Caps stock up at draft with 10 selections
PITTSBURGH -- The Washington Capitals entered the 2012 NHL Draft stocked with more ammunition than any other team with 11 picks.
After two days in Pittsburgh, general manager George McPhee is confident he made his team better in both the short-term and the long-term.
In their two days at Consol Energy Center, the Caps drafted 10 players -- equaling the number the team made in the 2010 and 2011 drafts combined -- and picked up high-scoring center Mike Ribeiro from the Dallas Stars to fill a vital second-line role.
"I thought we had a great weekend," McPhee said Saturday. "I'm really delighted with the way things went. We got an elite talent [Friday] in [Filip] Forsberg. Picking up Ribeiro makes us a much better team. I like the tough kid [Thomas] Wilson. And we just made a lot of picks [Saturday]."
Among the players selected on the second day of the draft were three members of the U.S. National Team Development Program -- fourth-round center Thomas DiPauli, fifth-round defenseman Connor Carrick and sixth-round right wing Riley Barber.
Ross Mahoney, the Caps' director of amateur scouting, had a simple reason for why the club targeted so many players from the USNTDP.
"They're winners," he said. "They won again [World Under-18 Championship gold medal]. Talking to the people in that program, they said it was the best group of kids they've ever had, and they've had some pretty good young men come through that program. … We think they're all good athletes and good players and they're winners."
DiPauli had 10 goals and 10 assists in 51 games, but Mahoney said those numbers might not reflect his talent because of the role he played.
"He's a really honest player," Mahoney said. "He skates well, has skill. Probably on that U.S. team played roles, and played them very well, but more of the penalty-killing role, the checking role, shut-down role. When they'd play Sweden he'd be the one out against [Sebastian] Collberg and Forsberg. Sometimes the younger players find it hard to put aside the skill part and accept those other roles and he has no problem doing that. He has high character to do that."
The Capitals also were happy with their final selection, goaltender Sergei Kostenko, who played with Novokuznetsk in Russia's top minor league. He had a 2.98 goals-against average and .897 save percentage in 40 games, but was unranked by NHL Central Scouting.
"He's very athletic, very competitive," Mahoney said. "We have seen him before in the past. He also played well when he played with Russia's under-20 team when they came [to Canada] and did the Subway Series. He was the third goalie on the World Junior team. We've been tracking him for three years."
With their two first round picks Friday, the Caps added a pair of talented forwards.
Forsberg was Central Scouting's top-rated European skater who slipped to Washington at the 11th pick due to a run on defensemen. Seven blueliners were picked in a row before the Caps snapped that by taking Forsberg.
"We've charted him now for a couple years, that he'd be one of the better prospects in this year's class," Mahoney said. "To have him fall to us was very good fortune for us."
Forsberg has one year left on his contract with Swedish club Leksand and said he intends to fulfill it. Even though he'll have to wait a year for his top pick, McPhee believes the 6-foot-1, 188-pound center will be worth the wait.
"Most kids need a year," McPhee said. "[Alex] Ovechkin had a year, [Nicklas] Backstrom had a year, [Marcus] Johansson had a year. We'll wait a year for him."
The Caps also will wait for the burly Wilson to develop. A 6-foot-4, 216-pound right wing taken with the 16th pick, he had 27 points and 141 penalty minutes in 49 games with the Plymouth Whalers of the Ontario Hockey League. Scouts believe he can improve offensively and develop into a quality power forward.
"You can find guys that are tough, but if they can't play, what good are they?" said McPhee. "This kid seems to be that rare combination these days of a big kid who's tough that can play. Worst-case scenario he can play on the fourth line. But we think if he develops properly he can be a third-line, second-line player."
"He's a big, strong player and a good power forward," added Mahoney. "Thomas has maybe more skill than somebody might give him credit, for but we see the skill in him."
In addition to their future, the Caps also improved their present by acquiring Ribeiro, in exchange for prospect Cody Eakin and a second-round pick. McPhee believes Ribeiro, who had 18 goals and 63 points in 74 games last season, immediately makes the Capitals a better team.
"It seemed like when I was watching the playoffs we had some big, gritty forwards and I just wanted to get another skill guy in the middle of it," he said. "I think [adding Ribeiro] makes us immediately better. … He's got skill, makes plays and he's a pretty good shootout guy, too. We think he's a one or two center in this League."
If McPhee makes further roster changes, he seems to believe it will happen on or after the start of free agency July 1.
"I don't mind where we are," he said. "We'll explore some things in free agency, but I don't think we're desperate to do anything."
He said there wasn't a lot to report on trade talks, saying it was a quiet weekend in that regard.
"We talked to everybody," McPhee said. "There are three or four teams you can talk to about something, but there wasn't a whole lot there."
He said he inquired with Penguins GM Ray Shero about the availability of Jordan Staal prior to his trade to Carolina, but his efforts were rebuffed.
"It was funny," McPhee said. "He [Shero] kept talking around it, there's not much going on. He doesn't owe me anything."
He also has to make a decision on a new coach.
"I might be leaning one way, but we'll see," McPhee said. "I've got a few more questions to ask next week. Not of [the candidates], but of people who know them. We might be able to wrap it up this week, and if we do that, it'll be nice. But I can't promise anything."
McPhee refused to name his candidates, but said he felt like he was in no-lose situation with his final list.
"I can pick any of them and I think we'll be in good shape," he said. "They're really good candidates. The hard part is picking the best one or the best fit because they're all terrific. I've really enjoyed meeting these people and spending time with them. They're really good."
Contact Adam Kimelman at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
Author: Adam Kimelman | NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor