Seven teenage hockey players had the privilege of joining the reigning Stanley Cup champions this weekend.
The Washington Capitals added seven prospects to their organization in the 2018 NHL Draft on Friday and Saturday, a class headlined by first-round pick Alexander Alexeyev and featuring two sons of hockey greats from the 1980s and 1990s.
Going No. 31 overall, Alexeyev, a 6-foot-4 blueliner from St. Petersburg, totaled seven goals and 30 assists last season in 45 regular-season games for the Red Deer Rebels of Canada’s Western Hockey League. He added five points in three playoff games.
The Capitals also executed a trade just an hour before the draft kicked off Friday night when they sent goalie Philipp Grubauer and defenseman Brooks Orpik to the Colorado Avalanche. Washington acquired the Avalanche’s second-round pick, No. 47 overall, in addition to freeing up cap room necessary for them to re-sign John Carlson and their other free agents.
With consecutive picks in the second round, the Capitals picked Slovakian defenseman Martin Fehervary 46th overall and Canadian right wing Kody Clark 47th. They followed that up by taking another right wing, Riley Sutter, with the final pick of round three.
Clark’s father, Wendel Clark, was the Toronto Maple Leafs’ No. 1 overall pick in 1985 and was a two-time All-Star in his 15-year NHL career. His second cousin is ESPN hockey commentator Barry Melrose.
Sutter, meanwhile, was the 12th person in his family to be drafted in the NHL. His father, Ron Sutter, played for 19 years and his uncle, Darryl Sutter, won two Stanley Cups this decade coaching the Los Angeles Kings.
In the fourth round, the Capitals replenished their goalie depth after trading Grubauer. They drafted Mitchell Gibson, the lone American in their class, who is committed to play for Harvard next season. Braden Holtby (drafted in 2008) and Grubauer (2010) were both fourth-round picks by Washington, as well.
Gibson, from Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, is a self-described “grandchild” of Capitals director of goaltending Mitch Korn, because Korn taught Gibson’s current goalie coach. He played for the Lone Star Brahmas of the North American Hockey League, the second-tier junior hockey league in the U.S., and was named NAHL Rookie of the Year and NAHL Goaltender of the Year in 2018.
“No words to describe this feeling,” Gibson wrote on Twitter. “Thrilled and honored to be selected by the Stanley Cup Champions, Washington Capitals.”
In the sixth round, the Capitals traded up to No. 161 overall to pick defenseman Alex Kannok-Leipert. Washington gave their 2019 sixth-rounder to the Vancouver Canucks to move up for Kannok-Leipert, who put up five goals and 16 assists at the WHL level last year.
As the Stanley Cup champions, the Capitals owned the final pick in the draft. They used it on WHL center Eric Florchuk, who had 16 goals and 33 assists with two teams last year.
Most of these prospects will not make an immediate impact with the NHL club. None of them is older than 18 and some will play college hockey before turning pro. For now, the Capitals’ development camp begins Tuesday at Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Arlington; all of last year’s draft picks attended the camp.