2012 Capitals NHL Draft Preview: The Centers

The Washington Capitals  hold the 11th and 16th overall picks in this year’s draft. As such, they have a chance to re-stock a prospect pool that has become more shallow with the maturation of players like Marcus Johansson, Karl Alzner, John Carlson, Dmitry Orlov, and Michal Neuvirth. Although it is possible that George McPhee may deal one or both picks in a trade, let’s consider his options at 11 (acquired from Colorado for Semyon Varlamov) and 16.

Starting with the Centers.

The Capitals currently own Nicklas Backstrom, Marcus Johansson, Brooks Laich, Mathieu Perreault (RFA), and Jay Beagle (RFA). On their prospect rosters, there’s Cody Eakin, Mattias Sjogren, Caleb Herbert, and Zach Hamill (RFA).

The lack of top-six centers has been a problem for Washington since Sergei Fedorov left. They’ve drafted a few centers in the first round in recent years, but Anton Gustafsson was a bust, Evgeny Kuznetsov switched to wing and won’t join the Caps until 2014, and Marcus Johansson looks to be more and more comfortable at wing. That leaves the Caps with a big hole at the 2C spot. With the list of available players in this draft pool, McPhee could can fill that hole this June.

So who might be available at  the number 11 spot?

Photo credit: Getty Images

Mikhail Grigorenko, Quebec Remparts, QMJHL, 6’3″, 200 lbs. A Russian center who was considered top-5 talent throughout the draft year but saw his stock fall dramatically after mediocre playoff performance and concerns regarding his actual age. If he is still developing, he could become a superstar center with his skill, speed, and strength. If not, he’ll become another bust.

Rankings: TSN: No. 12, NHL Central Scouting: 3 NA skaters, International Scouting Services: No. 4, The Hockey News: No. 3, Button: No. 20

Photo credit: Aaron Bell/OHL Images

Radek Faksa, Kitchener Rangers, OHL, 6’3″, 203 lbs. A big Czech forward and a big riser of the draft year because of his physical game and offensive skillset. Playing in the strong Rangers program, Faksa has proper development to become a solid two-way player.

Rankings: TSN: No. 11, NHL Central Scouting: 7 NA skaters, International Scouting Services: No. 16, The Hockey News: No. 11, Button: No. 17

Photo credit: Aaron Bell/OHL Images

Brendan Gaunce, Belleville Bulls, OHL, 6’2″, 215 lbs. This strong center turned heads with a confident performance at the NHL Combine, where he made the top-10 in 12 of 29 events. He’s one of the most NHL-ready prospects in the draft, and he possesses a strong combination of skill and physical abilities.

Rankings: TSN: No. 20, NHL Central Scouting: 13 NA skaters, International Scouting Services: No. 11, The Hockey News: No. 17, Button: No. 38

Zemgus Girgensons, Dubuque Fighting Saints, USHL, 6’2″, 198 lbs. A versatile Latvian who has declined offers from the CHL and commited to the University of Vermont said that he considers the AHL an option. That could raise his draft stock.

Rankings: TSN: No. 13, NHL Central Scouting: 18 NA skaters, International Scouting Services: No. 24, The Hockey News: No. 16, Button: No. 16

And who might be available at number 16?

Photo credit: The Hockey Writers

Stefan Matteau, US NTDP, USHL, 6’1″, 210 lbs. Son of the former New York Ranger Stephane Matteaum, Stefan is known for his gritty, sometimes over-the-line style of play. He’s been suspended for charging with an attempt to injure, hitting the referee, and spearing. An American of French Canadian origin, he will play in the QMJHL next year.

Rankings: TSN: No. 23, NHL Central Scouting: 17 NA skaters, International Scouting Services: No. 31, The Hockey News: No. 30, Button: No. 48

Photo credit: Aaron Bell/OHL Images

Scott Laughton, Oshawa Generals, OHL, 6’0″, 180 lbs. He is not the most skilled nor the most physical player, but he compensates it with good decision-making and hockey smarts. Laughton plays well at both ends of the ice with big responsibility, though his offensive upside is a concern.

Rankings: TSN: No. 28, NHL Central Scouting: 28 NA skaters, International Scouting Services: No. 23, The Hockey News: No. 42, Button: No. 24

Photo credit: IIHF

Tomas Hertl, Slavia, Czech Extraleague, 6’2″, 198 lbs. European players often end up as steals in the draft. Like Laughton, Hertl doesn’t possess an outstanding offensive talent, but he has good hands, vision, and size. He’s also a very responsible player, which is always a good sign for the scouts.

Rankings: TSN: No. 19, NHL Central Scouting: 5 EU skaters, International Scouting Services: No. 32, The Hockey News: No. 24, Button: No. 22