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About the Draft (Not That One)

With the NHL entry draft two months away and the NFL draft at the center of attention this week, I was pleasantly surprised to find a well-written NHL mock draft on NHL.com yesterday.

Here's author Shawn P. Roarke's take on what the Caps might do:

The Capitals' love of offensive players in recent drafts is well-documented. This team had 10 picks in last year's draft and took seven forwards. It also grabbed two goalies among its first three selections. So, the backline is an area that has been ignored recently. No longer. This team gave up 51 more goals than it scored this past year, so the time to address defensive deficiencies is now. And Calgary's Karl Alzner is as good a place as any to start. Already 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds, he has the frame to handle NHL duty and he also has the smarts to not get overwhelmed in any situation. He is not as physical as some would like, but that is an area of his game he can develop. He also has the offensive foundation to complement Washington's raft of skilled forwards.

I do not disagree with his assessment. The Caps do need help on the blue line. That much is obvious. But what the Caps do not need is another 18-year-old prospect. They've got plenty of those. They need some upper-middle-of-the-line veterans to help guide them back to respectability -- and show the franchise's bevy of youngsters how it's done in the NHL.

It's always risky business trading high draft picks for immediate help. But with this year's draft widely considered to be shallow at the top end, it's probably a risk worth taking.


By Tarik El-Bashir  |  April 27, 2007; 8:55 AM ET
 
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Comments

Everyone needs defensemen - I would draft Alzner, also my top pick for the Caps', see how he works out, and then trade him.

Posted by: Shaggy | April 27, 2007 9:43 AM | Report abuse

Based on his draft, Voracek and Kane would still be available at number 5. If that were true, I might find it acceptable to use the pick. Even so, I really see GMGM moving the pick. He cannot afford to lose any trade-bait this off-season.

Posted by: Mark Tucker | April 27, 2007 9:48 AM | Report abuse

My problem with Roarke's blurb is his rationale. The Caps have been ignoring the blueline recently? Hello - in 2005 the Caps' first four picks (including two first rounders) were defensemen. In 2004, five of their first eight picks (again, including two first-rounders) were defensemen.

To say the Caps have been neglecting the blueline in recent drafts is just not accurate.

Posted by: J.P. | April 27, 2007 10:14 AM | Report abuse

Interesting article; I think it all depends on who the Caps think the right person is to help the blue liners. Of the teams that are left in the playoffs right now, the Rangers have the lowest cap hit this year at $41 million. At $30 million, it's clear the Caps have plenty of room to shop the market for the exact person they want, if Ted's willing. I'm not convinced anyone will be willing to deal a high quality, established defenseman in exchange for picks in this draft, although maybe the Stars would like a shot at someone who can score more than an occasional goal.

Posted by: Fred | April 27, 2007 10:21 AM | Report abuse

While I will be the first do admit I don't know much about drafting strategies in hockey (fball is a totally different story); I thought in hockey you draft the best available player more so then 'team needs'. So if he's the best player on the board, we can use him. Realistically he wont play significant minutes (unless he's that good) for about 2 -3 years. By that time, it'll be good to have a young guy when all of our guys now will begin to peak.

(Where as in football you draft team needs -- HEAR THAT SNIDER TRADE DOWN AND PICK UP A D LINEMAN -- IDIOTS!)*


*Sorry for the rant

Posted by: Go Skins Go | April 27, 2007 10:48 AM | Report abuse

You always look for the best fit for your team's system, not just the most gifted person out there. Kwame Brown certainly had athletic gifts, but he never fit the Wiz, or ever will anywhere from what its looking like.

I think the team is going to see what the trade market will bear before GMGM starts looking seriously at the draft pool. We have minot league scouts doing that work. It's very likely one of the 1st round picks will be gone in a trade along with probably someone(s) from Hershey. If they do hang on to the pick, I see them going for either a D liner or another goalie.

Posted by: EricS | April 27, 2007 11:13 AM | Report abuse

Eric S.

Why would we go after another goalie if we just signed Johnson to a 2 year deal. Kolzig has about 3 years left. And the kid who's suppose to be nasty from Russia (I think its russia, not sure though) will be here in about 3/4 years.?

