The Capitals selected Alex Semin 13th in the
2012 2002 entry draft. (Photo: Getty Images)
On Friday, the NHL Draft will begin. The Capitals hold the 13th overall pick, the third time since 2008 they’ve selected in the top half of the first round. To predict the players available for the Caps selection, we’ve reviewed 17 different draft rankings to compile a consensus list.
Let’s take a quick look at players 11 through 15.
Brendan Perlini, LW
Photo: Niagara IceDogs
This British-born forward has one of the bigger bodies in the first round (6-foot-3, 205 lbs). Though he’s not a power forward, his size definitely helps his cause. Perlini, a deadly goalscorer, came into his own this season playing next to Leafs draft pick Carter Verhaeghe on an otherwise unimpressive Niagara IceDogs team. After coming out of nowhere, opinions on whether he can perform vary, as do his rankings — you can see him anywhere from #7 (ISS) to #20 (Hockey Prospect). Perlini is definitely an intriguing prospect, but the team drafting him will be taking a risk.
Kasperi Kapanen, RW
Photo: Vesa Kovunen/Itasanomat
The number-two player out of Europe through most of the season (behind William Nylander), Kapanen has a good two-way game, and he possesses some excellent offensive skills as well. Sportsnet quoted a scout saying, “No one in this draft class gets higher marks for hockey sense.” It is high praise, especially considering the strong crop of smart forwards at the top of the list, including Nylander as well as Sam Reinhart and Sam Bennett. Kapanen’s offensive numbers (seven goals, seven assists) may not look so good, especially compared to other recent top prospects like Aleksander Barkov, Mikael Granlund, and Artturi Lehkonen, but his team, KalPa Kuopio, had a disastrous year finishing dead last in Liiga. The Caps haven’t picked a Finn since Oskar Osala in 2006, but Kapanen could be the guy to break this trend.
Kevin Fiala, RW/LW
Photo: Daniel Malmberg/Jnytt
A late-season push put Fiala in competition with Kapanen to be named the second-best European-based prospect. It’s not often you see someone playing in U20, U18, and the Men’s World Championship through the course of a single season, but that’s what Fiala did with Switzerland. That international spotlight appears to have given him a significant boost to his ranking. Fiala is an example of the modern trend of players from Central Europe leaving their home countries to join Swedish clubs known for their success in player development. In 2012, the fleet-footed Fiala left Zurich, where his father works as a coach with one of the junior affiliates of the ZSC Lions. A year later he moved from Malmo to HV71, rapidly climbing the tiers of junior hockey before finally landing a spot with an SHL club where he had 11 points in 17 games last year. There’s no questioning Fiala’s skill and drive. If he can find a way to get more physical and better defensively, he’ll be a steal.
Ivan Barbashev, C
Barbashev’s scouting report isn’t what old-fashioned fans might expect from a Russian player. His game is just as much about commitment and hard work at both ends as it is about skill and speed. That sets him apart as the clear-cut number-one Russian prospect for this draft. Playing alongside fellow countryman Vladimir Tkachyov for Moncton in the QMJHL, Barbashev impressed with his complete, mature play, including getting physical while still making some the finesse plays one expects from a top prospect. But the “Russian factor” may damage his stock and bump him closer to 20th overall selection. “Some teams won’t take a Russian under any circumstances because of the KHL,” a scout told Sportsnet. “If he were Canadian, he’d be top 10.” However, Barbashev has emphasized his commitment to remaining in North America during his interviews.
Dylan Larkin, C
Photo: Allison Farrand/Michigan Daily
I was surprised to see Larkin ranked so high in the consensus list. He doesn’t appear to be one of those prospects who generates a lot of buzz prior to draft day. Just like with Kapanen, his numbers don’t tell the whole story. Larkin is relied on to play tough minutes centering the second line for the United States National Team Development Program instead of the sheltered environments that the two other top NTDP prospects Sonny Milano and Alex Tuch enjoy, on a first line which is centered by star prospect for 2015 Draft, Jack Eichel. Still, Larkin has become the fourth-leading point producer on the team, right behind the top trio. Larkin’s game has a lot in common with Barbashev’s. He, too, is an average-sized skilled yet physical forward. Just like with Barbashev, scouts praise Larkin’s leadership qualities and commitment to team success. He’ll be headed to University of Michigan to continue his development under the guidance of Red Berenson (and, who knows, maybe Mike Babcock, too — these rumors are ongoing).
This list is not complete by any means, but it may give a glimpse of what to expect from the Caps on draft day. Other possibilities include someone sliding out from the top-10 (Jake Virtanen and Haydn Fleury are the most likely candidates) or the Caps going off the board with a lower-ranked player (some have Robbie Fabbri, who is 18th in consensus rankings and Alex Tuch, 19th, ranked higher than or at 13). The last time the Caps did that, they selected Tom Wilson.
Also, I discussed some other Caps-related draft thoughts with Caps blogger Daryoush Ashtary.