Capitals turn to draft to start rebuilding


This weekend’s draft will be Brian MacLellan’s first as Capitals GM. (Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

This weekend at the NHL draft, the Capitals enter the first phase of what the team’s management is calling an organizational “refresh.”

Washington’s armed with nine picks, including the 13th overall selection of Friday’s first round. There’s a perceived lack of potential franchise players among this summer’s draft class, though plenty of talent is available.

Mining for that talent will be recently promoted assistant general manager Ross Mahoney, previously the Capitals’ director of amateur scouting.

“That’s our job, to find players no matter what type of year it is [depth-wise],” Mahoney said last week.

The Capitals are in sore need of high-end talent on defense, which is in short supply with this draft class. Even with their defensive deficiency, the Capitals’ drafting philosophy has always been to select the best player available, regardless of position.

“You don’t want to pass on a player specifically for a position,” Mahoney said, “and then you have that player turn out to be a much better player than the positional player you took.”

Mahoney and general manager Brian MacLellan are receptive to moving up or back in the draft via trade if necessary. Washington, which has made draft-day trades in each of the past six years, first determines whether a prospect’s value outweighs the assets required to select him.

“That’ll be part of our strategizing, to see if we should move up or we should move back or stay where we are,” Mahoney said.

This weekend also figures to be active trade-wise. With the salary cap rising and few notable free agents available, teams will be looking to improve via trade, including the Capitals.

“There seems to be bigger names being talked about in the trade market,” MacLellan said. “We’ll see if that really comes to fruition. I’m going to explore it.”

Adam Vingan is an NHL.com Washington correspondent, the Capitals beat reporter for Express, and writes Capital Games for NBC Washington.
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