year’s selection.
If the Caps are set on drafting a defenseman and Aaron Ekblad is taken in the top three, here are five quality blue liners who could be waiting for them at No. 13:
Ht/Wt: 6-2, 204
Scouting report: Coached by Brent Sutter at Red Deer, Fleury is ranked second among defensemen behind Ekblad and could be gone by No. 13. He can move the puck cleanly out of his own end and has offensive upside, but his real strength is inside his own blue line, where he is considered a solid shut-down defenseman.
Ht/Wt: 5-11, 180
Scouting report: Scouts differ on where Honka may be drafted but all agree he has the offensive skills to score in the NHL after rolling up 16 goals and 40 assists for Swift Current last season. An excellent puck mover, Honka likes to jump into the play like a fourth forward and can help orchestrate a power play from the blue line.
Ht/Wt: 6-1, 192
Scouting report: Projected as a second-pairing defenseman, McKeown may lack the polish of other draft-age defensemen, but he is solid in all areas of the ice. He finished with 11 goals and 32 assists for Kingston last season and was an impressive plus-38.
Ht/Wt: 6-1, 186
Scouting report: Another all-around defenseman who works as hard as any blue liner in the draft. Dougherty has an excellent first pass and can find forwards with stretch passes, but his real strength is in his own zone where he is adept at stripping forwards with a quick stick and excellent body positioning.
Ht/Wt: 5-11, 175
Scouting report: Built in the mold of Connor Carrick, DeAngelo is an excellent skater with a great first pass who racked up 15 goals and 56 assists with Sarnia last season. He lacks the size and strength to handle bigger forwards in his own end and would need to be paired with a defensive defenseman in the NHL.