The 2019 NHL Draft has concluded and the Washington Capitals ended up with four players selected within the first five rounds of action.
It’s time to evaluate how they did after a few days of observation.
Below are the grades, thoughts, and perhaps-totally-wrong amateur scouting opinions of Chris Cerullo.
Connor McMichael – C, London Knights OHL
Connor McMichael had a breakout sophomore season with the Knights, scoring 36 goals and tallying 72 total points in 67 games. I think McMichael was probably the safest pick at 25th overall that the Capitals could have made and I am very happy that they did so after a couple of days of reflection. In my opinion, there really isn’t a doubt that McMichael will be an NHL player one day, it’s just that his ceiling is what’s in question for me. Is he a future elite, top-line center? I don’t think so. Does he have all the ability in the world to be a shutdown second-line center that pots 25 goals a season? I think it’s possible.
The major thing that jumps out at me is that McMichael is a fantastic skater and he pairs that with a wicked release on his wrist shot as well as being an excellent defensive forward. Combine those three things and you have a surefire NHL player. His top speed is impressive and he seems to almost never be caught standing still, which is a must for anyone playing center ice in the NHL. His release on his wrist shot is very quick, smooth, accurate, and it seems like he’s only just now realizing how good it is and using it more to dent the twine. His compete level is very high in all three zones and like I said previously he is already an excellent defensive forward.
NHL Comparable: Joe Pavelski
Brett Leason – RW, Prince Albert Raiders WHL
Brett Leason is a first-round talent and the Caps got him at 56th overall in the second round. If you don’t read any further into this analysis, that’s all you really need to know about what I think of him. SportsNet’s junior hockey analyst, Sam Cosentino, was basically ready to flip the analyst table over as he saw Leason slip all the way into the Washington Capitals’ hands, labeling him the potential steal of the entire draft. After a year that saw Leason complete his first ever hockey specific training, mainly focusing on his skating, it is believed most teams were scared off by his overager status in junior hockey after being passed by in two previous drafts and his potential willingness to continue that aforementioned training for other areas of his game that need work (quicker first few steps, puck protection, etc.).
Let’s move on to some more specific analysis of the type of player the Caps got here. Leason is a classic three-zone player that consistently creates offense from all over the ice. In the offensive zone he’s a big body with a big reach that uses his size very well, has finish to his game in front of the net (36 goals, 17th in WHL), a high hockey IQ that sees him get open in dangerous scoring areas on the ice, and playmaking ability that saw him rack up a team-leading 53 assists (13th in WHL) for the Raiders last season. In the defensive zone, his play is almost just as good and valuable. His long reach sees him plug up passing lanes, turn pucks over, and transition back through neutral with possession. His powerful frame at 6-foot-4-inches tall and 200 pounds also translates very well to both his play along the boards in all zones and to any forechecking duties where he puts a ton of pressure on wary defenders. Leason’s raw, untapped potential has to be attractive to a team like the Caps that can afford to have him simmer in Hershey for maybe the next two seasons, giving the weakened system forward depth a nice jolt in the arm sooner than anticipated.
NHL Comparable: Mark Stone
Aliaksei Protas – C, Prince Albert Raiders WHL
Aliaksei Protas is a player that Caps Assistant General Manager, Ross Mahoney said had a little trouble adapting to the North American game when he first came over from Belarus to the WHL this past season. After that transition period was over though, it seems like Protas really found his stride with the Raiders on a line with fellow Caps 2019 draftee, Brett Leason. That rise is really shown when you compare his regular season point totals to his postseason point totals. In the regular season, Protas scored 11 goals and recorded 40 overall points in 61 games played. In the playoffs, Protas scored 12 goals and recorded 22 overall points in 23 games played. That rise, combined with his ridiculous size (6-foot-5-inches tall, 205 pounds) shot him up draft boards and the Caps eventually traded a few picks to be able to jump into the third round and select him.
Protas is easily the most raw of the Caps 2019 draftees as he’s still finding his way on the ice in his gigantic frame at only 18-years-old, but I think he’s going to be a standout in the WHL next season after getting his rookie year under his belt. Protas had success on the wing with the Raiders, but his future position is projected to be at center where his playmaking abilities will probably best shine. The major things that he needs to work on start with almost everything about his skating and continue with a need to get stronger, and then a need to use that strength and size to his advantage more in all zones. He’s definitely an interesting prospect to watch.
NHL Comparable: Nik Antropov
Martin Has – RHD, Tappara Liiga
The Caps weren’t going to get out of this draft without taking a big ole defenseman and this year’s ended up being Martin Hugo Has, a Czech right-handed shot currently plying his trade in Finland. The 6-foot-4-inch tall, 195-pound defenseman played most of 2018-19 with Tappara’s U20 team within the Jr. A SM-liiga, but seems primed to jump into the Tappara senior team in Liiga next season. Mike Vogel reported on draft day that Has played his youth hockey at the same rink as Jakub Vrana and also has previously played for ex-Cap Jaroslav Svejkovsky in Vancouver as a youth.
I truthfully know almost nothing about Has, but judging from his point totals and a few highlights here and there it seems like he’s a two-way defenseman that has abnormally good puck skills for a player of his size. He has a big shot from the point, isn’t afraid to get a little nasty in the physical game, but seems to struggle with his foot speed even at the junior level.
NHL Comparable: Nikita Zadorov
The Caps went into the draft looking to add to their forward prospect cupboard and they did just that with three guys that I think will be premium prospects. They took a chance on a few prospects that look to just be nearing the peaks of their junior games and only progressing even further from there. All in all, with the number of picks they came into the draft with and the number of selections they left with, I think the value is absolutely here in this small class.
I’m really excited to see these four in the upcoming Development Camp.
Overall Draft Grade: B-plus
Headline photo: NHL
Russian Machine Never Breaks is not associated with the Washington Capitals; Monumental Sports, the NHL, or its properties. Not even a little bit.
All original content on russianmachineneverbreaks.com is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)– unless otherwise stated or superseded by another license. You are free to share, copy, and remix this content so long as it is attributed, done for noncommercial purposes, and done so under a license similar to this one.