Last year, I profiled three Russians that I thought the Capitals might consider drafting at pick number twenty six of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft: Evgeny Kuznetsov, Stanislav Galiev, and Maxim Kitsyn. Two of those three players were actually selected by the team: Kuznetsov in the first round and Galiev in the third. This year, I want to see if I can work my magic again.
The 2011 NHL Entry Draft, set to be held in St. Paul, Minnesota, on Friday, June 24th and Saturday, June 25th, will see the Capitals picking 26th for the second year in a row. Since this year’s draft pool is weak and lacks what George McPhee calls “real difference makers,” I will be focusing on four prospects who are somehow connected to the Capitals.
Alexander Khokhlachev, C, Windsor Spitfires, OHL
Statistics: GP: 67, G: 34, A: 42, +/-: 9, PIM: 28
Khokhlachev is a Moscow native, just like Alex Ovechkin and Stanislav Galiev. Unlike them, however, he is not a Dynamo alumni — instead, he played for their biggest rival, Spartak, the same team Ovechkin’s cousin (who may or may not be drafted in 2012 or 2013) suits up for. Khokhlachev currently plays for the team that wears these somewhat familiar jerseys.
His offensive skills are abundant and it’s hard to miss him when he’s on the ice. He has boat loads of creativity, good speed, a good shot, great hands, especially in tight, but there’s a few things that you can’t miss that make you wonder if he’ll ever be able to make the jump. He’s very undersized, and it’s quite apparent that he needs to strengthen his body significantly to develop any further. On the defensive side of the puck, he often looks lost and out of position. Comparable: Michael Grabner
When at his best, he’s flying around the ice, turning defenders inside out and wiring pucks to the back of the net from just about any spot in the offensive zone. One NHL scout we know absolutely loved Khokhlachev at the beginning of the year given how seamless his transition was to the OHL, but as the season wore on and he saw him more and more, the red flags started to surface about his overall intensity and willingness to compete when the going gets rough. Solid two-way player…when he wants to be.
Pros: Work ethic/hustle, hockey sense Cons: Consistency, playing bigger than his 5’10” size Skillset Comparison: Alexander Burmistrov
Khokhlachev is a boom-or-bust type of player with, admittedly, a very high ceiling. But with guys like Galiev, Kugryshev, and Perreault already in the system, do the Capitals need another flashy stick-handler who is not a maven in his own end?
Nicklas Jensen, LW/RW, Oshawa Generals
Statistics: GP: 61, G: 29, A: 29, +/-: 14, PIM: 58
From his NHL.com profile:
Favorite NHL team: Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals [Ed. Note – That has to be a mistake!] Favorite NHL player: Alexander Ovechkin Favorite Shootout move: “Ovechkin fake-shot deke” Favorite Goal celebration: “Ovechkin going nuts”
He has very good size and uses it to his advantage to cycle the puck in the offensive zone. He likes to move the puck around a lot with short, crisp, accurate passes. He has strong skating with long, powerful strides, and he uses it to play the game at a higher than average pace. Comparable: Lars Eller
Perhaps the best player ever to come out of Denmark, this power forward prospect has it all: size, skill and some real intriguing NHL potential if he could just figure out how to keep his on switch engaged throughout a game.
He’s a dynamic player with great skating ability and with his size, he can fight through checks and use his skating ability to go end to end or break plays through the neutral zone. Consistency was an issue for him, but he looks to be bringing it more every game now.
NHL comparable: Nikolai Kulemin
Jensen is likely a more reliable pick than many players in this draft who are flashier, simply because he already has a bigger, more mature body and enjoys battling in the corners. With his plus size, game-breaking ability, skating and checking, he could grow into a top-six forward when he matures. His stock is quickly rising, however. He’s crept into the top 20 in some recent mock drafts.
Tomas Jurco, RW, St. John Sea Dogs
Statistics: GP: 60, G: 31, A: 25, +/-: 46, PIM: 17
Jurco is a teammate and often a linemate of another Caps prospect, Stan Galiev. He also played for the junior squads of HC Kosice, where Capitals legend Peter Bondra played for many years.
