If the Caps should decide not to pick one of the seven players highlighted last week, there are some other options that are projected to go in the back half of the first round, as well as some early second round. Connor McMichael was on this list for us last season, so just because they aren’t in the top seven doesn’t mean they can’t turn into something special.
Let’s take a look -
Ozzy Wiesblatt, RW
5’10” - 183lbs
Anytime I watched an Alexei Protas game Ozzy was always standing out. Ozzy may be light but he plays incredibly rugged, going into the corners to retrieve pucks and dish out hits to shake loose some chances. His best skill though is his playmaking, he’s one of the better ones in the draft. His great hands and vision is what drives him. He’ll be a one man break out machine when his team needs him. He’s a smaller player but he plays a complete game and has offensive abilities to really support a shooting center, say like a McMichael. He even has the IQ to play center at the next level if the team wants to switch him there. He played some in juniors and didn’t look at out of place. Plus it would be fun to reunite Brett Leason, Protas, and Wiesblatt.
Zion Nybeck, LW/RW
Zion is small player packed with skill. He led the SuperElit league in points, the third best ever in that league’s history. Since he played so little in the SHL he didn’t get recognition like the other Swedes on in the draft. He’s a high energy player with great vision and playmaking skills but can still score. And though he’s small he’s not scared to get in the tough areas. If he was a few inches taller and was a bit faster he’d be a top 10 pick. Like a lot of players on this list, Zion is a very high ceiling but low floor player. Basically he’ll be a legit top 6 force like Viktor Arvidsson or he’ll play in Europe the rest of his career.
John-Jason Peterka, RW
5’11” - 192lbs
Of all the players listed outside my top seven, Peterka is by far my best guess who the Capitals will draft in the first round. I admit the first time I watched JJ I wasn’t too impressed but the more I read reports by others I grew to like him a lot. He’s not going to drive a line but he’s very much like Tom Wilson; he will do all the heavy lifting in the tough areas for the better players and get them the puck. But like Wilson he isn’t just a heavy winger chasing pucks, he has legit skill, finishing ability, and very good speed. His ceiling isn’t super high, he’s a safe pick, but if the Capitals want a future Wilson for McMichael, JJ makes a lot of sense.
Lukas Reichel, F
6’0” - 172lbs
Reichel is a very raw player but has some very intriguing but good potential. His best asset is his IQ at both ends of the ice. His skating is very good, which helps his transition game. He not only goes to dangerous areas but he he gets pucks to dangerous areas. Combining all of that together with his effort has turned him into a high end possession player. He needs to get stronger because he will lose the puck when challenged by much bigger players, but he is small and playing in adult league. His shot will also need work, it isn’t amazing, but he always gets to the right area to score, which is promising. He has a pretty high floor, it’s just a matter of putting it all together.
Vasili Ponomaryov, C
I remember watching Vasili for the first time when checking out Mavrik Bourgue and was really confused why he wasn’t ranked higher. It probably has to do with the fact he played behind Bourque so he didn’t get the ice time he deserved. Ponomaryov is a great skater not just in speed but strength, its very difficult to take the puck from him. He’s slow his first couple steps but once he gets going he’s got speed, along with great edges. He has fantastic vision and playmaking ability, even pulling off the Kuznetsov behind the net pass often. He’s hardworking, rarely gives up puck and if he does lose the puck he gets it back. He has a slow wind up to his shot that he’ll need to work on, but it’s very accurate. He’s a great two way player that is poised to have a breakout season sooner rather than later.
Tyson Foerster, C
6’1” - 194lbs
Foerster is a 200 foot player with lots of skill on a really bad team, but he also played in the weakest division. He has an elite one timer that he sets up in the right circle, much like Ovechkin. The concern is he relied on the power play a lot for points. He scored 34 points on the PP and 45 at even strength. He did lead the OHL PP goals with 18. The other concern is his foot speed; it’s very mediocre. The interesting part is he’s being compared to Mark Stone: a mediocre skater with great two way play and a ripper of a shot. He has long to go to reach that but it’s intriguing. He probably won’t make it as a center in the NHL and will be more of a winger.
