ST. PAUL, Minn. — On Friday night the Washington Capitals made their biggest impact on the NHL draft by getting out of the first round and picking up a player in Troy Brouwer who can help right away.
Saturday morning and afternoon, they did the opposite. In a draft considered weak by general manager George McPhee, the Caps picked up four guys for the not-so-near future. With so many prospects close to contributing, Washington could afford to plan further ahead with goaltender Steffen Soberg, defensemen Patrick Koudys and Garrett Haar and center Travis Boyd.
While that wasn't part of the plan, it worked out well for the Caps.
"You'd like to have as many players as you could ready to play right away. The bottom line, I guess, is that a lot of these guys are still very young players — physically they're young," director of amateur scouting Ross Mahoney said. "Going to college and getting two extra years of development and working with the good strength coaches, the good programs that they have, it's not gonna hurt them. It's gonna be more of a help to them in their own development."
In previous years the Caps were able to find players McPhee termed "difference-makers," especially early. Without a pick in the first three rounds, they turned their attention to trying to discover one in the fourth round at No. 117.
They wound up with Soberg from Norway, who at 5-foot-11 is the smallest of the 19 goalies drafted Saturday. He spent last season in the Norwegian elite league — GET-ligaen — but caught the Caps' attention with his performance in the World Under-18 and Under-20 championships.
"He's a very athletic goaltender who in every game gave his team — which was always the underdog — an opportunity to win," Caps goaltending coach Dave Prior said. "I like that type of goaltender who has instinctive qualities to battle to keep the puck out of the net, has good mobility, quickness, reacts to the situation."
Prior said some teams may have passed him over for being undersized but isn't worried about that in the Caps' organization. It's the third time in four years Washington has taken a goalie in the fourth round (Braden Holtby in 2008 and Philipp Grubauer in 2010).
With their fifth-rounder, the 147th pick, the Caps went the college route with Koudys, a 6-foot-2, 190-pound defenseman from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Mahoney hopes Koudys, who was the youngest member of the RPI team as a freshman, gets more playing time as a sophomore.
The 18-year-old is also seeking to improve on his offensive output (one goal, two assists in 32 games).
"I feel my points this year don't really affect my offensive ability that I have," Koudys said. "That wasn't necessarily my role. I feel next year I'll be able to step in and fill that role and get some more points and then everyone can kinda see my offensive upside that I do believe I have."
Something that should get Caps fans excited about the team's sixth-round pick (177th) is who Boyd compares his game to.
"I like watching Claude Giroux from Philly," he said. "I think I play a very similar game to him."
That's a high standard, and one Boyd — a product of the U.S. Under-18 National Team Development Program — is likely several years away from justifying. He's heading to the University of Minnesota in the fall.
"He's a smart player, handles the puck well, is a good skater," Mahoney said. "Like a lot of them, he may need to get stronger, get a little bit bigger, add a little bit more strength."
Haar, the Caps' final pick in the seventh round (207th), is a 5-foot-11 defenseman who played in the United States Hockey League and will be going to Northeastern.
At the end of the day, don't look for any of these players to challenge for Washington or Hershey (AHL) roster spots anytime soon. This was a long-range draft — but one the Caps think they did well in.
"We just liked who was there when we were picking," McPhee said. "It didn't really matter whether they were in junior or college — we were gonna take whoever we thought had the best opportunity."
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