If you've been following SBN Hockey's network-wide mock draft, you know that the Caps are on the clock, which means we're on the clock for them.
One year ago, drafting in the 26th slot, we selected Scott Mayfield (he ended up going to the Islanders with the 34th pick in the actual draft, and the Caps, of course, traded the 26th pick to Chicago in exchange for Troy Brouwer; the Blackhawks drafted Phillip Danault with the pick). Two years ago, also drafting 26th overall, we took Brock Nelson (he ended up going to the Isles at 30th in the real draft; Caps pick Evgeny Kuznetsov was off the board already).
This time around, we're pleased to select... center Zemgus Girgensons (@zemgus94) out of Dubuque of the USHL.
Here's Girgensons at the 2012 NHL Combine (via hockeyprospectTV):
Per Corey Pronman, who ranks Girgensons as the 14th-best prospect in the draft:
Girgensons had a quality second USHL season and has a good chance to be the highest draft selection to ever come from Latvia. Girgensons is a great do-it-all player who can create offense from his natural skill and still be a fan favorite because of his intangibles. Girgensons is an above-average skater with a technically sound stride and is pretty agile in tight spaces. His top speed isn't overly dangerous but still good meaning he will be able to skate with pros. Girgensons is a dangerous puck handler who I'd say is above-average to plus in that area as he can certainly make players miss and at times he can be a pretty flashy player. At other times, though, Girgensons can be a straight-ahead gritty type of power forward who drives the net, gets in people's faces after the whistle, and will lay out big hit after big hit. He also shows a diligent work ethic at both ends, and is very responsible and smart defensively for his age, which has garnered trust from his coach to play him in a lot of tough defensive minutes. Girgensons is pretty aware with the puck with a pass-first mentality. While I haven't seen high-end playmaking from him, he can certainly move the puck around and has pretty good vision.
Our SBN partner, Hockey Wilderness, had this take on him:
Strengths: Seen as one of the best two-way forwards available in the draft ... brings a nice display of size, skill, and grit ... strong skater with a smooth and long stride ... possesses great footwork and agility ... protects the puck very well with his body and reach ... tough physical presence in that he cannot be removed from the puck ... has the tenacity, desire and grit ... can absolutely rifle a booming shot to the net ... owns a soft touch which allows him to work magic with the puck ... attacks the net often ... good playmaking abilities ... excellent hockey sense ... strong center in all 3 zones ... tough and competitive ... has an outstanding work ethic, both on and off the ice
Weaknesses: May not be a top-two center at the NHL level ... some scouts question his offensive instincts and ability to create scoring opportunities ... still needs to develop his game to be effective at the NHL, but that will take some time
And at midseason, here's what TSN had to say:
Poised to become the first Latvian-born prospect to be a first-round NHL draft choice. There's no worry about him adjusting to North American life as he's played in the U.S. since he was 15. Slated to attend the University of Vermont next season. Strengths: A smart, all-around player with size and skating ability. Good hands, heavy shot, tough and competitive, can play any style of game. A safe pick, he will play in the NHL. Weaknesses: Some scouts question his offensive instincts and ability to create scoring opportunities. May not be a top-two center at the NHL level. NHL upside: Has been compared to Colton Gillies, but with more offensive upside. The type of player that will help an NHL club win a playoff series by playing a tough, two-way game. May have the intangibles to be a top two centre.
Girgensons isn't the sexiest pick ever, but he's got good size and appears to have a good mix of skill and grit, offensive ability and defensive responsibility, and, of course, plays a position of need. The Caps haven't been afraid to draft out of the USHL in recent years (though with just one big win and limited success overall); if this was our pick, we might look to that League again and at Zemgus Girgensons.