Brendan Brisson, C
6’0” - 185lbs
Brisson is a very elusive player with a great shot and good playmaking skills. Just overall great offensive toolkit. He’ quick but not necessarily fast in a straight line. He’s a good two way player though certainly not a defensive dynamo and will need to clean up his defensive penalties. He has one of the best one timers in the draft coming from the left circle. The concerns with him are that he he is on the older side and was on a stacked team, though he did lead that team. His 5v5 output was also a little concerning, as he really shined on the powerplay more. Some in the scouting community believes he has a shot at being a number one center in the NHL others think at best he’ll be a top nine winger. Explains why his consensus is as high as 14 and as low as 41.
Ridly Greig, LW
5’11” - 159lbs
Ridley is really fun to watch because he’s such a thorn in the side of the other team. He consistently gets under the skin of opponents and is always involved in after whistle scuffles. He’s the type of player you want on your team and hate to play against. He’s a solid two way player with a lot of skill but has consistency issues. In my viewing he didn’t blow me away with any one aspect of his game but very good at so much like speed and hands. He’s also one of the youngest players in the draft, meaning he could have another level to his game. If he can reach his peak he could be a great all purpose player that pisses off the other team and helps drive possession.
Martin Chromiak, LW
6’0” - 181lbs
Chromiak went the same route as Jan Mysak where they played over in Europe then made the jump to the OHL mid season. Martin picked a good team to go to because he was slotted next future first overall pick Shane Wright. Certainly Chromiak’s point totals were from playing with Wright, but Wright also upped his production once Martin got on his line (he went from 0.43 points a game to 0.5). Why Martin was able to work so well with Shane is because he has very high hockey IQ and a great shot. He could work on his defensive game but the good news is he tries hard. He is also one of the youngest in the draft which could be the cause for his inconsistency. His young age also bodes well for improvement. He has the potential to be a great complimentary top six winger.
Thomas Bordeleau, C
Thomas is a small but complete player. He’s a great playmaker that shoots hard accurate passes, but still loves to shoot a lot himself. He’s very good at both ends of the ice. He’s an ace in the face off dot, if you care about that kind of thing. It’s very hard to find any sort of real flaw in his game. Honestly, he might be one of the first players to make the NHL from this draft. He’s just that mature and well rounded. He reminds me a lot of Tyler Johnson.
Roni Hirvonen, C
Roni is a player with great offensive instincts, especially in the playmaking area. It’s not that it’s behind the back passes or cross ice through a bunch of stick type passes, but it’s the smart, simple passes that are very effective. He has top notch speed, one of the fastest in the draft, which makes him transition pucks very well. He’s very versatile that just does the right thing in all situations. He needs to get stronger because he loves to go to the net and other dangerous area but can get knocked around there. If he can beef up he could have a real shot at an NHL top six position.
The Capitals don’t have a second round pick but could acquire one as they have shown in the past. And just because some of these players are projected to go in the second round, it wouldn’t be much of a stretch to see some grabbed in the first round. Personally, I like a lot of player listed here more than the ones listed to go in the first round above.
Tristen Robins, C
Robins is a player that’s been shooting up the draft boards with his second half take over and will probably be a player people will look down the road in five years and wonder why he was wasn’t taken higher. Tristen plays very hard and physical for his size. He has great hands, vision, and shot, which he uses a lot. Adding all of that together makes him a high end offensive threat. His point outputs at even strength and on the powerplay look almost identical to Brayden Point’s draft year. He has to work on his skating to really reach the next level and he is on the older side compared to other players. But he has a really promising toolkit of physicality and skill as a center.
Alexander Pashin, LW/RW
5’7” - 154lbs
Pashin is a high end offensive player, one of the best in the draft in terms of just overall offensive talent. Why is he ranked so low? Well he’s Russian and he’s a small boy. But don’t let his size fool you, he works extremely hard at both ends of the ice. His speed, hands, and vision are all top end. He makes things happen all over the ice. Obviously, like all smaller players he will need to get his strength up if he wants to hang with the physicality of North America. He will be a work in progress but pay off could be huge. He has potential to be not just a top six player but an elite top line player. If you could get a player like that to reach their potential then slot him next to McMichael, then watch out.
