Thanks to Brenden Dillon‘s trade to the Winnipeg Jets, the Washington Capitals moved up six places in the second round of the 2022 NHL Entry Draft, rising to the 46th overall pick. As this year’s pool is deeper than usual, there are plenty of alluring prospects that could drop into the middle of round two, handing general manager Brian MacLellan the power to make a splash.
It’s been at least a decade since the Capitals entered draft season under this much pressure. Following another early postseason exit, Washington can’t afford to make any miscalculations on July 7. Here are three players MacLellan’s front office should be eying in the second round, plus a little trade history.
Trade History: Capitals’ 2022 NHL Entry Draft Picks
As previously reported, the Capitals own their first-round selection and are due to pick 20th overall. They’ve also retained their third-, fifth-, sixth-, and seventh-round positions, leaving MacLellan with work to do in the draft.
There’s a lot to unpack in round two: the Capitals sent their original pick to the Detroit Red Wings as part of the Anthony Mantha deal and replaced it with Winnipeg’s choice via the Dillon trade. As a result of MacLellan’s wheeling and dealing, the organization elevates six spots in the second round.
Washington will not take part in the fourth round: they included their pick in the trade that saw Marcus Johansson join the team from the Seattle Kraken at the trade deadline. Now, onto three players the Capitals could select with the 46th overall pick.
Lane Hutson, Left-Handed Defenceman, US National Team Development Programme (USNTDP)
If the Capitals want to add size to their defensive prospect pipeline, they shouldn’t pick Lane Hutson. He’s only 5-foot-8 and therefore has a mountain to climb to reach the NHL. However, there’s a good chance his impressive skating and hockey IQ will propel the Chicago-born blueliner into the spotlight.
“He’s a super talented kid, and he sees the game different,” USNTDP assistant coach Nick Fohr said of Hutson. “He’s a bit of a unicorn, and that’s a good thing. He’s super valuable for us. He plays a lot of minutes, and I think he’s really undervalued defensively. He actually defends very well for a little guy, and he’s got to do it differently because he’s smaller, but he does it, and he works at it, and he takes pride in it.”
Hutson has made significant progress since making his debut in the United States Hockey League (USHL), notching 32 points (six goals, 26 assists) in 27 appearances in 2021-22 – a significant improvement on his 14-point haul in the same number of games the previous year.
He’s committed to Boston University in the NCAA for 2023-24, providing him with the perfect opportunity to bulk up before entering the professional ranks. Also of note: he wouldn’t be the first undersized defenceman to use collegiate hockey as a launching pad for a prosperous pro career.
Aside from his lack of physical presence, Hutson has a lot going for him. He’s creative, which allows him to demonstrate his passing ability on virtually every shift and mobile, helping him make an impact on the transition.
Hutson will carry a high level of compete with him to whichever franchise says his name at the podium on draft day. Will it be MacLellan’s Capitals?
- Peter Baracchini’s March Rankings: 43rd
- Andrew Forbes’ March Rankings: 43rd
- Matthew Zator’s April Rankings: 45th
- Bob McKenzie’s (TSN) Rankings: 72nd
- Dobber Prospects April Rankings: 53rd
Mattias Hävelid, Right-Handed Defenceman, Linköping HC
Mattias Hävelid turned heads in the Swedish Hockey League (SHL) this term, making 23 appearances for Linköping HC, his hometown club. Although he was kept off the scoresheet, the 18-year-old made steady progress while playing at the senior level for the first time.
Considering his technically-sound stride and under-the-radar impressive shot, Hävelid has the makings of a top-four defenceman in the NHL somewhere down the line. If the Swede is available to the Capitals at 46th overall, he’s a player MacLellan must consider on account of his mobility, puck-moving ability, and willingness to engage in dirty areas of the ice.
However, Hävelid needs to elevate the defensive side of his game before making the jump to North American ice. Despite boasting solid positional understanding, his defensive read holds him back compared to his peers. At 5-foot-10, he can’t rely on raw physicality to dig himself out of trouble – though his top-end skating ability will factor into the equation for teams interested in drafting him.
If snapping up a promising right-hand defenceman is on MacLellan’s to-do list, it shouldn’t be a surprise if Hävelid is selected 46th overall. After a successful run at the U18 World Championship, where he notched 12 points (four goals, eight assists) in six games, he’s certainly one to watch heading into the draft.
- The Hockey Writers (Forbes): 46th
- The Hockey Writers (Zator): 48th
- The Hockey Writers (Baracchini): 37th
- Bob McKenzie’s (TSN) Rankings: 76th
- Dobber Prospects April Rankings: 37th
Jack Hughes, Centreman, Northeastern University
Jack Hughes (no, not that one) is on course to develop into an effective, middle-six centreman at the elite level. He’s 6-foot, isn’t afraid to throw his body around, and has a sky-high hockey IQ.
In his rookie season with Northeastern University, Hughes, the son of Montreal Canadiens general manager Kent Hughes, notched 16 points (seven goals, nine assists) in 39 appearances – a solid enough clip for the 18-year-old from Massachusetts.
Hughes is most comfortable acting as a playmaker despite possessing a heavy shot, with his ability to control the tempo and make team-first plays a standout feature of his profile. He’s also a hard worker and unafraid to engage in physical shenanigans when required.
However, he isn’t perfect. While the former USNTDP forward is capable of making high-end passes, his tendency to attempt risky plays has led to a catalogue of costly turnovers. Even so, he has the upside, skating ability, and defensive awareness to make up for it.
If the Capitals desire a playmaking centreman for the future, taking Hughes in the second round could be their best course of action. He should be available at 46th overall.
- The Hockey Writers (Forbes): 42nd
- The Hockey Writers (Zator): 53rd
- The Hockey Writers (Baracchini): 55th
- Bob McKenzie’s (TSN) Rankings: 27th
- Dobber Prospects April Rankings: 47th
Capitals Must Prepare for Post-Ovechkin Era
Washington’s first-round loss to the Florida Panthers has placed Alex Ovechkin’s age under the spotlight once again. Father Time is undefeated and will eventually extinguish the 36-year-old’s flame. Undeniably, the Capitals’ window to win another Stanley Cup is closing or, considering Nicklas Backstrom’s hip concerns, could already be shut.
MacLellan has a string of significant choices to make as a result, starting at the draft. The coming offseason will shape Washington’s destiny for years to come, with their pending 46th overall pick penciled in to play an important role. It’s time to step into the future.
Luke is an award-winning sports journalist from London, England. In addition to his work on the Washington Capitals beat for THW, he covers the Elite Ice Hockey League for British Ice Hockey and world soccer for numerous publications, including on Substack. To stay up to date with his content, follow @LukeJames_32 on Twitter.