By Zackery Robert
Coming up next we have the Washington Capitals. They have had one of the greatest draft picks of all time in their franchise’s history and it surely has paid off for them. We will see what else they have done in the draft throughout their history.
To start it off we will get the easiest one out of the way. Alexander Ovechkin was the first overall selection in the 2004 entry draft and for good reason. He has been an unstoppable goal scoring force since his first year in the league in 2005. He is the second highest goal scorer in the history of the league and he still has some years left in him so we may see him leave the league as the number one goal scorer in the history of the NHL. Ovechkin has a ridiculous nine Rocket Richard trophies as the league’s leading goal scorer. He also has a combined nine other indivisible trophies including: Hart trophies, Ted Lindsay trophies, a Conn Smythe trophy, a Calder trophy and an Art Ross trophy. He has accumulated nine 50+ goal seasons and one of those he went as high as 65. Ovechkin has been nothing short of generational in his time and this is a no brainer of a selection as one of the best all time picks by the Capitals.
Up next we will go to the goal and take a look at the 1989 draft where Washington held the 19th pick overall and chose goalie Olaf Kolzig. Kolzig was the star for the Capitals in goal. He played over 700 games for the team and won just over 300 games in that jersey. He took home a Vezina trophy in the 1999-2000 season as the league’s top goalie and for good reason, he finished with 41 wins, a 917 save percentage and a 2.24 goals against average. Kolzig would have seven seasons of 25 plus wins for the Capitals.
Finishing up with the 2006 draft where in the first round at pick number four the Capitals would unknowingly pick Ovechkin’s running mate for their entire careers, Nicklas Backstrom. Backstrom was the playmaker that Ovechkin needed, Backstrom has immense skill and was able to pass his way to a career high of 101 points in the 2009-2010 season. Backstrom has had five seasons of a point per game or better so far in his career and has been a top line centre throughout his time in the league. He finished with 23 points in 20 games during the Capitals first ever Stanley Cup winning playoff run in 2018. He has helped build this franchise to where it is today so Backstrom will go down as one of the best Capitals draft day picks of all time.
Moving along to picks that Washington gained the least value out of, we will first look at the 1990 draft where they held the ninth pick overall. With this pick they chose defenseman John Slaney, Slaney would make his Capitals debut in the 1993-1994 season where he played 47 games and scored 16 points. In the following season Slaney would play in 16 games for the Capitals registering three points. It was that summer in 1995 where Slaney would be traded to the Colorado Avalanche for a third round pick in the 1996 draft. Slaney being a ninth overall pick never lived up to any hype that he had gained before going into the NHL. In his short stint in the NHL with the Capitals Slaney played in 63 games and scored 19 points.
Up next we will move to the 1994 draft where Washington held the last pick in the top ten. At number 10 they went on to choose Calgary defenseman Nolan Baumgartner. Baumgartner would spend the next six years in the Washington organisation playing in only 18 games for the big club. He would spend the majority of his time once turning pro in 1996 in the AHL. He struggled quite a bit to gain traction in the NHL and finally after the six years of being in this organisation he was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks in the summer of 2000. In those 18 games Baumgartner registered a total of two assists for two points in total.
Sticking with the 1994 draft, after Washington went up at number 10 they had another opportunity to select in the first round of this draft at number 15. Using pick number 15 they chose Russian winger Alexander Kharlamov, the closest the Capitals got to Kharlamov playing in the NHL was the two years he played with their farm team for the Pirates in Portland in between 1995-1997 where he played a total of 121 games registering 56 points. After these two years would spend the remainder of his career in three different leagues, the ECHL, WCHL, and in Russia, he would retire at the D end of the 2003-2004 season never making it to the Capitals lineup rendering this pick on this list.
Moving ahead to today, we see the Washington Capitals perhaps at the end of their era with Ovechkin and Backstrom and will have to begin to look to the future and rebuild with prospects. Good for them in the sense that they will have five picks in the draft to do so and they will have a rather high first round pick. Coming in with the eighth pick the Washington Capitals have a chance at a really good player in this draft. This is one of the deepest drafts for talent in the past eight years since 2015. Washington has not had this high of a pick since they were fifth overall in 2007 where they chose Karl Alzner. With their current makeup of prospects we see Washington a little on the low end of top tier prospects, a downside to being one of the best teams for over a decade, nevertheless they have a great opportunity to pick up the pace here at eight. Being this high in the draft the most sensible thing for them to do would be to pick the best available player, so for that here are three options that should make the Capitals very happy to be so high in the draft. NTDP winger Ryan Leonard, NTDP centre Oliver Moore or OHL winger Colby Barlow. All three of these players are held in very high regard. All of them have talents to which the Capitals can begin to retool their future around in a few years time when they come into their own in the NHL. If they choose any of these three players they will come out of this draft ahead.
For more information on the 2023 NHL Draft class be sure to pick up your copy of the comprehensive DraftPro 2023 NHL Draft Guide.