Will Caps trade up to draft a defenseman?

Will Caps trade up to draft a defenseman?
June 18, 2014, 3:45 pm
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As the Capitals’ director of amateur scouting for the past 16 years, Ross Mahoney has seen the ebbs and flows of NHL draft years and that may be one reason he is not writing off this year’s class as a subpar one.

“It’s a decent year,” Mahoney said when asked about the overall depth of this year’s draft, which will be held June 27-28 in Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center.

“The depth might not be there as it is in other years, but it’s our job to find players no matter what type of year it is. These guys can prove us wrong four or five years from now.”

The Capitals own the 13th overall pick of the draft, their second-highest selection since 2007, and it will be interesting to see if they break their trend of taking a forward with their first pick. Since taking defenseman Karl Alzner fifth overall in 2007, the Caps have taken five forwards [Anton Gustafsson, Marcus Johansson, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Filip Forsberg and Andre Burakovsky] and one goaltender [Stefan Sobertg] with their first selections.

This year’s draft class is top-heavy at the forward position, with top-rated blue liner Aaron Ekblad the only defenseman expected to go in the top 10. The top-rated defenseman behind Ekblad on many mock drafts is Haydn Fleury, a sturdy 6-foot-2, 204-pounder from the Red Deer Rebels.

Fleury is projected to go at No. 11 and Predators general manager David Poile has indicated he might be willing to trade his pick for a top six forward. [Feel free to insert your own trade proposal here].

Mahoney, who on Monday was promoted to assistant general manager, said the Caps have discussed the possibility of moving up and down in the draft, depending on whom they think will be available at No. 13.

“Our philosophy has always been to take the best player available to us,” said Mahoney, who will retain his role as director of amateur scouting while advising general manager Brian MacLellan in all player-related matters. “You don’t want to pass on a player specifically for a position and then have that player turn out to be a much better than the positional player you took."

[RELATED: Which goalie should Caps pursue this summer?]

“Having said that, all things being equal, you always want to try to be strong down the middle with good centers and good defensemen. But we’ve always tried to take the best player available.”

A quick look at the Capitals’ organizational depth chart shows strength at left wing with Andre Burakovsky and Zach Sanford, right wing with Riley Barber and defense with Madison Bowey, Christian Djoos, Tyler Lewington and Blake Heinrich--but there seems to be a lack of centers and goaltenders within the Caps’ farm system.

Mahoney said he thinks Burakovsky and Bowey, both 19, could challenge for a spot with the Capitals next season; however, he indicated both need to improve their physical strength to handle the rigors of an 82-game season.  

“We can’t forget some of these young men are 18 and 19 years old trying to win positions in a man’s league, the best league in the world,” Mahoney said. “Strength for young guys sometimes becomes an issue.”

Here’s a complete list of the Capitals’ picks heading into next week’s draft:

Round 1: 13th overall

Round 2: 44th

Round 3: 74th

Round 4: 104th, 118th

Round 5: 134th

Round 6: 164th

Round 7: 192nd, 194th