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2022 Draft Buzz: First Round Options For The Capitals

Some looks at some high potential targets for the Caps in the first round

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If there was one positive of the Capitals ending the season as a wild card team, is that they at least will get a decent first round pick. They ended up with the 20th overall pick, which is their highest one since 2013 when they had the 13th overall pick. The bonus is this draft has a really heavy first round with lots of good players to snag.

Note that a lot of my info comes from people much smarter than me that will be listed at the end of this article. I try to watch as many games as I can of these players to get my looks, but I find these players because the hard work of others that you should support if you’re interested in the draft.

Let’s get into. This is not a list of the best players in the draft, it’s a list of semi-realistic to realistic picks that should be available for the Caps to select at pick 20. I listed them, in my opinion, from best to “worst”. Worst meaning just in terms of a specific player compared to rest of the list.

Frank Nazar, C
5’10”, 181lbs
18yo, 1/14/04
Consolidated Rankings: 8

Nazar is one of the classic “if he was 3 inch taller” players. If he was he’d easily be a top 5, maybe top 3 player. He has high end skill, skating and speed. He can dish out pucks as well as he can shoot. He scores more because he knows where the puck is going to be more than his actual shot. He’s an offensive dynamo that is getting a lot of Brayden Point comparisons. Don’t let his size full you though, he will throw his body and do anything to get the puck back. He’s more than likely won’t be there at 20 (though some mock drafts have him falling to 20 such as The Athletics mock draft) but size might scare people off enough so he can get into range to trade up and get him. He has first line ability and if he’s in an area the Caps can grab him, they must do it.

Kevin Korchinski, LHD
6’2”, 185lbs
18yo, 6/21/04
Consolidated Rankings: 14

Kevin is the embodiment of offensive defensemen. He is literally all offense and just about zero defense. He’s big with great agility and escape ability. He loves to draw defensemen into him then cut away creating lots of space where he can use his vision and hands to find the open man. He’s an elite transition player. It’s graceful to watch him skate the puck out of his zone and into the offensive zone where he’s lethal. Issue is he’s quite terrible defensively, at least in terms of when he doesn’t have the puck in the defensive zone, once he has it, he’s great at getting the puck out. But it doesn’t matter how good you are offensively, if he puts in the same effort defensively in the NHL as he does in the WHL, there will be no time for him to make use of his offensive skill. But the ceiling is way too high to not pick him if he’s there at 20 for the Caps. He looks like a John Klingberg type player, who also isn’t great defensively but he does enough that he’s still able to get done what he needs to offensively.

Pavel Mintyukov, LHD
6’1”, 192lbs
18yo, 11/25/03
Consolidated Rankings: 12

Pavel is a very smart defensemen that is great in the neutral zone and the transition game. Once he’s in the offensive zone he uses his great vision, puck handling, and brain to break down the opponent to create scoring chances. The wild thing is how well Pavel did offensively on one of those worst teams in the league AND he didn’t even play hockey the season before (2020-2021). Imagine him playing hockey last season and playing on a good team this season; his numbers would be through the roof. There’s some defensive issues with Pavel but by all accounts it’s more that he wants to help his team offensively so he puts all his effort into that. He’s a smart kid and very teachable. If he can sort out his defensive game, which seems very possible, he has a high ceiling of being a great two way defensemen.

Denton Mateychuk, LHD
5’11”, 194lbs
17yo, 7/12/04
Consolidated Rankings: 15

You might have noticed a pattern here: the last three picks have been defensemen. That’s because these three defensemen (including Korchinski and Mintukov) are known as the second tier defensemen (after David Jiricek and Simon Nemev). But don’t let that “second” scare you away, these three defensemen are high end with top three ability. The last of these three is Mateychuk, but that doesn’t mean he’s the worst of the three, actually he could be the best among them. Denton brings what the other two don’t: reliable, proven defense. This also doesn’t mean he can’t do much offensively because he’s still very strong there, just maybe not as much as the other two in pure offensive ability. Maybe sacrificing just some of that offense for a much better defensive player is worth it. He comes across as a much better skating Dmitry Orlov with a little more offensive tool kit. I’ll take a player like that all day. If he was a couple inches taller there’s no way he’d be available to the Caps. What’s most intriguing is he’s one of the youngest players in the draft, meaning we might not even know what his ceiling could be. I would have no problem if he was taken over the other two.

