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Pick 'Em: Best Capitals Draft Pick of the Decade

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Readers who venture outside the friendly internet confines of the the Rink may have noticed that, in anticipation of the end of the decade 2010, Puck Daddy has been compiling the best and worst of the last decade, including the ten biggest goon moments, the best and worst contracts, and NHL's best and worst decisions. Yesterday saw Ryan Lambert of The Two Line Pass take a look at the five best and five worst draft picks of the last ten years.

Being a Capitals blog we figured it would make for some interesting discussion to pilfer the idea alter their framework every so slightly to suit our favorite team and take a look at some of studs and duds of recent Washington draft classes. To make things a little more interesting, we decided to eliminate lottery picks, which in essence means no Alex Ovechkin, no Nicklas Backstrom, and no Karl Alzner.

To start things off, let's take a look at the five worst:

5. Jakub Cutta (Defense, 2nd round, 61st overall, 2000)

Cutta was billed as a guy with an ideal frame, but a project nonetheless. At the time of his draft people knew there were questions about his skating, his ability to move the puck out of the zone at the next level, and whether he would ever use his 6'3'', 214 frame as effectively as possible. The problem was, nothing ever really panned out. The skating never became NHL caliber, there wasn't any offense to speak of as a pro, and while Cutta laid out a big hit every once in a while, he was far from an intimidating physical force. All told Cutta saw action in eight games over the course of three seasons with the Caps, earning himself a minus-5 rating. By 2006 Cutta would be back in his native Czech Republic, and he's been splitting time between his homeland and Russia for the past few years. It's not always fair to look back and evaluate a pick using 20/20 hindsight, but the fact that Paul Martin was taken with the 62nd pick certainly doesn't make this one any easier to swallow.

4. Josh Godfrey (Defense, 2nd round, 34th overall, 2007)

Yeah, it's still early, but thing don't look very good for Godfrey, who's now in his second season with the ECHL's South Carolina Stingrays. Part of us wants to say that the blue line is stacked at Hershey, that Godfrey's still young, and that he was drafted as an offensive defenseman who would have to spend a lot of time working out the kinks in his own end before he had a chance at the NHL. Another part of us says that guys who spend more than one season in the ECHL don't usually do much at the NHL level - and that's not enough for someone picked 34th overall. The fact that, other than Kings prospects Wayne Simmonds and Oscar Moller, no one picked after Godfrey has seen much NHL playing time helps keep him from rising on this list - for now.

3. Keith Seabrook (Defense, 2nd round, 52nd overall, 2006)

Also an offensive defenseman, the Capitals were hoping Seabrook would one day be a powerplay quarterback, or at least an offensive threat from the blue line. However, Seabrook underwhelmed offensively, first by scoring 13 points (two goals) in 37 games at the University of Denver and then by scoring 17 (four goals) in 59 games with the WHL's Calgary Hitmen - all while failing to make marked progress in his own end. In 2008-09 Seabrook finally became the offensive force people thought he was capable of being by registering 55 points (fifteen goals) for the Hitmen, but questions persisted about whether it was because he was growing in to his talent or because he was an overage player. Currently in the Calgary Flames organization, Seabrook still has a chance to become an NHL player, but never came close to getting a contract, let alone a game, with the Caps.

2. Joe Finley (Defense, 1st round, 27th overall, 2005)

The Caps would eventually sign Finley in the summer of 2009, but his future seems to be up in the air. After playing as a forward in camp, Finley's back on the blue line with South Carolina this season. If Finley ever makes it to the NHL, it's almost certainly going to be in a limited role as an enforcer...and you don't aim to draft a part-time enforcer in the first round. 36 of the first 45 players taken in the 2005 draft have played in the NHL, and has four of the five and seven of the ten taken after Finley. The issue at this point wasn't the talent pool. It was the selection.

1. Sasha Pokulok (Defense, 1st round, 14th overall, 2005)

How could it be anyone else? There's no way the Caps should have been picking 14th in 2005, but they sure didn't do themselves any favors in picking Pokulok. Billed as a physical specimen with skating ability and offensive upside, Pokulok was beset by concussion problems each of his three years in the Capitals organization. In the end, Pokulok wasn't able to stick in Hershey, let alone Washington, earning himself the dubious (and unfortunate) title of "Worst Capitals Pick of the Decade".

Honorable Mentions: Steve Eminger, Ted Ruth, Maxime Daigneault, Boyd Gordon

Now that that's over, let's take a look at the five best:

5. John Carlson (Defense, 1st round, 27th overall, 2008)

He's played just three games at the NHL level thus far, but is there any reason to think Carlson won't be a very, very good NHL defender? With size, skill, and smarts he's bested every challenge thrown his way since the draft, finishing second in the OHL in scoring among defensemen and second among rookies last year, and registering 18 points in 24 games for the Bears this year. Carlson may very well be a top pairing guy in the very near future, and in a league that prizes two way defensemen as highly as the NHL does that's a heck of a return on the 27th pick.

4. Johnny Oduya (Defense, 7th round, 221st overall, 2001)

Hey, we said these guys were going to be Capitals draftees, we never said anything about whether the team signed him. With only one point and an minus-1 rating, Oduya's slumping this year but he's nonetheless a legitimate top-four guy defenseman in the NHL, something that can only be said for a handful of the 200 players taken before him.

3. Alexander Semin (Left Wing/Right Wing, 13th overall, 2002)

At September's Capitals Convention members of the team's scouting staff were insistent they'd been lucky with Semin, who has grown three inches and added thirty-five pounds since the time he was drafted. Even if there was some luck involved, Semin is a elite offensive player who may just be the most naturally talented guy in the NHL. Picking thirteenth overall you expect to get an NHL caliber player - but getting a guy with Semin's ability in that spot is a steal. He might not have the career top 2002 pick Rich Nash will, be there's no doubt Semin was the most talented player available at the this spot - and your GM picking that guy is all you can ask for.

2. Semyon Varlamov (Goalie, 23rd overall, 2006)

We'd be lying if we said there wasn't a part of us that was still scared Semyon Varlamov was going to burn out (insert obligatory Jim Carey reference here), but what he's doing at his age, well, that just doesn't happen very often. The Capitals get credit here for being willing to use their first round pick to take a netminder in what was regarded as a weak draft between the pipes. The next time you want to criticize George McPhee for going off the board, remember that sometimes the risk pays off.

1. Mike Green (Defense, 29th overall, 2004)

Twenty-ninth overall isn't exactly scraping the bottom of the barrel, but no one expected this. Fifty-one goals and 159 points in his last 180 games, a historically great season, a Norris Trophy nomination at age 23, and comparisons to Paul Coffey would make Green a great pick just about anywhere, but at the end of the first round it's practically criminal. Thank the Lord the Stars saw something they liked in Mark Fistric.

Honorable Mentions: Mathieu Perreault, Oskar Osala, Braden Holtby

While the issue of the worst draft pick seems pretty cut-and-dry (seriously, if anyone thinks it's someone other than Pokulok, we'd love to hear why), the best pick is up for debate - and we want to know what you think. Vote in the poll, and let us know who you picked in the comments section.