Posted by: Go Skins Go | April 27, 2007 11:17 AM | Report abuse

Tarik,

Alzner is exactly the guy I have asked you about in the past. It seems to me that acquiring a solid d-man is next to impossible in the trade market anymore, they are simply too valuable. So drafting the top rated d-man in any draft year could hardly be seen has irresponsible. Remember the term, weak draft is a relative term. Are there any Ovies or Crosbys in this draft? Apparently not. But if you review the top 10 picks of ALMOST any draft over the last 10-20 years you will see that the majority of those picks have turned into very serviceable NHL-caliber players.
I hate to agree with the fball guy, but he is right, by the time Alzner is ready to chew up the minutes, Schultz and Green and going to be hardened veterans. Is picking Alzner going to improve the blueline next season? Most likely no. But given the impression that this draft is "weak" what player do you see any GM giving up for this pick? Anybody that is going to make a significant impact on next year's d-corps? Not in my crystal ball. So you take Alzner, spend some of the money on an upper tier UFA D-man (I wanted to name a few here, but as per normal, even the internet ignores hockey, I can't find a listing of this summer's UFAs).
Additionally, people have been moaning about nobody of consequence, I'm speaking about first line centers now, is going to want to come to play here. I don't really get that part. Who would not want to come and feed Ovie the puck? I know somebody has to take the first step before anybody else, but if Nashville can get Kariya to sign, which DID make it okay for others to go there (Arnott, Forsberg), then why can't we get a real player to buddy up with Alex?

Posted by: Tim | April 27, 2007 11:27 AM | Report abuse

Well, the signing of Kariya might not be the best comparison to getting a #1 C to sign here in DC. Keep in mind Kariya signed after the lockout and the previous season in Colorado he had 11 goals (in 51 games...he was injured, which hurt his value too). As a result, he was much easier to acquire than the Caps attempting to sign a "true" top notch guy coming off a productive year.

Ultimately, if the Caps offer the $, they can get someone. But it's unlikely anyone will take a discount just to play with OV.

Posted by: Jeff | April 27, 2007 11:33 AM | Report abuse

BTW, unrelated to the draft, I was reminded of a funny story when I read Roarke's take on the draft.

During the All-Star Game, Roarke, four other hockey writers and myself went in search of a place that was still serving at 2:30 a.m. Unfortunately we were in Dallas not Manhattan.

No one had a car so we walked down deserted highways (once the wrong way down a one way), up exit ramps, we passed the grassy knoll and a bunch of inviting looking establishments that were already closed. Half the group gave up and headed back to the hotel.

The rest of us piled into a cab (the famale driver had gold teeth and a foul mouth) and eventually wound up at a place called Whataburger. Not to be confused with the Whatabagel in Toronto.

Whataburger! Ha! I just get a kick out of saying that name. One reporter ordered a Whatachicken.

Like I said, this story had nothing to do with anything. Just thought I'd share a funny story about life on the road.

Posted by: Tarik | April 27, 2007 11:43 AM | Report abuse

As much as I prefer the capitals not taking a dman at the 5 slot if it is the BPA (best player available) on their draft board then they have to take what is there. Though I prefer the rugged upside of Ellerby than the safeness of Alzner.

Voracek, Turris, or JVR would be my hopes to land...though I'm just some random keyboard jockey on the WWW :P.

Posted by: usiel | April 27, 2007 11:50 AM | Report abuse

Since most agree the draft isn't as strong as in year's past, that should only dampen the demand for their pick (unless a team is really high on a player that slips to five). Add to that reports that Chicago and Philadelphia are also looking to potentially deal their top pick for immediate help and it's doubtful the Caps can turn their pick (plus a prospect or two) into an immediate player at good value whose career isn't on the decline.

GMGM really has his work cut out for him in turning the Caps' young roster players, prospects and picks into established NHL talent in trades. With the salary cap set to go up again, there likely won't be all that many cap casualties on the market. And those that are on the market due to their salaries won't provide great value for what they'll make next year.

We may see something similar to the Patrick O'Sullivan + 1st for Pavol Demitra deal from the last draft, but it's going to take a dogged GM to find a team willing to give up established NHL talent for a combination of less established, young talent and talent that is a few years away from even joining the league.

Posted by: idl | April 27, 2007 12:11 PM | Report abuse

Tarik,

Speaking about prospect, I go to RIT in Rochester, and I found out yesterday that the Caps signed Steve Pinizzotto about a month ago. I watched him all season at RIT and I tell you this , the kid is going to be a very good player down the road. So, any idea how's he adjusting so far in Hershey?

