2012 Capitals NHL Draft Preview: Defensemen

[Editor’s note: Here comes installment number three of our draft coverage. Part 1 featured Centers, and Part 2 was all about the wings.]

The Capitals have a solid young core on the blueline that should last for some more time. That’s the result of successful work by McPhee and his staff at the last few NHL drafts. Of the seven defensemen likely returning, five of them were drafted by the Capitals, and all are 25 or younger. The prospect pool at the back end looks pretty decent as well with the acquisitions of promising players like Tomas Kundratek, Kevin Marshall, and Cameron Schilling, as well as the steady development of stay-at-home defenseman Patrick Wey in the NCAA. At the same time, with the graduation of Dmitry Orlov, the prospect list now lacks top-end potential. If the Caps feel like they need to strengthen their future top 4, they may look for a defenseman in the first round, especially since this draft is considered deep in that position.

In their current D-corps line-up, the Caps have John Carlson (RFA), Karl Alzner, Mike Green (RFA), Roman Hamrlik, Dmitry Orlov, Jeff Schultz, and John Erskine. Among the prospects, the standouts are Patrick Wey, Tomas Kundratek, Kevin Marshall, Brett Flemming, and Cameron Schilling.

So who might be available at  the number 11 spot?

Photo credit: Andreas Hillergren/Rogle BK

Hampus Lindholm, Rogle, Allsvenskan, 6’2″, 185 lbs. Former Caps great Calle Johansson is very high on this kid, who made the Allsvenskan team during the season. He ranked him even higher than the potential top-5 pick Filip Forsberg. Lindholm could be the biggest steal of the draft if he’s taken where he’s projected to be drafted. He has enough size and two-way ability to make the NHL very soon.

Rankings: TSN: No. 15, NHL Central Scouting: 4 EU skaters, International Scouting Services: No. 19, The Hockey News: No. 15, Button: No. 10

Photo credit: Aaron Bell/OHL Images

Olli Maatta, London Knights, OHL, 6’1″, 203 lbs. And here comes the Dale Hunter connection. This large Finnish defenseman doesn’t dominate in any part of the game, but he does everything pretty well. He’s a solid contributor defensively, he’s got some good instincts offensively. His tremendous postseason performance with the Knights, who made it to the Memorial Cup final, also improved his position.

Rankings: TSN: No. 10, NHL Central Scouting: 8 NA skaters, International Scouting Services: No. 12, The Hockey News: No. 20, Button: No. 28

Photo credit: WHL Images

Griffin Reinhart, Edmonton Oil Kings, WHL, 6’4″, 198 lbs. Despite his height, he’s not the most physical defenseman but he is quite skilled at both ends of the ice. He can play efficiently defensively and join the attack when needed, and his shot is very good as well. His only problem is a lack of consistency, which many young players suffer from. Opinions on Reinhart’s overall offensive potential vary widely.

Rankings: TSN: No. 4, NHL Central Scouting: 10 NA skaters, International Scouting Services: No. 6, The Hockey News: No. 8, Button: No. 6

Photo credit: Aaron Bell/OHL Images

Cody Ceci, Ottawa 67’s, OHL, 6’1″, 209 lbs. One of the highest-rising prospects of the year. In the Central Scouting Service’s rankings he went from 16th to 6th among North American skaters in half a year. He started 29th in Craig Button’s initial rankings, but ended up 11th in the final. Unlike Maatta and Reinhart, Ceci is a true offensive D-man whose skill is his main asset.

Rankings: TSN: No. 14, NHL Central Scouting: 6 NA skaters, International Scouting Services: No. 19, The Hockey News: No. 10, Button: No. 11

And who might be available at number 16?

Matt Finn, Guelph Storm, OHL, 6’0″, 192 lbs. Finn, an effective player at both ends of the ice, has developed signficantly this year. He’s not a flashy defenseman, but he is very consistent. He lacks the outstanding skills of noteworthy peers, but he also has no overt weaknesses. He can play in any situation and has been compared to the Caps’ own John Carlson,

Rankings: TSN: No. 21, NHL Central Scouting: 16 NA skaters, International Scouting Services: No. 18, The Hockey News: No. 18, Button: No. 9

Photo credit: Terry Wilson/OHL Images

Slater Koekkoek, Petersborough Petes, OHL, 6’2″, 184 lbs. Koekkoek didn’t play a whole lot of games in the last season due to a shoulder injury that has probably hurt his stock, but he has still managed to leave a good impression. He needs to keep it up, improve his defensive coverage, and add to his frame. If his injury fades, he has the potential to become a first pairing D.

Rankings: TSN: No. 16, NHL Central Scouting: 23 NA skaters, International Scouting Services: No. 21, The Hockey News: No. 23, Button: No. 34

Photo credit: Tom Sorensen

Brady Skjei, US NTDP, USHL, 6’3″, 203 lbs. A smooth-skating D, Skjei is committed to the University of Minnesota, where he’ll play beginning next year. Speed is his main asset, though he also possesses above average power and defensive abilities. He needs to improve his offense, but he has natural tools to become a valuable NHLer.

Rankings: TSN: No. 23, NHL Central Scouting: 19 NA skaters, International Scouting Services: No. 26, The Hockey News: No. 26, Button: No. 26

Photo credit: WHL Images

Derrick Pouliot, Portland Winter Hawks, WHL, 5’11”, 190 lbs. Pouliot is a classic offensive defenseman. A fantastic passer (maybe the best of the class, according to WHL From Above), Pouliot can run the power play effectively. He’s not a bad defensive player either, but he should develop his D-zone coverage. Pouliot needs to be more confident to take his game to another level.

Rankings: TSN: No. 17, NHL Central Scouting: 12 NA skaters, International Scouting Services: No. 22, The Hockey News: No. 13, Button: No. 18