The 2018 NHL Draft has concluded and the Washington Capitals ended up with seven players selected over seven full rounds of action. It’s time to evaluate how they did.
Below are the grades, thoughts, and perhaps-totally-wrong amateur scouting opinions of Chris Cerullo.
Alexander Alexeyev – LHD, Red Deer Rebels WHL
I watched a ton of tape on this kid before he was selected by the Caps with pick 31 of the first round. He was my 5th ranked defender in the entire class, which is higher than most well-regarded pre-draft boards out there had him. What jumped out at me first is his size, but it’s the effortlessness with which he moves at that size that is so tantalizing.
Alexeyev has soft hands for a defenseman, has a hard, accurate slap shot, moves the puck with intelligence, isn’t afraid of joining the rush, is a fantastic passer with great vision, and has an active, dependable stick in the defensive zone. He’s very much part of a new breed of NHL defensemen that must have the above qualities to succeed at the highest level – but in a gigantic frame.
I compared him to Ducks defenseman Josh Manson, one of my favorite players in the NHL, in my pre-draft coverage. I’ll stick to that, but it’s not exact. Manson is a lot more physical and adding physicality is really the only thing I’d want from Alexeyev going forward other than keeping the path he’s currently on with his development. He compared himself to Victor Hedman at the draft, which I see in his skating stride and heady play, but let’s pump the brakes on that. I don’t think Alexeyev will ever produce offensively like Hedman currently does.
Like I said, I loved Alexeyev pre-draft. Here’s what I had on him prior to Friday night. I love this pick.
Big (6-foot-4-inch, 200-pound) two-way defenseman that matches his size with agility and sneaky quickness. Alexeyev is just as comfortable in a run and gun type environment as he is in a more trap style, slow paced system. That adaptability, mature play for his age, and good first pass out of the defensive zone makes him one of my top wants for the Caps in this draft. If he’s there at #31, he’s who I would want barring any major falls for any higher ranked prospects. NHL comparable: Josh Manson
Martin Fehérváry – LHD, HV71 SHL
Here’s where I’m going to get a little negative. I had Fehervary behind five defensemen on my board and about ten forwards. The main defenseman that I was saddened to see passed by was Calen Addison, a player I watched a lot in the WHL playoffs. I trust that the Capitals keyed in on their guy here, but I also don’t think it’s any mistake that the next nine picks after their two second round selections all ended up being players that I highlighted in my two pre-draft posts.
Moving on to Fehervary himself, the Caps picked up a defenseman that already has a lot of experience playing against men, both in the SHL and at the World Championships with Slovakia. He’s a mobile defenseman in the same mold as Michal Kempny, who he mentioned idolizing at his after-draft press conference. Like Kempny, you’re probably not going to get much offense from him, although both have pretty great shots. For me personally, I didn’t think he had the offensive chops to match up with someone like Addison or the defensive chops to match up with someone like Adam Ginning, another player taken after Fehervary.
Kody Clark – RW, Ottawa 67’s OHL
This is the selection I have the most trouble with. I don’t get how you can pass up Akil Thomas here if you’re taking a winger. I would have even preferred one of my personal favorites of the draft in Blake McLaughlin. This is not a slight at Clark the player, but the value that fell to the Caps at these two picks was astounding to me. I just think the Caps reached a little too much here in the second and didn’t take enough of a chance with some of the bigger-but-riskier names that were available. I had Thomas, McLaughlin, Kirill Marchenko, Jake Wise, Benoit-Olivier Groulx, Jacob Olofsson (another personal favorite), Jack McBain, Niklas Nordgren, and Jakub Lauko all ranked higher than Clark.
Kody is the son of Toronto Maple Leafs legend, Wendel Clark and like Wendel he plays a gritty, physical-style game. Clark had 39 points in 56 games in the OHL regular season and went pointless in five postseason matchups.
Riley Sutter – RW, Everett Silvertips WHL
There isn’t a player taken in the 12 or so picks before Sutter that I would have selected over him and I can say the same thing about any player taken after him. With that, the Caps were right on the money with this pick as far as I am concerned. The obvious bloodline is there as Riley will become the latest addition to the NHL’s Sutter dynasty and I really like the role he played with the Silvertips.
Sutter recorded 53 points in 68 games as well as 19 points in 21 postseason games with Everett this season. He did so while being matched up every night with the opposition’s toughest skaters, which is one of the reasons why I believe there may be some untapped offensive potential in him. He has great size (six-foot-three-inches, 205-pounds), a little snarl to his game, and the physicality to go with that.
His biggest weakness is that he’s pretty slow. The NHL is getting faster and faster every year so Sutter really needs to key in on gaining a step or two.
Mitchell Gibson – G, Lone Star Brahmas NAHL
First things first, I have full trust in Ross Mahoney and company in drafting goaltenders. For my money the Caps are the best in the league at doing so. If you remember, they took both Braden Holtby and Philipp Grubauer in the fourth round in past drafts. I just don’t think the organization really needed to use a mid-round pick on another goalie with the depth they already have at the position, but the Caps love adding to their netminder pool at almost every draft.
One thing that Gibson has going for him is that he is somewhat of a disciple of goaltending guru Mitch Korn. Only somewhat because he gets Korn’s teaching secondhand from his current goalie coach, a student of Korn. Gibson also likens his personal playing style to current Caps starter and Stanley Cup Champion, Braden Holtby. Yes, please.
Gibson played in a weaker junior league than most of the goaltenders ranked around him, but he had sparkling numbers. He led all qualified goalies in the NAHL in goals against average (1.59), save percentage (.935), and shutouts (11). No other NAHL goaltender was close to topping him in any of those categories. On top of all that, he seems like a fantastic, engaging, hardworking kid who is eventually headed to Harvard, where he plans on majoring in government. His grade takes a hit purely because of the organizational depth the Caps have at his position.
Alex Kannok-Leipert – RHD, Vancouver Giants WHL
We can assume the Caps had information on a team planning on taking AKL before he got to their pick in the 6th round, as they traded up 25 picks to grab him. I once again trust Mahoney and his extensive knowledge of the WHL, but I’m just not sure giving up assets to move up and take this player was really that worthwhile, as he was a projected seventh-round pick at best in most rankings. Note that we are talking about moving sixth- and seventh-round picks here, so it’s not really that big of a deal.
Kannok-Leipert is a right-handed defenseman, which the Capitals don’t exactly have in excess. Outside of that and the fact that he had 21 points in 60 games last season in the WHL, I know really nothing about him. He will be one to learn more about at development camp.
Eric Florchuk – C, Saskatoon Blades WHL
Florchuk’s going to get a higher grade because for being the last player taken in the draft, I think he’s actually an intriguing find for the Capitals. There are actually some scouting networks out there that had him within their top 150 players in this draft.
It’s said that Florchuk is not spectacular at any one thing but also not awful at any one thing either. I’ve never seen a second of him on the ice, but, hey, getting someone with actual value and potential with the very last pick of a draft is a win in my book.
The Caps hit a home run with three of their picks. That being said, I personally think they could have potentially had a much stronger two days if they had taken a couple more risks in the second round. That’s my main objection to this draft: it was too safe.
The grades for these players are speculative, and I hope every single one becomes an all-star with the Capitals.
Overall Draft Grade: ~ C-plus
Headline photo: NHL
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