As the NHL draft approaches for the Washington Capitals, it's tough not to think about how differently two teams in the nation's capital build the foundations of their respective squads.
Dating back nine years to 1998, the Washington Capitals have had thirteen selections in the first round of the NHL entry draft; all thirteen of those players are still playing in the Capitals organization. Nine of those players played for the NHL team last season, and collectively tallied 553 games. It's expected that next year Swede Nicklas Backstrom will join the big squad, bringing the number of first round picks on the roster to ten.
In the last nine years, two draft years in particular stand out: 2002, in which Capitals’ mainstays Boyd Gordon, Alexander Semin and Steve Eminger were drafted, and 2004, when Alex Ovechkin, Jeff Schultz and Mike Green joined the team.
Contrast that to the Washington Redskins. In that same time frame, the Redskins have had eight first round selections, only four of which still wear the burgundy and gold. In fact, an annual lament of Redskins fans is the blatant disregard the team has for the draft. The “load-up-the-free-agents-to-win-the-super-bowl” mentality drives many fans up the wall.
Now before getting carried away, obviously comparing the NFL and NHL draft processes is far from an apples-to-apples comparison. NHL teams have farm teams to give them a place to grow their young talent into NHL-caliber players, they have just recently added the concept of a salary cap into the fold, and the NHL player pool is much smaller. .
The stark contrast in philosophy between the two Washington sports franchises is if nothing else, very apparent.
Only three teams in the entire NHL have had more players selected since 2002 play more games at the NHL level than the Washington Capitals. They are obviously building their nucleus through the young players that they draft.
The same cannot be said for the Washington Redskins.
Neither team had a playoff game last year, so it'd be tough to say that either approach is working.
The Capitals are hoping that a foundation of young, talented players will make them an annual contender for years to come.
The Redskins are hoping that modest drafting and effective free agent signings will get them to the Promised Land.
Only time will tell if either will be successful, however, Washingtonians are hoping it can be both.
Caps Draft Notes:
The last time the Caps had the fifth overall pick, they selected future Hall-Of-Famer Scott Stevens, whose crippling hip-checks are the stuff of legends.
The odds of getting a top-notch defenseman like Stevens with this year’s pick are unlikely; especially considering that there are no defensive prospects ranked high enough by NHL Central Scouting, to even be selected fifth overall.
There are impact players available at other positions of need (read: center) that will be available. Many sources in the NHL now are predicting Sam Gagner, a center with the London Knights of the OHL will be the choice, though it could very well be Jakub Voracek, a winger/center out of the Czech Republic, currently playing in Halifax.
If you were one of the lucky 2,500 to get your Draft Day Party tickets in the week it took to “sell out,” you’ll find out at Kettler Capitals IcePlex, otherwise, tune into Versus to find out.