Posted by: RITdude | April 27, 2007 12:17 PM | Report abuse

Kane and Voraceck at 6 and 7? This might be a strange draft, but that's not happening. There are not five teams (including the Caps) that would pass on both of those guys, let alone the five teams at the top of this draft. Turris is not going No. 1, either.

Tarik, how good of a player are the Caps really going to pick up for that pick? There seems to be a lot of people who think they should trade it, but if it is such a bad draft, what are you going to get?

Posted by: Ovie-One | April 27, 2007 12:46 PM | Report abuse

To Tim:
For the UFA/RFA listings, go to www.thehockeynews.com and click on salaries. The lists are below the team rosters.

Posted by: boredatwork | April 27, 2007 2:02 PM | Report abuse

We need: 1 or 2 Centers, 1 #1 right wing, Defense.

I say we do:
In the draft, I think we should eye only 3 players, one of whom should be avalable, Cherepanov, Turris, and Alzner. Most likely, one of these three will be available, but anything's possible. Cherepanov, as a right wing (which we also desperately need), would be a good compliment to Ovechkin. Turris is another up and coming center, and Alzner just looks to be a good choice, regardless of our mass of defensive prospects (this is a similar situation as Pittsburgh, who drafted Malkin, Crosby, and Staal three years in a row. we might eventually, that being the keyword, be a defensive powerhouse again, like we were back in the mid to late 90s).

I'm honestly not sure who they would want to go after in a trade, i've really only paying attention to the UFAs lately. The point is, I would keep the pick, and look at free agency. Seriously, who would we honestly trade for that we could "afford?"

Posted by: DrinkingPartner | April 27, 2007 2:34 PM | Report abuse

JP you are right about the facts in the blurb.

Posted by: Tarik | April 27, 2007 2:53 PM | Report abuse

I don't start thinking about the draft until THN Draft Preview Issue comes out. I would think that would be coming out any day now. I am against trading a top 5 pick because I don't think you can get value for it. While we will have to wait a few years the player we draft will be better than any player we trade the pick for. Just my 2 cents.

Posted by: 4caps | April 27, 2007 3:11 PM | Report abuse

Found a nice article about Backstrom's last Swedish homegame in Brynas:
http://www.nhl.com/nhl/app/service=page&page=NHLPage&id=2848

Posted by: DrinkingPartner | April 27, 2007 3:51 PM | Report abuse

If Voracek and Kane are still available by the time the Caps pick there is no way they will draft Alzner. Its best player available. Almost always in the first round.

There is no goalie rated top 5, so picking a goalie is out (that was a bad idea in the first place).

Re: Alzner, everything I've seen suggests that he is NHL ready but has a very limited top end. Keaton Ellerby has a higher ceiling, according to things I've read but he isn't as good now.

Voracek (RW) is the guy I want. He's been compared to Marian Hossa, but more "pass first" mentality. He is also tough, theres a youtube clip of him involved in a line brawl in the preseason, in which he is beatting senseless one of his Czech buddies from back home. After a disappointing WJC he returned to the Q and lit the place up, especially in the crunch time.

With Buffalo's pick, if they keep it, I'd liek to see Katic (a pure PPQB type) or a scoring center (ie a center who can score when his wingers are shut down). Couture, Katic, or Sutter, or Plante I think I'd like.

Also consider, trading the pick itself has less value than trading the prospect we would draft with the pick. If the Lightning had traded Joni Pitkanen instead of the 5th overall they might have gotten more from Philly.

Admittedly, that example kind of sucks because they got Fedotenko from philly, who wound up scoring the cup clinching goal in game 7 of the finals. But I think you get the idea.

Posted by: Graham | April 27, 2007 4:19 PM | Report abuse

Whataburger. Blah. On work assignment in Phoenix years ago they locked down 5 minutes early. I didn't have a car. Had to walk through the drive-thru of Del Taco...in between cars no less. Then had to charm the gal at the window for over a minute until she'd give me something to nourish for five minutes before it ran through me like a bullet train.

Anyway...