Ivan Miroshnichenko, LW
6’1”, 185lbs
18yo, 4/4/04
Consolidated Rankings: 18

Ivan would not be on this list if it wasn’t for two unfortunate events: the unjust invasion of Ukraine by Russia (which has scared multiple teams away from drafting Russians) and Ivan being diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma in March. If neither of those things happened he’s be a top five pick, way out of the Caps reach. Miro is a big, very strong skating winger with one of the best shots in the draft, if not the best. His hands are good and he reads plays well, though his effort can wain at times (but that could have been due to the Hodgkins). He has top line potential with Tarasenko type ceiling. He already been cleared to start skating after treatment for the Hodgkins and is preparing to play next season. If he’s there at pick 20 the Caps should pounce.

Gleb Trikozov, C/W
6’1”, 185lbs
17yo, 8/12/04
Rankings: 28

There isn’t much difference between Danila Yurov (listed next) and Trikozov: both have good size, speed, skill, and defensive ability, though it varies between them. Gleb is a very creative, smart playmaking winger. His playmaking probably trumps Yurov’s but Yurov’s edges are more refined as Gleb is more raw. Still, Gleb is incredibly dynamic, and also has good work ethic on defense. His shot is also above average so when his playmaking isn’t there he still lethal with the puck. If Caps miss out on one of Yurov or Gleb, they should be able to grab the other. I had Yurov in front of Gleb most the season but there’s a very real chance Gleb is better than Yurov due to the fact Gleb is one of the youngest players in the draft. If Gleb is similar to Yurov now, how will he look when he’s Yurov’s age in 8 months? Probably better. He easily has top six winger capability, but could become a top line player as well.

Danila Yurov, RW
6’1”, 179lbs
18yo, 12/22/03
Consolidated Rankings: 11

Yurov is a hardworking player that has a great all around tool kit. His puck skills are top notch, able to deke around anybody at high speeds. He finds teammates in soft areas and has an above average shot to add to his repertoire. With a lot of Russians, you usually wish to see their defensive game improve, but Yurov is strong at both ends of the ice. He backchecks hard and will eliminate threats along the boards to free the puck up. The issue with Yurov is he was too good for the MHL, but his KHL team barely played him all season in the 40 games he played between the regular and post season, so it’s hard to nail down his game and potential. He should have played in the VHL (basically Russia’s AHL) to play some time against players tougher than the MHL but not as good as the KHL. He’ll fall due to him being Russian and would be a great add for the Caps. Like Gleb, has top six skill and work ethic.

Brad Lambert, C/W
6’0”, 183lbs
18yo, 12/19/03
Consolidated Rankings: 13

Last summer, Lambert was projected to be the first overall pick in this draft, or at the very least fight Shane Wright for the spot. But a year later and a very underwhelming year in Finland he’s fallen out of the first round for some and even on some “no draft” lists for teams. What made him a first overall talent last summer was his skating, arguably the best in the draft, mixed with his top end hands and vision. He’s a transition master, able to carry the puck from any where he gets it to anywhere he wants it, few could challenge to stop him because his talent. The concern with him is when he’s pressured he could make mistakes, trying to do too much, so many question is brain. His ceiling might be one of the highest in the draft, but his floor is super low. He’ll either be a first line dynamo in the NHL or will be playing in Europe for the rest of the his career. I’m a swing for the fence kind of guy so I’d tell the Caps to go for it if he was available.

Marco Kasper, C
6’2”, 187lbs
18yo, 4/8/04
Consolidated Rankings: 17

Kaper has an unending motor that powers him up and down the ice. He has great size and mixed with his powerful skating, he’ll cause a ruckus for the opponents, delivering hard hits that might not destroy an opponent but enough to free up the puck. His athleticism in general might be the best in the draft. His game is simple, which can be good and bad. His ceiling as an offensive threat isn’t super high, but his floor is so high as well, that you are getting a NHL player no matter what. His work ethic and drive won’t allow anything less. At worst you’re getting a reliable, two way top nine player, and at best a top six defensive player that will be in the NHL very soon. It’s fitting him and Lambert are listed next to each other: want the high skilled but unknown player or the super reliable player that might not have the highest ceiling?

Liam Öhgren, LW
6’1”. 201lbs
18yo, 1/28/04
Consolidated Rankings: 19

Ohgren is a hard working two way winger that might be one of the best north south players in the draft. Like Kasper, his floor is really high and though his ceiling might not be incredibly high, it’s still quite good. Also like Kasper, Liam is physically and mentally ready for the pros. They both might need a year of cooking but they could play in the AHL or even NHL soon after that, which could attract the Caps who have limited years left to go for a Cup. Liam also has one of the best shots in game so once he’s open he has a lot of ways to score. He has the ability to be an Ondřej Palátt type of player; they might not be able to drive their own line but will make a great complimentary piece to a top six. Those players are always crucial to a team’s success.

