The Washington Capitals will have a chance to move up to one of the top three spots in the 2023 NHL Draft at Monday’s lottery. But the cold reality is that they have a much larger probability of ending up picking either eighth, ninth, or tenth overall.
We’ve covered the potential top three picks in this year’s class in Connor Bedard, Adam Fantilli, and Matvei Michkov in case the Caps are blessed with good luck from the Hockey Gods.
Now, we’ll take a look at some maybe lesser-known names the Caps are much more mathematically likely to be targeting come June.
Dalibor Dvorsky – C, AIK (Allsvenskan)
#3 ranked European skater by NHL Central Scouting
Dvorksy played the majority of the 2022-23 season against men in the second tier of pro hockey in Sweden. He recorded 14 points (6g, 8a) in 38 games which doesn’t seem all that impressive but it was good for the eighth-best age-17 season in HockeyAllsvenskan history. His .37 points per game see him rank above names like Elias Pettersson (.36), Jesper Bratt (.35), William Karlsson (.29), and Andre Burakovsky (.26) in terms of their respective outputs in the league at 17 years old.
The six-foot, one-inch, 201-pound center did excel for the second season in a row at the Swedish junior level as well. In 43 games in the J20 Nationell league spread over his age-16 and age-17 seasons, Dvorsky has put up 61 points (30g, 31a). That scoring rate (1.42 points per game) puts him in elite company yet again. The list of names he has outpaced includes Henrik Sedin (1.38), William Nylander (1.32), Elias Lindholm (1.29), and Lucas Raymond (1.15).
The feisty Slovak was also the second-leading scorer of the 2021 Hlinka Gretzky Cup behind just Michkov. He is a dangerous goal scorer, doesn’t shy away from throwing his body around, and has been an excellent faceoff man against others in his age group.
Eduard Sale – LW, Brno (Czech Extraliga)
#4 ranked European skater by NHL Central Scouting
Sale played a lot of hockey this past season, getting into 72 games for club and country. The Czech winger is another player in this draft class that played the majority of the year against men. He put up 14 points (7g, 7a) in 43 games, playing limited minutes for Brno in the Czech Extraliga. The 14 points are tied for the sixth-most in a single season by a U18 player in the league.
The six-foot, two-inch, 174-pound left wing notched six points (1g, 5a) in seven games as Czechia took down a silver medal at the 2023 IIHF U20 World Championship. Sale was selected by the Barrie Colts of the OHL in the 2022 CHL Import Draft but chose to stick it out in Czech pro hockey as opposed to coming over and playing North American junior.
Sale has all the potential to become a top-line winger in the NHL as he has a unique toolset with his length and the ability to make plays in traffic. The big question mark on him is consistency as he tends to be a very hot or cold type of forward.
Zach Benson – LW, Winnipeg (WHL)
#6 ranked North American skater by NHL Central Scouting
Benson could very well be off the board by the time the Caps get on the clock at eight, nine, or ten. The only real knock on him is his size as he stands at only five-foot-nine, and weighs just 163 pounds. Outside of that, Benson has been an elite point producer on good Winnipeg Ice teams in the WHL.
Last season, Benson recorded 98 points (36g, 62a) in 60 games and was the third-highest scorer in the WHL behind only Bedard (143) and Chase Wheatcroft (107). It was his third year in the WHL with Winnipeg after starting his CHL career as a 15-year-old during the 2020-21 campaign and putting up 20 points (10g, 10a) in 24 games.
Benson is one of the best passers in this entire class and has a “jumpy”, elusive nature with the puck that makes him incredibly hard to defend. Despite his size, he is also one of the first players to dive into corner battles and is trusted at all strengths by his coaches.
David Reinbacher – RHD, Kloten (National League)
#5 ranked European skater by NHL Central Scouting
The Capitals could have the opportunity to pluck the first defenseman off the board if Reinbacher gets to them at the back portion of the top ten. The 2023 class is light on defensemen at the top but that doesn’t mean Reinbacher is any sort of slouch or would be a reach if they were to select him.
Reinbacher is a six-foot, two-inch, 187-pound defender that played top minutes against men in Switzerland’s top league this past season. The right-shot blueliner had the second-best offensive draft season by a player in National League history, behind just Maple Leafs superstar Auston Matthews. After an impressive performance as one of Austria’s alternate captains at the 2023 World Junior Championship, Reinbacher is expected to feature in this summer’s World Championship after already seeing seven games of senior international experience.
The 18-year-old has all the tools you want to see in a modern NHL defenseman. He is a true two-way, ultra-mobile rearguard with size that has top-pairing potential.
Ryan Leonard – RW, USA U18 (USNTDP)
#5 ranked North American skater by NHL Central Scouting
Leonard, a Boston College commit, ended his 2022-23 season with a standout offensive performance in the U18 World Championship for the USA. In seven games, Leonard blitzed the competition for 17 points (8g, 9a) and scored the overtime, gold-medal winner against Sweden.
In 57 games for the U18 national team, he amassed 94 points (51g, 43a) which was good for third-best on the team. In 17 games in the USHL, he recorded 20 points (11g, 9a). Leonard played on the top line and was used at all situations, averaging over 17 minutes per game.
His main strength is his ability to create and shoot off the rush and his sense for the offensive side of the game is elite. Standing at just a shade under six foot tall, Leonard is not the biggest player in the world but he makes up for it with a very high compete level.
Colby Barlow – LW, Owen Sound (OHL)
#12 ranked North American skater by NHL Central Scouting
Barlow loves to shoot the puck and he is very good at it. In his first OHL season, he was a 30-goal scorer for the Attack and this past season he potted 46 more goals which ranked fifth in the entire league. He adds an above-average defensive game to that goal-scoring which makes him a likely early pick.
At the 2022 Hlinka Gretzky Cup, Barlow played a bit of a limited role and still managed to come out of the action a point-per-game player with five points (2g, 3a) from five games.
His main strength is obviously his shooting ability as he’s able to score goals from all over the offensive zone. He has a great shot off the rush and can get away one of the best one-timers in the class. He could do with adding a touch more physicality to his game and his skating is still lacking in some areas.
It has been quite some time since the Capitals had such an exciting draft awaiting them, especially with a highly-anticipated, deep class of prospects. Even if they do not jump up to one of the prime positions, they are guaranteed a top-ten selection. The Caps have not picked in the top ten since taking Karl Alzner fifth overall in 2007.
The Draft Lottery will be held tonight at 8 PM ET and aired on ESPN.
2023 NHL Draft Prospect Profiles
Headline photo: Cara Bahniuk/RMNB
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