Jurco is arguably the biggest game-breaker in this draft, and has made no shortage of high-light reel plays so far in his year and a half long tenure in the QMJHL. Still has issues finding consistency with his game, however, and after a quick start his production has slowed down significantly.
Skills-wise, Jurco is a clear first-rounder, but his consistency has been the biggest concern, as he tends to go long stretches without doing much. The streakiness coupled with pretty indifferent defensive effort is largely responsible for him dropping out of contention for top-10 consideration but make no mistake- this kid is a heck of a talent.
NHL comparable: Martin Havlat
Known for his creative, jaw-dropping shootout moves in the videos above, Jurco was at his best this year when his team needed him the most: the Memorial Cup. Jurco displayed his offensive versatility, scoring in very different ways, such as utilizing his stick-handling to cash-in on a breakaway and using his noggin to knock in a puck in front of the net. While Tomas is clearly one of the more talented players in the draft, he also needs to learn how to defend in his own end and be more consistent.
Vladislav Namestnikov, RW/C, London Knights, OHL
Statistics: GP: 68, G: 30, A: 38, +/-: 12, PIM: 49
Namestnikov is playing for the Knights– coached and partially owned by former Capitals captain Dale Hunter. On a non-Caps-related note, Namestnikov is the nephew of two former NHLers — Slava Kozlov and Ivan Novoseltsev. It’s not a surprise considering that Namestnikov is from the small town in the Moscow region — Voskresensk, known as the native town of many hockey players such as Soviet stars Alexander Ragulin and Viktor Krutov, NHLers Andrei Markov, Valeri Kamensky, Valeri Zelepukin, Igor Larionov, and Sergei Berezin. Namestnikov’s father played in the NHL himself: 43 games with the Canucks, Islanders and Predators, as well as two playoff appearances and numerous seasons in the minors.
He’s tall, but still has some filling out to do, though it doesn’t hold him back too much. He has very strong skating, with a great first step and extreme agility that he uses to weave in and out of traffic. His puck control is second to none and he has terrific hands. He’s a dynamic offensive player that could hurt teams with his strong vision in the offensive zone, and great passing ability, but he also has tremendous finishing ability and a quick accurate wrist shot that he can use to easily pick corners from in close. Comparable: Milan Hejduk
Namestnikov is a smooth skater who can move up and down the ice fairly effortlessly and also is a very good puck mover. He sees the ice well and makes a lot of smart decisions with the puck which makes his linemates a lot better. Really lacks a lot of strength which is a big issue for him as he does get pushed around a bit, and he really needs to find a way to add some weight in the future.
Namestnikov is a serious skater with all the tools in the box when it comes to his feet- quick burst, top speed, shiftiness and agility. When carrying the puck at full gallop, he’s very difficult to contain. His biggest challenge is getting stronger and filling out a slight frame. He got knocked around a bit this year, but made a quick transition to the North American game given his command of the language and ease with having played in North American rinks growing up.
Pavel Datsyuk, minus the defensive ability
Namestnikov, just like Khokhlachev, doesn’t seem to be a very good fit for the Capitals, who already have Evgeny Kuznetsov developing fast in Russia. And as we all know, having former NHL players as a relative doesn’t make a pick any more reliable. Does Anton Gustafsson’s name ring any bells?
Fedor’s Pick: For the 26th pick in the draft, the Capitals should select Nicklas Jensen. I believe he can become a top-six power forward. If he’s not available, Tomas Jurco would be a solid addition.
Jensen, who was one of the strongest players at the draft combine this year, may not necessarily have the high ceiling Jurco or Khokhlachev has, but he has a better chance of reaching his full potential. He’s the type of player the Capitals can always use more of: unafraid to crash the net and score dirty goals. Jensen also could be effective on the third or fourth lines if he’ doesn’t become a top six forward.
Additional reporting by Ian Oland and Chris Gordon.