Isaac Howard, LW
5’10”, 181lbs
18yo, 3/30/04
Consolidated Rankings: 23

The first person I have on this list is Frank Nazar, but another player I didn’t bring up was Logan Cooley, because he’s probably going in the top five. Howard was a teammate of both of them in the USDP, USHL, and World Juniors this past season... Howard scored more than both of them (and anybody on the team). That’s wild. So why is Howard ranked much lower than them, as low as 41? His offensive tool kit might be able to match Nazar and Cooley, but he doesn’t have as a well rounded game, especially in the defensive zone. He tends to cheat a lot and give up on plays in his zone. It’s understandable as to why, because his skating, offensive IQ, and top notch shot and puck handling are so enticing he wants to just be in the offensive zone. But if he wants to make the NHL he’ll need to round out his game, if he can, he’ll be a strong top six offensive juggernaut.

Jagger Firkus, C/W
5’10”, 154lbs
18yo, 4/29/04
Consolidated Rankings: 25

Firkus, outside of having a great name, is one the more polarizing players in the draft. Someone said it best when they said he plays on a video game mode. He has high end skill, an amazing release, one of the best hands, and he works hard; just about everything you want in a player. His draw back is his build. Usually I’m not biased to height and weight but his size makes him too easy to knock off the puck. He has absolutely huge, high skill top six, even top line upside, but a team must be willing to wait as he develops and adds on strength. If he can do that, he will be looked at one heck of a steal in this draft. Johnny Gaudreau, one of the best NHL players in the game, is still just 150lbs, but his legs and core on strong. If Firkus can do the same, he has Gaudreau ability.

Lane Hutson, LHD
5’8”, 159lbs
18yo, 2/14/04
Consolidated Rankings: Late 1st - Late 2nd

Like Nazar, if Hutson was three inches taller he’d be much higher up in everyone’s rankings, probably top 10. Hutson is a high octane offensive defensemen that’s very athletic and creative, strong, and smart. He’s everything you want in a defensemen except the size. More important than height, he needs to put on some pounds. He certainly has the effort and fire to play bigger, but it would be nice to add on some bulk to play his man more physically. He’s a bit of a project, but all he needs to do is get bigger, everything else comes to him so easily. He gets a lot of Samuel Girard comparison: small, great skating, offensive defensemen. He’s worth the gamble.

Mattias Havelid, RHD
5’10”, 172lbs
18yo, 1/1/04
Consolidated Rankings: Late 1st - Late 2nd

Havelid is much like Lane: high end offensive defensemen but can struggle defensively due to his size. Lane probably has more offensive upside but Havelid at least has some size to him. Havelid is also a better shooter, he’s great at getting open, using his hands to deke his man and skate in for a snipe. He’s a high end transitional player as well, great at getting the puck from the defensive zone into the offensive zone. His skating should be a bit better for his size but he puts in the effort at both ends of the ice, and his offensive game is more than worth the pick. He’s been getting a lot of Torey Krug comparisons.

Conor Geekie, C
6’4”, 205lbs
18yo, 5/5/04
Consolidated Rankings: 16

There’s probably a slim chance Geekie will make it to the Caps. Teams covet centers like Geekie: big, hard working, two way, with great skill. His vision and brain iare top end and his hands are there to match. He also has an underrated, heavy shot. You don’t often see a package like that, so it’s hard to see him being passed over 19 times before he gets to the Caps. His biggest weakness, by far, and it’s for most kids his size, is his skating, it’s way below average. Doesn’t matter how good he is at every other aspect, he must improve his skating to make it and stay in the NHL. The good news is he acknowledges this and said that’s all he’ll be working on this summer. If he can at least bring his skating up to being average, like Aleksei Protas did, then you’re looking at an incredibly high ceiling player that can be your number one center that can do everything at both ends of the ice.

Honorable mentions:

Noah Östlund is a small center with a big brain and good mobility, though he could be quicker. He gets pushed around too much but his raw ability to control the puck and dish out dimes shows some upside.

Filip Mesar is a reliable center with great skating ability. His transition stats are high end. He doesn’t need much more to be pro ready. His ceiling isn’t high though, but you’re getting a more certain product that will be a good third line, reliable player.

Jiri Kulich is a strong two way center with some nice size and great skating ability and motor. His shot is also top notch, one of the best in the draft. He just needs to show a bit more offensively to be taken around the Caps pick, but he does have plenty of upside.

People to thank:

Dobber Prospects

EliteProspect

Thibaud Chatel/NL Ice Data

Tonny Ferrari

The Athletic

McKeen Hockey

Hockey Prospecting

FCHockey