- The Washington Times - Friday, July 13, 2012

The Washington Capitals preach patience with their draft picks.

“If you look at Backstrom and [Alex] Ovechkin and Marcus Johansson, they didn’t play until 20 years old. The Mike Greens and some of those other players played when they were 21 or 22. For us they’re still young men,” director amateur scouting Ross Mahoney said. “There’s no need to rush them.”

There’s the kind of forced patience that they’re using now after top prospect Evgeny Kuznetsov decided to spend two more years in Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League. Then there’s the welcome patience for a guy like first-round pick Filip Forsberg, who has one more year left on a contract in Sweden.

That’s more than OK for the Caps, who managed to bring their top pick in 2012 one step closer to the NHL than their first-rounder in 2010, signing Forsberg on Friday to a three-year entry-level contract worth just under $2.5 million.

“I got a good first feeling from the Capitals. I thought it was a good decision to get it done right away,” Forsberg said. “My agent has been talking to the staff in Capitals since the draft. They wanted to sign me and of course I wanted to be signed for such a big organization, a good team. So, yeah, it was a dream coming true to sign with the Capitals.”

Forsberg was just the second first-rounder from last month’s draft to sign a contract, following the Dallas Stars’ Radek Faksa.

The No. 11 pick overall will still spend next season in Sweden, but his path to return to Washington in a little over a year was paved this week at development camp.

“To see if you fit in with all the staff people, that was important for me because you’re signing your deal and you should be around with these guys for at least three years,” he said. “Yeah, that was important.”

The 17-year-old will play next season with Leksands IF in Sweden but is open to different options once his contract there is up.

“If the Caps want me over, maybe I’ll give it a shot,” he said. “But it’s hard to tell a year ahead. We’ll see. In one year, you can ask me the same question.”

Forsberg will have to answer questions with his play this upcoming season as the Caps start to see where he figures into their plans.

“When you see Filip, he’s a very young-looking young man. So a big thing for him is to develop his strength. And as he works on his strength, his skating will get even better,” Mahoney said. “He’s very good top of the circles in, good hands, has quickness.

His overall speed can use some improvement. It’s the same with most young players his age. I think really developing off the ice is important for him.”

Like Kuznetsov, Forsberg is spending more time developing closer to home in a European league that doesn’t have nearly the talent level of the NHL. But whereas Kuznetsov could probably step in as a top player for the Caps right away, Forsberg could use more time.

But unlike Kuznetsov, Forsberg won’t have to answer questions about his commitment to the Caps and NHL after signing.

“For him, I guess he doesn’t have to worry about that in the back of his mind,” Mahoney said. “He can just get out there and play and practice and try to get himself ready to be a Washington Capital.”

And while the young Swede has made it clear he’s on a path back to Washington while Kutznetsov’s future is still cloudy, Forsberg didn’t disparage a guy he hopes to be teammates with in the future.

“You can take different ways. He choose to be back there in Russia for at least two more years,” he said. “Everyone goes their own way, so hopefully he can play for the team one day.”

• Stephen Whyno can be reached at swhyno@washingtontimes.com.

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