Team Recap: Washington Capitals
Steve Kournianos | 11/15/2020 | Nashville | [hupso]
Only the Penguins have had fewer draft picks since 2015, but this year’s collection of Washington Capitals’ hopefuls was their first forward-pure group in 17 years. That’s not some insignificant tidbit either — the Caps collected only eight attackers from four drafts between 2015 and 2018. That sort of strategy can come back to bite the parent club but only if they aren’t winning regularly, which isn’t the case with Washington. Therefore, their deliberate development of prospects is not only justified but now it’s becoming impressive (all things considered).
The selection in Round 1 of playmaker extraordinaire Hendrix Lapierre (pictured) not only compliments last year’s pick of super-scorer Connor McMichael, but it also adds diversity to a prospect pool that for several years was fixated on defensemen. Speaking of playmakers, lanky Russian winger Bogdan Trineyev can serve as a dual threat and has hands that allow him to lead an odd-man rush, and the WHL was raided by the Caps yet again via overage center Bear Hughes and goalie Garin Bjorklund. Lastly, flashy Swedish winger Oskar Magnusson certainly performed well enough to go higher than he was taken at 211th overall.
Hendrix Lapierre, Center (22nd overall)
You can never fault a team for trading up to grab a top-10 skill set in the later portion of the first round, so concerns over Lapierre’s concussion history, although valid, should become more and more of an afterthought. The best advice anyone can give Capitals’ fans regarding this pick is that it’s completely pointless to fixate on whether or not he’ll be out of the lineup. Rather, focusing on Lapierre’s sublime playmaking and world-class vision would probably be a more rewarding approach.
Bogdan Trineyev, Right Wing (117th overall)
Trineyev was part of highly-effective “kid” line with Dynamo Moskva in Russia’s junior-age MHL, but I was surprised it was he instead of center Dmitry Zlodeyev to be the first one drafted. Regardless, Trineyev is more than capable of driving his own line thanks to expert stickhandling and a sharp sense for play development. He’s already at 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds, but you wouldn’t think that when watching him carve up pesky opponents near the wall.
Bear Hughes, Center (148th overall)
The Caps love plucking prospects out of the WHL — Hughes and Bjorklund made it at least two or more Dubsters in four of the last five drafts. As you’d expect from a WHL’er, Hughes provides beef and heady 200-foot play with a tinge of physicality. But his playmaking and creativity are prominent features of his game once he sets up shop in the opposing end. Spokane was pretty deep up front but Hughes was able to compete with Jack Finley and Eli Zummack for optimal starts and opportunities. Although he’s an overager, Hughes remains a feel-good story and has the potential to partner up with several notable Caps’ wing prospects to create an effective 1-2 punch in all three zones.
Garin Bjorklund, Goalie (179th overall)
A backup to 2019 draftee Mads Sogaard, Bjorklund passed his first test of real WHL action with flying colors by delivering a 20-5-1 record and even posting a shutout. Although his Medicine Hat Tigers were a steamroller on offense, Bjorklund deserves credit for living up to his end of the bargain. He’s both energetic and incredibly quick within the butterfly and crouches low to the ground that inadvertently adds a little flair to his style. He was a high WHL bantam pick and has already played for Team Canada, so it’s not like Bjorklund came out of nowhere. But the biggest takeaway is that he becomes only the second goalie drafted by the Caps in the last five drafts combined.
Oskar Magnusson, Left Wing (211th overall)
It only took a couple of games into his draft season for me to get on the Magnusson bandwagon and by season’s end he was snuggly ensconced in my top 75. Malmo J20 was nothing special from a team standpoint so the door was open for this youngster to establish a reputation, which he ended up doing and then some. Magnusson not only played for Team Sweden at all the major pre-draft tournaments, but the speedy winger was a top scorer on his team and also in the Superelit’s overall under-18 community. He even earned a four-game SHL stint as a cherry on top for what became an impressive draft campaign. Personally, Magnusson slipping to Round 7 will always be one of the 2020 draft’s biggest oddities.