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.
Last year, of course, we had two picks, at 11th and 16th overall. With that 11th pick, we selected Zemgus Girgensons (Caps pick Filip Forsberg went second overall; Girgensons was selected 14th in the actual draft by Buffalo), and with the 16th pick we took Pontus Åberg, in part for that cool thing over the "A" in his name (Caps pick Tom Wilson went to New Jersey with the penultimate pick of the first round; Åberg slipped to 37th in reality, where Nashville snatched him up).
Two years 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).
Three 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... from the U.S. National Development Team, center J.T. Compher.
Rankings: CSS (34 NA), ISS (26), TSN (34), Hockey Prospectus (25)
Here he is in action:
Per Corey Pronman, who ranks Compher as the 25th-best prospect in the draft:
Compher is the top prospect to emerge from the USA development program in this draft (keeping in mind that Seth Jones played for the USNTDP last year). He is a great all-around player, above average or better at just about every area of the game, despite his 5'11" frame. He is a good skater who picks up speed well, and he has a high-energy element in his play. He forechecks and backchecks with speed, pressuring the opposition, while showing no hesitation to bang bodies. He is very skilled, with above-average puck skills and offensive instincts. On occasion, he will show elements of true offensive flash. He can make individual plays, and he tends to find his teammates well. He also has a big shot, and will be able to score from mid-distance. He is quite strong for a player of his height and age, but he will need to continue to bulk up so that he can play his style at the next level.
At midseason, here's what TSN's Craig Button had to say:
JT combines the attributes of skill and will in his game. Has a strong competitive fire, is not easily denied and has a determination to him that makes him a factor in many areas of the game. Very good quickness, is capable of making plays at high speed and can beat defenders 1-on-1 so is very difficult to play against because he keeps you off balance. Good hands with a good shot and is able to play in tight areas. Very good awareness and makes good plays with or without puck in all areas. Was plagued by an injury earlier in season but is rounding into form.
Chris Peters has Compher at #25 and offers up the following assessment:
Compher has the mix of grit and skill that scouts seem to drool over this time of year. I've also heard raves about his character and leadership ability. Compher is an excellent two-way centerman, with a quality shot and decent puck skills. He skates with power and plays with some nastiness that makes him difficult to defend.
As for comps for Compher, here's what he had to say:
"Being from Chicago, I love watching [Blackhawks captain] Jonathan Toews. He is a great two-way player, really strong defensively along with having some of the greatest skill in the world. But I think I compare myself a little to Ryan Callahan of the Rangers. He plays an agitating game, he’s a hard worker, he’s about my size and he’s a leader on his team. That’s a guy I try to emulate."
So that's our pick - a two-way center and an American kid (so you know he's got a shot at a Conn Smythe someday). What's yours?