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NHL Mock Draft 2020: Washington Capitals select Marat Khusnutdinov with No. 24 pick

It’s that time of year again – the SB Nation NHL mock draft! Every year, SB Nation has the NHL sites do a mock draft in the weeks leading up to the upcoming NHL Entry Draft, and your team at Japers’ Rink is on the clock.

2020/2021 Kontinental Hockey League: SKA St Petersburg vs Ak Bars Kazan Photo by Peter Kovalev\TASS via Getty Images

With the benefit of hindsight, the Japers’ Rink team has done a decent job in past years. In last year’s mock draft we chose Patrik Puistola with the 25th overall pick who has been looking like a real top six talent... we should have known better than to think the Capitals would draft a Finn.

But thank goodness Capitals brass didn’t listen to us because in reality they used the 25th overall pick on goal scoring center Connor McMichael who is now looking like a legit steal of the 2019 draft.

In 2018 we selected Jesperi Kotkaniemi with the 11th overall pick, after trading Philipp Grubauer and our first-round pick to the New York Islanders. In reality, Kotkaniemi went third overall to Montreal, and the Capitals took Alexander Alexeyev with the 31st overall pick.

Lacking a pick in 2017, we chose Alex DeBrincat with the 26th pick three years ago – DeBrincat was actually (foolishly) passed over in the first round and dropped to Chicago with the 39th pick, while the Caps took Lucas Johansen (a fine young lad).

In 2015, we took Joel Eriksson Ek with our 22nd pick. Eriksson Ek actually went to Minnesota at 20th-overall, while the Caps selected Ilya Samsonov. We are happy we didn’t get that pick right as Samsonov is looking like a future top five goalie, and though Eriksson Ek looks like a real good defensive center, he might max out as a middle six center at best.

The year before that, we picked Julius Honka with the 13th overall pick. In reality, Honka went to the Dallas Stars with the 14th-overall pick, and the Capitals selected Jakub Vrana. Looking back, we’re pretty okay with getting that one wrong after Vrana’s has been an elite winger for a couple years and Honka hasn’t found a NHL home (even though he should).

In 2013, we selected J.T. Compher with our 23rd pick, but he was ultimately drafted 35th overall by the Buffalo Sabres. Instead, the Capitals opted for Andre Burakovsky, who went 20th overall to the San Jose Sharks in the mock draft. Again, we’re happy we were wrong. PS: miss you Bura.

The year before that, we had not one, but TWO first round picks. With the 11th and 16th picks, we chose Zemgus Girgensons and Pontus Åberg. In the actual 2012 draft, the Capitals selected Tom WIlson with the 16th overall pick and [redacted] with the 11th overall pick. We were off on that.

In 2011, we selected Scott Mayfield with the 26th pick. Mayfield actually went to the New York Islanders with the 34 overall pick, and the Caps traded their 26th overall pick for Troy Brouwer.

And last, but certainly not least, we took Brock Nelson with our 26th overall pick in 2010. Nelson actually went to the Islanders with the 30th overall pick and the Capitals took Evgeny Kuznetsov, who was selected by the 24 overall pick in the mock draft by the Atlanta Thrashers. Nelson ended up being a Cap killer, but the Capitals likely don’t win a Cup without top-tier Kuznetsov.

So, in retrospect, we’ve never actually been right! Whatever. That’s the past, we’re moving on now. With the 25th pick of the 2020 SB Nation NHL Mock Draft, Japers’ Rink is proud to select, from SKA-1946 St. Petersburg of the MHL in Russia, Marat Khusnutdinov.

Marat is a young all around center that does everything extremely well. He has high end speed and skating ability, great vision, elite IQ, and a willingness to get dirty. He can be used in any situation at any time of the game and the coach wouldn’t have to worry a bit. The best part about him is at the very worst he should be a great middle six center much like Lars Eller, but at his best he has legit first line center ceiling. He has Sebastian Aho potential.

This is what the professionals had to say about him:

He plays the full 200-feet of the ice, with one of the best motors in this class. He’ll relentlessly backcheck as play transitions towards the defensive zone, and his ability to track developing plays while he’s skating at full speed really impressed us over the year. Khusnutdinov is also proficient at carrying the puck into the offensive zone. [Elite Prospect]

Khusnutdinov makes plays all over the ice. He’s a responsible three-zone player, he doesn’t shy away from playing to the interior, he’s got enough skill to make plays from the exterior and he tracks the play exceptionally well. [Scott Wheeler, The Athletic]

A high-energy playmaker who makes things happen whenever he steps on the ice. A responsible two-way center who plays a strong 200-foot game. Slightly undersized but doesn’t shy away from action. Good leadership abilities. [Dobber Prospects]

His scope of responsibility increased dramatically while playing for Team Russia’s under-18 program, and Khusnutdinov’s relentless puck pursuit, playmaking, and open-ice execution were critical to gold-medal wins at the U18 Ivan Hlinka and the U20 World Jr. [The Draft Analyst]

There will be a lot of teams that will shy away from him because of his small 5-foot-9, 165-pound frame, but his stature is deceptive on tape because of his highly competitive nature and aggressive style of play on both ends of the ice. He has an air of confidence about him which is evident on film with his high hockey IQ, fantastic vision, and creativeness. [The Hockey Writers]