Daniil Guschin, RW
It’s hard to find any player in the draft more fun to watch than Guschin. He has high end speed and skill matched with great vision and hands. Like most players his size he can get knocked off the puck so he will need to get stronger. But even with his size he still works hard on the backcheck and forecheck. This mix of offensive and defensive effort has made Daniil a great possession players at even strength. He was the best player on his team with 11 more points in seven less games. And I know what you’re thinking, isn’t that just Pashin? Yes they are very similar, but Gischin plays in North America so he probably gets drafted first, which shows in his consensus.
Justin Sourdif, RW
5’11 - 173lbs
Justin is a play driver at 5v5 that gets little powerplay time to prove he has more in the bag. He’s gritty with good north south speed. He plays in all three zone with aggression to win most his puck battles. For such a physical player he has really good hands and an accurate shot that can beat goalies form a distance. His best asset is his IQ, he anticipates play very well. It’s why he wins most puck battles because if you know where to be and have the grit to fight for the puck, you will come out on top most of the time. He’s raw but has the ability to be a legit top six force at both ends of the ice. Reminds he a lot of Yanni Gourde.
Sam Colengelo, RW
6’2” - 207lbs
I already mentioned John-Jason Peterka as a Wilson type player because of his speed, willingness to battle, and skill, but Colengelo fits the mold even more because of his size. He’s a big boy that plays a great two way game that has very good passing ability, so he can use his speed and physical frame to get to the pucks then dish it to the high end players no his line like Brisson mentioned above. Sounds an awful a lot like Wilson. Analytically, Sam drives possession at 5v5 because of his skillset. It’s hard not to see him being an NHL player at some point. Has the ceiling to be top six but even if he doesn’t hit that he should fit well into the bottom six.
Tyler Tullio, C
Tyler is a very small but aggressive center that plays with a fire in his gut. And that effort isn’t just seen in the offensive zone but all over the ice, which every coach loves to see. He loves to get the puck and never give it up. And once you see him with the puck you understand why; he’s incredibly smart, always making the right passes, and has a rocket of shot to use when he gets a chance. It’s no coincidence that he is involved in the vast amount of his team’s scoring no matter who he’s playing with. He reminds me of Nils Höglander from last years draft who is off to a great start this season in the SHL. If he can follow that path he has a legit top six future in the NHL.
Jean-Luc Foudy, C
5’11” - 158lbs
I say a lot in these articles that player x is “one of the best” at some attribute. But for Foudy he is the best skater in the draft. He has blazing speed and sharp edges that make him very hard to chase and attack. Even better he can keep the puck on his stick as he’s flying up the ice, much like the way Nathan MacKinnon does. Add to this that he has great passing ability, always trying to find players in high dangers areas every chance he gets. The issue is he’s incredibly inconsistent and doesn’t seem to give a damn about the defensive zone. He has a very high ceiling that could really bring a new dynamic to a team with his speed but he’ll need to clean up his game to get there.
Antonio Stranges, LW
5’10” - 170lbs
It’s going to sound like an echo of what I said above about Foudy so bare with me. If you were paying attention at all to McMichael last season you should know about Stranges. He is one of, if not, the best skaters in draft. Not necessarily with his speed but with his control and his goofy 10-and-2 style like Jeff Skinner. That skating ability really opens his vision up to the rest of the ice and allows him to dish out some high end passes. He also possess a very hard, accurate shot. His offensive skill set is top notch. The issue is he’s horrifically bad when it comes to defensive effort. He’s also inconsistent as they come. In 21 games played he scored 27 points (1.28PPG); in the other 31 games he scored just 13 points (0.42PPG). If he can fix his defensive game and get more consistent he could be viewed as a top 20 player from this draft. And if he does that he would make a great playmaking winger for McMichael to rekindle some magic with. Right now he’s a very high ceiling, very low floor player. He’s either top six in the NHL or playing in Russia by the time he’s 23.
Kasper Simontaival, RW
Jr. A SM-liiga
5’9” - 172lbs
Kasper is a high playmaking winger with great hands. The reason he so good at playmaking is because the opponent has to play his shot as well, which is also high end. His speed is really good especially with the puck, which isn’t the easiest skill to have. He probably would have been a lock for the first round but there are concerns with him about injuries. He’s very raw and will take years to get final product but could be an absolute steal if he pans out. His ceiling is very high, like top line high.