The Washington Capitals have five picks in the upcoming draft and I volunteered to try my best to impersonate general manager Brian MacLellan and select for them in the mock draft.
When it started out, I thought we’d just be doing the first round, but it became a full, seven-round mock draft. I was elated with that because prospects are definitely “my thing.” However, I was not picking for myself here or based on my own preferences, so I really did my best to try to get inside the head of Brian MacLellan, a well respected general manager, former Stanley Cup Champion, and former teammate of Lanny MacDonald’s mustache.
First Round – Martin Chromiak
The first round was really research intensive for me. I looked back over Capitals picks throughout the years and tried to get an idea for how the team picks players and what they’re looking for. One of the challenges I faced was that this draft features a lot of highly skilled, smaller forwards. The Capitals are not a team that drafts that kind of thing in the first round. In fact, the last player the team took in the first round who was under 6-foot was Alexander Kharlamov in 1994. So, that cut me out of a lot of the best available prospects available at pick 27.
I zeroed in on two players; Martin Chromiak and Tyson Foerster. Both players would be great value for pick #27, but for me I gave the edge to Chromiak because of his play with Shane Wright. Wright is considered a top prospect for the 2022 draft. The 16-year-old was good this year in the OHL, but once Chromiak arrived midseason, the line of Chromiak, Wright and Zayde Wisdom took off together.
Chromiak was the catalyst of that production increase. Being a good hockey player who can play with great hockey players and make them even better is a skill all its own. If Chromiak continues to be that kind of player, he could have a very good career as a complementary top-six player. Top-six potential is always a good get at this point in the first round.
Third Round – Louis Crevier
With no picks in the second round, the Capitals didn’t have another pick until #72. With this pick, I was looking for a big defender. Tape review brought me around to the 6-foot-8, behemoth defender from the QMJHL, Louis Crevier. His NHL central scouting rank was 118, so this is definitely a reach. He didn’t light it up in points this season with only 21 points in 59 games. However, it’s the way he acquires his points that’s the most intriguing.
Crevier is an excellent defender when participating in the offensive zone puck cycle. He’s very rangy at the blue line and is able to corral pucks and pass them around the offensive zone with a stunning degree of efficiency. In the defensive zone, he is not the most fleet-of-foot, but he makes up for that with smart positioning and being very difficult to get around. Crevier’s play style seems to fit more into the mold of some of the successful big NHL defenders we have seen in recent years.
One scout I have spoken to sees how Crevier could be a similar player to Phillipe Myers, whom has turned into a pretty effective defender for the Philadelphia Flyers. It’s also worth noting that Crevier was given a camp invite by the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2019. Since that camp invite, he’s grown another inch to 2 inches in height and saw his offensive output increase dramatically. The simple fact is, you cannot teach size and this kid has it. It’s not uncommon to see these kinds of kids go in the third and fourth round.
Fourth Round – Gunnarwolfe Fontaine
In the fourth round, the Capitals didn’t pick until #120. With that pick, I went after my favorite name in the draft. Gunnarwolfe Fontaine was available, so I took him. More than a few locations suggest this is a fair spot for him. Gunnarwolfe is more than just a name, though. He was one of the primary scoring threats on the utterly dominant team fielded by the Chicago Steel of the USHL this season.
The 5-foot-10, winger gains high marks for his compete level, and his shot. He’s an NCAA D1 commit with Northeastern next season, so he’s on a good development track. I spent a lot of time watching the Chicago Steel this year and Fontaine was one of my favorites. He was very good in the BioSteel All-American Prospect Game, in spite of not scoring. Every time he brought the puck up ice, you thought, “this kid could make something happen here.” He just has an “it factor” that’s hard to explain, so I drafted him.
For the fifth round, the Capitals were on deck at #151. For that pick, I went back to defense, and tried to find a guy with some puck-moving panache. Samuel Johannesson showed some real skill with Rogle of the SHL this year. He’s another overaged pick but he’s ranked 33rd among European skaters by NHL Central Scouting.
In 44 games for his SHL club, he put up 11 points, after acquiring 18 points in 19 games while in the SuperElit U20 league. Injuries pressed Johannesson into usage for Rogle BK of the SHL and he played well enough to become a roster mainstay. Johannesson’s usage and production in the SHL was above several other high profile U20 players. He outpaced Philip Broberg (8th overall 2019), Filip Johnasson (24th overall 2018), Adam Ginning (2018 50th overall), and Helge Grans (2020 top prospect).
So, he outpaced top young Swedish defenders from the 2018, 2019 (his first year of eligibility) and 2020 drafts. As he evolves, Johannesson might not produce big numbers at the NHL, but he’s one of these defenders that is an excellent defensive partner. He’s responsible with the puck and makes quick, smart decisions in all three zones. His skating is in that “good enough” category. All in all, he has a good framework to be a productive NHL defender in his future. If you can get that in the fifth round, you’re doing well.
The Capitals selected at pick #182, and with that pick I went for Swiss Juniors standout Stefano Bottini. Who is Bottini? He’s a 6-foot, 180-pound winger, who played for Lugano’s U20 team in the Swiss U20 league. There’s a 16 year-old-prospect on Lugano, named Lorenzo Canonica who’s set to possibly make some noise in 2021. Bottini was his linemate and a big time playmaker for the team. He’s a May birthday, so he was 17 years old in a U20 league exerting dominant offensive production. He had a good Five-Nations Tournament and got noticed during the Hlinka-Gretzky tournament.
The Penticton Vees of the BCHL took notice of Bottini and have brought him over to play for them next season. Penticton has a history of producing some good NHL players. The Capitals have done their due diligence in recent years scouting Swiss players and the Swiss leagues. If there’s one team in this draft that takes a look at this kid and thinks he’s good enough to draft, it will be the Capitals.
With my five picks in the THW Mock Draft for the Capitals, I picked:
– A Slovakian wing who only played half an OHL Season
– A hulking Canadian overaged defender from the QMJHL
– A smaller overaged American forward from the USHL with a cool name
– An overaged Swedish defender
– A Swiss kid most people have never heard of
That might paint me out as somebody who has no idea what they were doing or somebody who “galaxy brained” their way into picking players that didn’t make sense. But, my analysis of the Capitals as a franchise, with regards to their drafting brought me to the conclusion that they are a team that goes their own way. They trust their scouting department to find them the pieces they need to maintain their success.
So, I trusted my scouting knowledge and tried to look under rocks that maybe everyone else isn’t looking under, while also trying to shake things up a bit and take some names that might have been less obvious to give us all something to talk about.