MONTREAL | The Washington Capitals’ brass left Bell Centre satisfied with seven new prospects added to an already deep farm system, but there is likely more work to be done before the big club’s roster is complete.
General manager George McPhee and his staff added six players Saturday during the second day of the NHL draft, but there were no new veterans added via trades and a few holes remain for a team that expects to contend for the Stanley Cup next season.
“There wasn’t a lot of [trading] going on here. There may be more of that next week and closer to camp,” McPhee said. “We’re not going to force anything. If there is something there that makes sense, we’ll do it, but the season doesn’t start until October.”
For the second consecutive day, an early trade involving a big name created a stir: Florida dealt the negotiating rights with unrestricted free agent defenseman Jay Bouwmeester to Calgary for the negotiating rights to fellow UFA Jordan Leopold and a third-round pick. But no other major deals went down.
The Caps have lost two of their top six forwards from last season - Sergei Fedorov and Viktor Kozlov - to teams in Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League, and if a trade can’t be worked out, the Caps will have to rely on internal replacements or free agency.
“We’ll see what is out there,” McPhee said, naming Brooks Laich and Chris Clark as potential in-house solutions. “If there is a player out there that makes sense and can help our club, we’ll be interested. Don’t expect us to go out and commit to a big or long-term deal. We’ve seen that movie before, and most of these guys that sign July 1 or July 2 are all available six months later.”
As for the six players who joined Swedish center Marcus Johansson to form Washington’s 2009 draft class, the Caps continued to stockpile defensemen by adding three in the first five rounds. Dmitri Orlov of Novokuznetsk, Russia, was the team’s first pick of the draft’s second day at No. 55.
He spent some time in the KHL this past season - and the former Russian Super League the year before - and has expressed a desire to come to North America as soon as next season. He’s even willing to play in the American Hockey League, which many Russians balk at, but McPhee said they will wait to decide where he plays next year.
“I know a lot of Russian players play there, so it is a really good feeling to be with Washington,” Orlov said through an interpreter. “It is my dream to play in the NHL.”
In the fourth round, the Caps tapped their lone American: defenseman Patrick Wey, who played for Waterloo of the United States Hockey League. Wey, who is from Pittsburgh, will go to Boston College next season and is set to join 2008 first-round pick John Carlson at the U.S. world junior championship camp in Lake Placid, N.Y.
“I was a Penguins fan growing up, but if I’m a Capital as a player, then you can bet everybody I know will be rooting for the Caps,” said Wey, who didn’t attend the draft but watched on television with his parents. “It wasn’t what I expected. I thought I’d be, all, ‘Yeah, I got drafted - whatever.’ Man, it ended up being awesome - one of the better days of my life.”
Added Caps scouting director Ross Mahoney: “There are no holes in his game really. He’s 6-foot-2, about 210 pounds, he skates fairly well and he does a good job in front of the net. It was kind of the whole package that we liked.”
The third defenseman was fifth-round pick Brett Flemming from Mississauga of the Ontario Hockey League. Mahoney said both third-round pick Cody Eakin, a center from Swift Current of the Western Hockey League, and sixth-round selection Garrett Mitchell, a right wing from Regina in the WHL, are candidates to be captains of their respective junior clubs next season.
McPhee said the first six picks shared three attributes - good skating ability, good hockey sense and competitiveness. Washington’s last pick of the day, forward Benjamin Casavant from PEI of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League does not have the skating ability of the other six, but his style could make him a fan favorite.
“I’m good around the net. I can put the puck in the net,” said Casavant, who is listed at 6-foot-1 and 213 pounds. “I am strong on the boards. On the power play, I like to stay in front of the net and tip the puck.”