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Draft Preview: Washington Capitals – Scouts stay in Europe

Washington’s talent-seekers not ready to return to North America just yet.

On a team led by Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Evgeny Kuznetsov, it’s not surprising the Capitals have looked to Europe for their recent draft choices. Their first two selections from 2019 hailed from overseas – Alexander Alexeyev and Martin Fehervary – while three of four picks in 2018 were European-born. In the past five drafts, 2016’s Lucas Johansen is the only North American to lead off Washington’s cohort.

IMMEDIATE NEEDS: With Michal Kempny’s serious hamstring injury and Brooks Orpik’s age, the Capitals need to take a look at their defensive depth. Signing trade-deadline prize Nick Jensen to an extension helps, but some youngsters need to step up as well.

LONG-TERM NEEDS: In the past five seasons, only once has a player not named Alex Ovechkin scored 30 goals or more for the Caps: T.J. Oshie with 33, back in 2016-17. Ovechkin won’t be a 50-goal scorer forever, and Washington needs to find someone to pick up the slack. Right now, the pipeline is dominated by blueliners, and there are no natural goal-scorers amongst the forwards in the system.

CAP SITUATION: While the Caps have their core locked up, there is work to do in the summer, and the team has about $12 million in cap space. The most intriguing case is RFA Andre Burakovsky, who is arbitration-eligible and coming off a rough year that saw him sit out games as a healthy scratch. Dmitrij Jaskin failed to find his niche and is also an arbitration-eligible RFA. Jakub Vrana is another player in need of a new deal, but he has more leverage after a 24-goal year.

IN THE SYSTEM 2019-20: Big defenseman Jonas Siegenthaler has a golden opportunity to make an impression next fall after getting into 26 games. It’s hard not to see the Capitals giving prized goalie prospect Ilya Samsonov a start or two as motivation while he grows his game in AHL Hershey.

DID YOU KNOW: Free-agent signing Bobby Nardella brings a neat bit of history with him: the Illinois native became the first defenseman to lead the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in scoring this season.

LATE-ROUND GEMS:
(2000-2018 drafts)
Braden Holtby, 93rd, ’08
Johnny Oduya, 221st, ’01
Mathieu Perreault, 177th, ’06
Cody Eakin, 85th, ’09
Philipp Grubauer, 112th, ’10
Connor Carrick, 137th, ’12
Chandler Stephenson, 77th, ’12
Christian Djoos, 195th, ’12
Sami Lepisto, 66th, ’04
Tim Kennedy, 181st, ’05

PICKS AFTER SECOND ROUND: 99
100+ NHL GAMES: 10
PERCENT SUCCESS: 10.1%
NHL RANK: 25th

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