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Capitals' Fan Draft Primer: 2010 Edition

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The season's over, the Cup has been awarded, the Rink Wraps are,um, wrapped and the mind of hockey fans, both on SBN and elsewhere, are turning to the NHL draft. With that in mind, we here at Japers' Rink have put together a draft primer for Capitals fans.  Make the jump for all the information about the organization's strengths, weaknesses, prospects, and targets that you'll need heading in to this weekend's festivities.

Capitals Draft Picks

(1) Round 1, pick 26, 26th overall
(3) Round 3, pick 26, 86th overall
(4) Round 4, pick 26, 116th overall
(5) Round 5, pick 22, 142th overall
(5) Round 5, pick 26, 146th overall
(6) Round 6, pick 26, 176th overall

Capitals Top Prospects

These are the organization’s top prospects, regardless of position. After their names you will find their position and the team with which they finished up last season.

(1) John Carlson - Defense, Hershey Bears, AHL
(2) Karl Alzner - Defense, Hershey Bears, AHL
(3) Michal Neuvirth - Goalie, Hershey Bears, AHL
(4) Marcus Johansson - Center/Left Wing, Färjestads, SEL
(5) Mathieu Perreault - Center, Hershey Bears, AHL
(6) Cody Eakin - Center, Hershey Bears, AHL
(7) Dmitri Orlov - Defense, Metallurg Novokuznetsk, KHL
(8) Braden Holtby - Goalie, Hershey Bears, AHL
(9) Andrew Gordon - Right Wing, Hershey Bears, AHL
(10) Stefan Della Rovere - Left Wing, Hershey Bears, AHL

Top Prospects by Position

Left Wing
(1) Stefan Della Rovere - Hershey Bears, AHL
(2) Greg Burke - University of New Hampshire, NCAA (Hockey East)
(3) Andrew Glass - Boston University, NCAA (Hockey East)

(1) Marcus Johansson - Färjestads, SEL
(2) Mathieu Perreault - Hershey Bears, AHL
(3) Cody Eakin - Hershey Bears, AHL
(4) Anton Gustafsson - Borås HC, HockeyAllsvenskan
(5) Jay Beagle - Hershey Bears, AHL
(6) Kyle Wilson - Hershey Bears, AHL
(7) Phil DeSimone - University of New Hampshire, NCAA (Hockey East)
(8) Jake Hauswirth - South Carolina Stringrays, ECHL
(9) Trevor Bruess - South Carolina Stringrays, ECHL

Right Wing
(1) Andrew Gordon - Hershey Bears, AHL
(2) Dmitri Kugryshev - Quebec Remparts, QMJHL
(3) Francois Bouchard - Hershey Bears, AHL

(1) John Carlson - Hershey Bears, AHL
(2) Karl Alzner -  Hershey Bears, AHL
(3) Dmitri Orlov - Metallurg Novokuznetsk, KHL
(4) Patrick McNeill - Hershey Bears, AHL
(5) Zach Miskovic - Hershey Bears, AHL
(6) Patrick Wey - Boston College, NCAA (Hockey East)
(7) Josh Godfrey - South Carolina Stingrays (ECHL)

(1) Michal Neuvirth - Hershey Bears, AHL
(2) Brandon Holtby - Hershey Bears, AHL
(3) Dan Dunn - St. Cloud State, NCAA (WCHA)

Organization Strengths

(1) Goaltending.  Semyon Varlamov has established himself as an NHL goaltender.  Michael Neuvirth has played well in the NHL and demonstrated he has nothing left to prove at the AHL level.  Both are just 22 years old.  Braden Holtby - himself just 20 and only two years removed from having been drafted - posted a 2.32 GAA and a .917 save percentage in 35 games with Hershey last year.  Suffices to say that the future in net looks very bright for the Washington Capitals, even if we can't be sure exactly what it's going to look like.

(2) Defense.  John Carlson and Karl Alzner alone are enough to make this one of the organization's strengths, as both have very high ceilings and are low risk.  Dimitri Orlov and Patrick McNeill add some depth to the prospect ranks, and it's too early to write off either Patrick Wey or Zack Miskovic.

(3) A well-rounded prospect group.  Of the Capitals top ten prospects, five are forwards, three are defensemen, and two are goalie (and Semyon Varlamov's not even on the list).  Among the forwards, Perreault projects as a playmaker, Eakin a goal-scorer, Johansson a two-way forward, and Gordon and Della Rovere as grinders.  On the back end, all three prospects have potential at both ends of the ice, with Alzner's ceiling probably being higher in his own end and Orlov's higher on the attack.

Organization Weaknesses

(1) Size up front. One of last year's weaknesses is back and, given the trade of Oskar Osala and Anton Gustafsson's disappointing 2009-10 season, is as much of a problem as it was last year.  That's not to say the Capitals don't have good forwards - if anything, their prospect pool is better than it was last year, overall and up front - but the additions of Eakin, Gordon, and Della Rovere to the top prospects list haven't helped all that much.

(2) First line forwards.  Okay, we're grasping at straws here.  You have to be a hell of a talent to be expected to become a first-line NHLer, and unless something changes drastically there's going to be pretty steep competition for spots on the Capitals' first line until 2020 or so.  Still, it'd be nice to see a top line guy emerge from the Caps' prospect pool.  Don't entirely rule out Johansson, Eakin, or even Kugryshev...but don't count on them, either.

Draft Strategy

Last year we focused on the debate over drafting the best overall player versus drafting for need, coming down on the best overall player side.  This year, with the Caps' prospect group even more well-rounded both in terms of position and skill set, it makes even more sense for George McPhee and front office staff to be in the best available player camp.  With that in mind, what we're going to look at is drafting based on upside versus drafting on likelihood of the prospect becoming a contributor at the NHL level.  In short, should the Caps be looking at high-risk, high-reward players or low-risk, low-reward guys?

You can use the team's strong standing to argue either way, taking the stance that the quality of the Capitals' existing prospects means the team can afford to gamble because they will have a deep prospect pool regardless of what happens in this year's draft, or the stance that what has made the Caps' system so good is the fact the organization has so many players with NHL potential and that it makes sense to add more-known quantities and be assured increase the team's total assets.

With where the Capitals organization is right now, it makes more sense for them to take a cautious approach, and draft players who they're confident will one day be NHL regulars, even if it also means drafting players with lower ceilings, in equal parts because the Caps have less to lose from the high risk players and more to gain from the low risk players than most teams.  The young high-end talent means the Capitals won't be hurting for a core to build around in the near future, and Leonsis' willingness to spend on team payroll means the team won't have to hope their most productive players are on entry-level (or close to entry-level) contracts, so there's no reason the team needs to find a diamond in the rough. 

On the other hand, there are reasons to think the team needs young players it can count on to come in and support its long-term core.  With the team a serious contender, it's fairly likely the Capitals will be in a position where it makes sense to deal prospects, picks, or both in order to upgrade the NHL squad, and being unable to restock the farm system could wind up leaving it barren after a couple of seasons.   Plus, while the team shouldn't need young players on entry-level contracts to come in and be superstars, it will need ones who can come in and play auxiliary roles.

Does this mean the Capitals shouldn't take a chance on a high-risk, high-reward guy under the right circumstances?  Of course not.  If, say, Kiril Kabanov were still available in the second round and the Caps had the opportunity to trade up by moving an expendable asset, it might be a risk worth taking.  But right now the most important thing is for the Capitals to come out of draft day with at least one guy they're sure will become a contributor at the NHL level down the road.