Published by hockeybuzz.com, 6-8-2018
Interesting note on the Washington Capitals roster from last night. Steve Kourianos, founder of TheDraftAnalyst, noted that the Caps had 12 first round picks on their roster. Here are their draft slots, the year they were drafted:
Alexander Ovechkin-1st-overall, 2004
Niklas Backstrom-4th, 2006
John Carlson-27th, 2008
Evgeni Kuznetsov-26th, 2010
Tom Wilson-16th, 2012
Andre Burakovsky-23rd, 2013
Jakub Vrana-13th, 2014
Brooks Orpik-18th, 2000 (PIT)
TJ Oshie-24th, 2005 (STL)
Matt Niskanen-28th, 2005 (DAL)
Lars Eller-13th, 2007 (STL)
Brett Connolly-6th, 2010 (TBL)
As shown, seven of those players were drafted by Washington with only two Caps players being drafted top-four or higher and only three total drafted top-six or higher.
All 12 of those players were on Washington's playoff roster last year. That Caps team lost a seven-game series to their nemesis, the Pittsburgh Penguins, in round two. Nine of that group were on Washington in the 2015-16 playoffs when they lost in the second round to...the Penguins, in six games. Those not on the roster that post season were--Eller (MTL,) Connolly (BOS) and Vrana who was with Washington's AHL affiliate, the Hershey Bears.
In 2014-15, Oshie was with the St. Louis Blues meaning that eight of Washington's 12 core skaters drafted in the first round have been with the team the past four seasons. Until last night when they defeated the Vegas Golden Knights to win the Stanley Cup, the Caps had lost in the second round three years running with this core.
Head coach Barry Trotz spent 15 seasons with the Nashville Predators before the Caps hired him in 2014 and he'd never gotten past the second round until this year. He was on the ice with the NHL Network talking about the quest. "You know, I've been chasing this thing for a long time and I have a lot of people I've known who've won Stanley Cups and have done a lot of things," he said. "You need a little bit of luck, you need a great group (of players,) you need to be playing well."
The Caps trailed in every series this year, but kept coming back. And that includes dropping the first two games to the Columbus Blue Jackets in the first round at home. However, they were able to win Game-3 in double overtime and Trotz had a sense something good was about to happen. "After we got that first win under our belts," he said, "I knew this team was going deep (in the playoffs.) I knew we were going to get to the Final, I knew we were going to kill some demons."
This was a different Washington Capitals team than were accustomed to seeing and it was a different Alexander Ovechkin as well. "The Great Eight" had been labeled me-first type player who choked in the playoffs and was never thought of to have enough leadership capabilities to lead his team to the promised land. But he did it, and did so by playing the best two-way hockey of his career while also scoring 15 goals in the playoffs which tied him with his individual nemsis, Sidney Crosby, for the most playoff goals in the last 20 years.
So what does this all mean?
Props to Caps management who stuck with a core group despite many playoff failures and to their scouting staffs who found their own prospects at the amateur level and added pieces at the pro level. In the age of analytics, coaching still matters, as does leadership and luck, amongst many other factors, is always in the mix.
Finally, hats off to the Golden Knights who went on an incredible run, but in the end, talent usually wins out, and that was the case here.
Onward to the off season.
The Buffalo Sabres had 10 first round picks on their full-time roster this season and finished dead last:
Zemgus Girgensons---14th, 2012
Rasmus Ristolainen--8th, 2013
Sam Reinhart--2nd, 2014
Jack Eichel--2nd-overall, 2015
Benoit Pouliot--4th, 2005
Kyle Okposo--6th, 2006
Zach Bogosian--3rd, 2008 (ATL)
Evander Kane--4th, 2009 (ATL)
Jacob Josefson--20th, 2009 (NJD)
Nathan Beaulieu--17th, 2011 (MTL)
Of that grouping above, Kane was traded at the trade deadline, Josefson has already signed to play overseas and it's not expected that Pouliot will be re-signed and of the remaining, only Eichel is sure to be a franchise cornerstone moving forward.
Not listed was Casey Mittelstadt a 2017 eighth-overall pick who spent one year in college and played in six games for the Sabres last season. It's a bit early to call him a cornerstone but his play in those games has pretty much placed him on the untouchable list while simultaneously putting center Ryan O'Reilly firmly in the rumor mill this summer.
And, of course, the Sabres have the first selection overall in the 2018 NHL Draft and unless a catastrophe happens, they will be selecting defenseman Rasmus Dahlin whom is looked to as another franchise cornerstone.
Eichel, Dahlin, Mittelstadt. Three first rounders that look to move this Sabres franchise forward near term.
The end of the Stanley Cup playoffs means the beginning of the off season and first thing up is the NHL Draft.
Buffalo won the draft lottery and will select first overall. Carolina made a huge jump and will be selecting second while the Montreal Canadiens are selecting third. It's expected that the Hurricanes will select Andrei Svechnikov while the Habs are expected to take Filip Zadina.
Both players are extremely talented wingers whom the 'Canes and Canadiens would be hard pressed to pass on. And, oddly enough, both teams could really use a center, of which there are few and far between in the first round.
Which brings us to O'Reilly.
Rumors are running rampant that O'Reilly will be moved either because the team wants to move him or he wants to move on from the team. Carolina and Montreal top the list of possible destinations while teams like the St. Louis Blues and Vancouver Canucks are also said to be interested.
What's also to be determined is the price a team is willing to pay for O'Reilly, who is a top-six center with a $7.5 million cap-hit. He's been consistent throughout his career and arguments can be made from all sides as to what his true value is.
As always, it's up to the buyer and he'll be worth what someone is willing to pay for him.