Capitals Must Use 2022 NHL Draft To Restock Prospect Pipeline

It feels as though the Washington Capitals are inching towards a rebuild. In the wake of a fourth consecutive first-round playoff exit, general manager Brian MacLellan is staring an offseason of roster reconstruction in the face. However, the 2022 NHL Entry Draft offers him an opportunity to turn the tide – albeit at the margins.

The 63-year-old has plenty of draft capital at his disposal and is due to select prospects at 20th, 46th, 85th, 149th, 181st, and 213th overall. He can’t afford to squander them.

Dmitry Kulikov New Jersey Devils Alex Ovechkin Washington Capitals
Alex Ovechkin was selected first overall by the Washington Capitals in 2004 (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Washington’s roster is in desperate need of a refresh: the Capitals aren’t awash with top-shelf prospects and injuries are a concern heading into 2022-23. While the uncertainty surrounding Nicklas Backstrom’s future remains a major topic of discussion, Alex Alexeyev and Tom Wilson will also start the season in the treatment room.

As a result, MacLellan is under pressure to deliver – in no small part because the end of the Alex Ovechkin era is swinging into view. Here’s everything you need to know ahead of Round 1 of the NHL Draft on Thursday, July 7:

Could the Capitals Trade Their First-Round Pick?

Yes, but they shouldn’t (and likely won’t) because this year’s draft is relatively deep. There’s a chance that Washington’s first-rounder will quickly develop into a useable NHLer, boosting an organization that aims to slide down the age scale.

“We’ll get younger [over the offseason],” MacLellan told reporters during his end-of-season media availability when asked about his offseason plans. With that in mind, the Capitals can take four approaches with the 20th overall pick:

  • Trade down the order, picking up multiple second-rounders
  • Move up the order, sending their first-round pick and a sweetener the other way
  • Make the pick
  • Trade the pick for another asset, perhaps a starting goaltender

Although anything is possible between now and the draft, everything points towards the Capitals making their pick. But who will be available to MacLellan in the first round?

Who Should the Capitals Select 20th Overall?

As previously reported, a number of interesting players will be available to Washington in the first round. The following prospects are set to be selected between 15th and 24th overall, according to our expert team of draft writers:

Forecast PositionPeter BaracchiniMatthew ZatorAndrew Forbes
15Rutger McGroarty, RW, USA U18 (USHL)Noah Östlund, C, Djurgårdens IF J20 (J20 Nationell)Rutger McGroarty, LW, USA U18 (USHL)
16Denton Mateychuk, D, Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL)Marco Kasper, C, Rögle BK (SHL)Pavel Mintyukov, LHD, Saginaw Spirit (OHL)
17Noah Östlund, C, NationellBrad Lambert, C/RW, Pelicans (Liiga)Liam Öhgren, LW, Djurgårdens IF J20 (Nationell)
18Marco Kasper, C, Rögle BK J20 (Nationell)Liam Öhgren, LW, Djurgårdens IF J20 (J20 Nationell)Filip Mesar, LW, HK Poprad (Slovakia)
19Conor Geekie, C, Winnipeg Ice (WHL)Jiri Kulich, C, HC Energie Karlovy Vary (Czechia)Marco Kasper, C, Rögle BK J20 (Nationell)
20Brad Lambert, C/RW, JYP (Liiga)Jagger Firkus, RW, Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL)Alexander Perevalov, LW, Loko Yaroslavl (MHL)
21Isaac Howard, LW, USA U18 (USHL)Danila Yurov, RW, Metallurg Magnitogorsk (KHL)Seamus Casey, RHD, USA U18 (USHL)
22Ivan Miroshnichenko, LW, Omskie Krylia (VHL)Ryan Chesley, RHD, U.S. National U18 Team (USDP)Denton Mateychuk, LHD, Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL)
23Jiri Kulich, C, HC Karlovy Vary (Czech)Ivan Miroshnichenko, LW, Omskie Krylia (VHL)Ryan Chesley, RHD, USA U18 (USHL)
24Owen Beck, C, Mississauga Steelheads, OHLLane Hutson, LHD, U.S. National U18 Team (USDP)Kevin Korchinski, LHD, Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL)

Marco Kasper stands out for several reasons. First, he was electric during the Men’s World Championship for Austria, helping them stave off an immediate return to the second division. Second, he is an incredibly hard worker on and off the ice, and finally, he is one of the biggest risers in this year’s draft.

Marco Kasper Team Austria
Marco Kasper, Team Austria (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)

Rutger McGroarty, ranked 22nd by Central Scouting amongst North American skaters, also jumps off the page. He was a key player for the United States at the U18 World Championship and has taken significant steps in his development this year. In other words, it’s shaping up to be a spicy Thursday night at the draft for MacLellan’s Capitals.

Who Should the Capitals Select 46th Overall?

Washington made the most of their second-round pick in 2018 by selecting Martin Fehervary 46th overall. If the Capitals are to avoid an icy rebuild, it’s important that MacLellan finds value outside the first round again.

Mattias Hävelid is one of the players that should be on the organization’s radar. He turned heads in the Swedish Hockey League (SHL) last season, making steady progress while playing against men for the first time in his career.

Related: 3 Capitals Targets with 46th Overall Pick of 2022 NHL Draft

The 18-year-old has all the makings of a top-four defenceman, with his puck-moving ability catching the attention of our prospect writers. Nor is Hävelid isn’t afraid of shooting from the blue line, as he demonstrated while on international duty for Sweden at the U18 Worlds:

If he drops into the second round, Lian Bichsel could also figure into Washington’s plans. The 6-foot-5 blueliner enjoyed a breakout season in the SHL with Leksands IF and promises to be a key player for Team Switzerland for the next decade.

While it’s difficult to forecast who will be available to Washington at 46th overall, there’s no doubt talented players will still be on board. MacLellan’s job there is about finding a diamond in the rough.

Brian MacLellan Must Deliver at the 2022 NHL Entry Draft

Although it’s unlikely that players selected by Washington in this week’s draft will make their presence known in the NHL next season, they will be expected to play franchise-shaping roles in the team’s post-Ovechkin future. There’s just no worth sugar-coating it.

MacLellan can’t afford to make any mishaps in Montreal as a result. It’s time for the Capitals to plan for the future – and that starts with restocking their prospect pipeline through the 2022 Draft.

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