Trade should be first option
Cherpy I'd even trade up for
Voracek or Kane

The last thing we need is another "could be good, but not great and we won't find out for four years" defenseman. The main reason our D stunk on ice is because we didn't pull the trigger for some modestly priced vets who don't spin in place. We were evaluating our guys as planned. Not a crisis as long as we pick up 1-2 vet D this offseason and let Green season a bit longer in the minors. And trade Emmy if anyone will give us a new pair of skate laces.

Posted by: Shmoo | April 27, 2007 11:04 PM | Report abuse

graham, trading the pick or the prospect makes no difference. trading the pick is easier(if not better) because it gives the team receving the pick the flexibility to do Whata-ever they want. sometimes they do the pick and trade like the Wizards trading Jerry Stack and Devin Harris(i think the 5th overall) on draft day for Antwan J. Then smart thinking is go with the RW obviously if ones availible(i think Cerpy, FA Drury hopefully, and Ovie wood be beautiful 1st line), then BPA. i hope the caps sign a FA center and defence instead of trading in order to keep as many picks as possible but with the salary cap, the caps could package picks and prospects for a player who has a modest salary. saveour later picks on some defence.

Posted by: timbers | April 28, 2007 5:41 PM | Report abuse

Voracek is the man. If he is still there when the caps draft, he's the guy to take.

If we were a bit lower I would consider Esposito, maybe a trade up from Buffalo's pick

Posted by: Graham | May 1, 2007 8:38 AM | Report abuse

'Cause the last three drafts, the Caps' system now includes the following defensive prospects: Green, Schultz, Dvogan, Finley, MacNeill, Thomas, Lespito, Hedman, Poduluk, and Seabrook. Four of those guys were picked in the first round. Saying that the Caps have recently ignored the blueline in the draft is a complete fabrication.

Unless you happen to be Erik Johnson or another top-of-the-draft pick, no defensive prospect is likely going to be NHL-ready, especially in this draft, where the talent in the top 5 isn't that much better than that in the next 15 slots. If the Caps pick Alzner (who I like, by the way) simply to shore up the NHL squad's defensive deficiencies, they would completely foolish. Alzner wouldn't be ready for at least a couple of years, at the least. Agreeing with Roarke's assessment shows a complete lack of understanding of player development and hockey drafting, not to mention where the Caps' own system is in regards to defensive prospects and actual holes they really do need to fill (like offensive center).

If the Capitals really want to fix their defensive woes at the NHL level, then trade the pick as part of a package in exchange for a veteran defensiveman.

Posted by: exwhaler | May 1, 2007 12:31 PM | Report abuse

SIGN GOMEZ

Posted by: Anonymous | May 3, 2007 12:32 PM | Report abuse

Alzner won't be the pick. Of course I said the same of Landry, couldn't believe the redskins would be so stupid as to invest a mountain of cash on safeties when both lines are old and one stinks, but hey, that's why they're the redskins. Anyway Alzner isn't an elite prospect, he's just the best Defensemen in a mostly weak draft. He's nowhere near where Jack Johnson was when he was drafted, or where Erik Johnson was, and Ellerby has already passed him on most rankings.

The key here is that the vast majority of these kids take 2-4 years to develop. By the time Alzner is ready, we'll be a totally different team, and he'll be behind Green, and Schultz and inumerable other defenseman we've drafted who may develop into first line pairings for all we know (I know, unlikely at least for most of them).

The top 5 right now are Kane, Voracek, JVR, Chera, and Turris. There's little argument to that list beyond Turris maybe being passed as fast risers Voracek, and JVR did wonderfully in the recent juniors tournament.

I would be extremely unhappy if we didn't take one of these guys unless they are passed in a genuine evaluation process.

I'm also skeptical of us dealing the pick. If we hadn't been hosed by the lottery, and if we hadnt won two pointless games that dropped us several slots, maybe we could have dealt it, but the fifth pick is rarely the sort to attract loads of attention and foaming at the mouth from other GM's. I just don't see that happening.

I'd just like us to sit tight and take the best guy on the board when we pick, probably one of those top 5. I'd also love to trade up for Esposito, #1 overall last fall in the rankings but a ho-hum final seasons dropped him anywhere from 10-15 slots in the rankings. I'd like to take advantage of that. The kids a darn good prospect and smart teams take advantage of talented players falling despite their talent. I'd love to do that.

Posted by: Stephen Smith | May 3, 2007 8:19 PM | Report abuse

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