PHILADELPHIA — The bustle at the Washington Capitals’ draft table during Friday’s first round was almost non-existent, particularly after everyone returned from selecting Jakub Vrana at No. 13 overall. Following the descent from the stage, the only movement came whenever anyone stood to stretch their legs. Rookie general manager Brian MacLellan later said he spent the early part of the draft trying to move up, so the Capitals could select defenseman Haydn Fleury, but no teams bit. Thanks to that, Washington retained its second-round pick, so we’ll have some immediate action Saturday morning.
Greetings again from Wells Fargo Center and welcome to the second day of the 2014 NHL draft, where the final six rounds get crammed into one afternoon, starting at 10 a.m. The Capitals currently hold eight more selections: one in the second round (44th), one in the third (74th), two in the fourth (104th and 118th), one each in the fifth and sixth (134th and 164th), and finally two in the seventh (192nd and 194th).
That said, the Capitals have made trades in each of the past six drafts and MacLellan has made it clear he’s working the phones to find suitors. Of those past six trades, all but two have involved active NHL players or prospects, and not simply the swapping of picks.
“Priority’s defensemen,” MacLellan said Friday, right after expressing doubt that the Capitals could re-sign center Mikhail Grabovski.
Expect plenty of action on the second day, particularly if Washington remains bullish on improving the blue-line. On Friday, Vancouver dealt defenseman Jason Garrison to Tampa Bay for the 50th overall pick, so the Capitals could still conceivably package that No. 44 pick for something immediately productive.
In drafting Vrana, a speedy, hard-shooting winger from the Czech Republic who has spent the past three seasons climbing the ladder in Sweden, Washington tabbed a European with its first pick for the seventh straight season, something MacLellan said is unintentional.
“That’s not a conscious effort,” he said. “I think we’re looking for the best player that’s available.”
Vrana may indeed prove to be that, and the last first-round European drafted in the teens — Andre Burakovsky — appears to be a value pick by assistant general manager Ross Mahoney and his scouting staff. Vrana will return to Washington, D.C. with the team on Sunday and attend developmental camp, after which the Capitals will decide his future. Regardless of where Vrana plays next season, they will emphasize ice time; in the Swedish Hockey League last season, Vrana got buried on the fourth line for Linkoping, which caused an ESPN.com scouting report to mention his stalled development.
That said, MacLellan didn’t seem too concerned. Nor should he be. Vrana, 18, is graded one of the best Czech prospects out there and led the under-18 world championships in goals this past year. MacLellan said the Capitals scouts have called him “a sniper.”
“You’re playing with men and you’re doing well,” MacLellan said of Vrana’s time in the SHL. “That’s a good sign.”
Mahoney is expected to be made available to reporters after Saturday’s action wraps up. A live updates blog will be posted soon, where any trade information and all the Capitals picks will go.
>> One quick note: Former Capitals center Mike Ribeiro had his contract bought out by the Arizona Coyotes on Wednesday. The reasoning, according to general manager Don Maloney, was a bevy of “behavioral issues” that proved irreconcilable. In 48 games with Washington in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, Ribeiro tallied 49 points, but the Capitals let him walk in free agency, at which point he received a four-year, $22 million deal from the Coyotes. He lasted one season.
His past track record with coach Dave Tippett in Dallas made the management and coaching staffs believe they could handle whatever issues arose, but a source told FOX Sports Arizona that Ribeiro was late for practices, missed meetings, missed buses and even engaged in a shouting match with Tippett in the locker room after a game in Colorado.