July 31-in-31: Washington Capitals

Pat Quinn

2019-07-30

 

Welcome to the July 31-in-31 for the Washington Capitals as we shall go over the Capitals draft after a first round exit to the Carolina Hurricanes. The 2018-2019 season did not matter for the Capitals as 2017-2018 brought the franchise’s first Stanley Cup.

 

 

Draft Overview

 

Washington went in to the 2019 draft with one of the worst prospect pools in the NHL and came out with…. Still one of the worst prospect pools but slightly better than before, so rejoice. Unfortunately the Capitals used four of the teams’ five picks as they moved up once, and the team never attempted to move down in the draft (like Carolina) to add depth and potential. The four picks they used were good but for the second season in a row the Capitals went safe instead of high scoring potential with a low chance of making the NHL.

 

 

Draft Picks

 

Connor McMichael, C – 1st round, 25th Overall

 

The Capitals first round selection is a player from the London Knights who just does everything well and has no real flaws to his game. I would have preferred the Capitals go with a higher ceiling player as they really need the top line skill, no matter the boom/bust potential, but the more I watched highlights/games from McMichael the more I realized I may have underestimated him. McMichael is an excellent two-way centre that may have had limited numbers due to a limited role in London.

 

His shot improved during the year as you could see him gain confidence the more the season progressed. McMichael will return to London for 2019-2020 as he looks to have a larger role on the squad. McMichael also immediately becomes the number one fantasy forward prospect for Washington as he has the highest ceiling of all the teams’ other prospects.

 

DobberProspects Page

 

 

Brett Leason, RW – 2nd round, 56th Overall

 

Leason is a player I am very bullish on as I have a hard time trusting players that only produce great numbers in their final CHL season as they are generally more physically mature than the competition. Those players have a tendency to not turn out but then a few can turn in to NHLers (ie. Tanner Pearson). I am happy the Capitals did not use the teams’ first round selection on him, but with high-upside skilled forwards in Patrik Puistola, Graeme Clarke, and Pavel Dorofeyev* still on board Washington preferred the higher chance to make the NHL over the high ceiling player.

 

Now that is all not to say Leason could blow my “future third-liner at best” skepticism away and become a big second-line power forward that can make plays and score goals at a 55+ point level. Leason will start 2019-2020 in the AHL for Hershey, a team that tends to favour veterans over younger players but has a great winning environment, so Leason can develop here.

 

*Note: If anyone ca figure out why the Capitals continue to pass on highly skilled Russians who are playing in the KHL or in North America at the draft. Washington has arguably the best Russian ever to play the game in Ovechkin, while also having top players Kuznetsov and Orlov, and that should be able to convince any young Russian player to come over. I need to know, this observation has been bothering me so much. Why do the Capitals not acquire late round picks and just take highly-skilled KHLers that fall in the draft? If I ever meet GMBM or Ted Leonsis I will ask this.

 

DobberProspects Page

 

 

Aliaksei Protas, C – 3rd round, 91st Overall

 

The Capitals moved up to 91 after trading picks 118 and 129 to New Jersey as they chose to select Protas

 

{source} <blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” data-lang=”en”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>The Washington Capitals have traded their 118th and 129th picks to the New Jersey Devils for the 91st pick in the 2019 NHL Draft and have selected Aliaksei Protas from the Prince Albert Raiders of the WHL! <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/ALLCAPS?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#ALLCAPS</a> | <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/CapsDraft?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#CapsDraft</a> <a href=”https://t.co/RFTlHIPMpe”>pic.twitter.com/RFTlHIPMpe</a></p>&mdash; Washington Capitals (@Capitals) <a href=”https://twitter.com/Capitals/status/1142508457691512832?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>June 22, 2019</a></blockquote>{/source}

 

Protas did slightly slide at the draft and he was a player that really took off in the second half of the season once he was paired up with Leason. He finished his first season with 40 points in 61 games in his first WHL season. Protas is a big centre, listed at 6-5, with great vision but does have things to work on with his game, mainly in regards to his skating.

 

There is a chance Protas could be the best player selected past the second round as he has the size and skill to dominate games. He also has an ability to run a powerplay and be dangerous in multiple ways during games. Washington is obviously high in this player and potentially sees a future with this player.

 

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Martin Hugo Has, D – 5th round, 153rd Overall

 

In the fifth round the Capitals once again selected a larger player that slid down the draft, as Hugo Has is 6-4 and was projected as a first round pick in early 2018 but had a poor season that left many scouts concerned. Hugo Has is also is the fourth player in a row with two last names which has become common practice for the Capitals since 2014.

 

Hugo Has bumped around three Finnish leagues in 2018-2019, with a majority of his games coming in the Tappara U20 Junior A SM-liiga league, and played in three different tournaments for the Czech Republic. He has good skating ability, a hard shot, the ability to quarterback a powerplay, but needs to work on all aspects of his game before he can become an NHL talent. There is potential here but being that Hugo Has is a fifth round pick, the chances are slim.

 

DobberProspects Page

 

 

Development Camp

 

The Capitals held the teams’ development camp following the NHL entry draft at the MedStar Capitals Iceplex from June 25-29.

 

Roster:

 

The stand outs were: Garrett Pilon (do not forget him as more will be written in August), Connor McMichael, Martin Fehervay, Alexander Alexeyev, and the three goalies: Mitchell Gibson (2018 draft pick), Logan Thompson (free agent invite), and Beck Warm (free agent).

 

Kody Clark was scratched in the final days due to an injury he sustained at development camp.

 

 

Offseason moves

 

Signings

 

The Capitals off season saw the Capitals lock up three bottom-six players to four-year deals with Carl Hagelin, Richard Panik and Garnet Hathaway with Hagelin being the best of the trio. Those signing are not terrible as all three together total $7 million, but the term will block rookies from making the roster or getting a legit shot at the roster.

 

The Capitals really have no prospects coming up but there is one that will be leaving:

Riley Barber has indicated that he would not re-sign with the Capitals as he can go UFA, but he still remains somehow unsigned.

 

The Capitals signed Brendan Leipsic, who I really like, but will likely be played in rotation with Nic Down and Travis Boyd throughout the season. Honestly, Leipsic could not find a team that could give him consistent ice time? He has legit NHL talent.

 

McMichael, Protas and Leason all signed their ELCs, which would come as no surprise as the Capitals sign later picks pretty quick.

 

Vitek Vanecek was signed to a three year deal, with the final two years being one-way, with an AAV of $716,667.

 

The Capitals decided to bridge deal Jakub Vrana at $3.35 million for two years, and I do not think Vrana will explode out of this deal as he is (somehow) behind Tom Wilson for reserve 1PP duty. A true break out may not come for two seasons but his even strength scoring will continue to creep up.

 

Now for the most interesting part of the off season:

 Washington went to arbitration with both Christian Djoos and Chandler Stephenson where they will earn $1.25 million and $1.05 million respectively. This is interesting as it officially put the Capitals over the cap by $1,364,294 and they need to make a move. The Capitals currently have 14 forwards and six defencemen signed to one-way deals.

 

Rumour has the Capitals looking to trade Djoos, which I would strongly disagree with as he is a very good player who had a tough time coming back from injury. The Capitals will likely move on from Stephenson, which is the right choice but only because they signed Hathaway to a silly deal when Stephenson is a much better player. If I was GMBM I would move Gudas, and trade Travis Boyd to give him a legit chance to make the NHL on another team as there is no room in the top nine for Boyd.

 

 

Trades

 

The Capitals traded within the division to the Flyers, sending Matt Niskanen and his full cap hit to Philly for half of Gudas’ cap hit back to the Capitals. This trade is such a huge win for Washington it is crazy.

 

The biggest news out of Washington was the Capitals shipping Andre Burakovsky to the Colorado Avalanche for a second and third round picks in 2020. This is a huge win for Colorado as Burakovsky has a legitimate chance to break out in a second line role. The Capitals chose* to move him to bring in lesser scoring, but strong two-way players, in a move that reduces scoring output and reduces the chance of a prospect making the team. The Capitals are going for it for at least three years.

 

*Note: I know Burakovsky requested a trade, but if he was given a legitimate chance to play in the top six, like Tom Wilson routinely gets, he would be a 50+ scorer by now.

 

 

That is all. Stay tuned next month for the August 31-in-31. Also follow my twitter @FHPQuinn

 

 

 

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