PITTSBURGH — In a matter of 24 hours here this weekend for the NHL draft, the Washington Capitals resolved one of the most immediate needs on their roster and simultaneously replenished their prospect pipeline.
After trading for veteran center Mike Ribeiro, who will fill a need next season, the Capitals’ focus turned to the long term as they sought to make the most of their 10 selections in the draft — nothing short of a bounty, considering they held fewer picks in the past two drafts combined.
Of the six forwards, three defensemen and goaltender Washington chose at Consol Energy Center, not one is expected to make an immediate impact. With the exception of first-rounder Filip Forsberg, who will spend at least one more year in his native Sweden, most will require several years of seasoning in their respective developmental leagues before challenging for a place in the NHL.
With the selections, Washington chose four American-born players, three Canadians, two Swedes and one Russian — beginning with what was a pleasant surprise of finding Forsberg at No. 11 overall. A run on defensemen caused the highly regarded Swedish center to drop, and although he won’t come to North America for another year at the earliest, General Manager George McPhee believes Forsberg is worth the wait.
Forsberg, who is listed at 6 feet 1 and 188 pounds, said: “I’m kind of big-size player and trying to play a bit physical and also taking the puck to the net as often as possible. I guess that’s a bit more North American style of game than European. Hopefully I can bring that with me when the time is ready for me to come over.”
Thomas Wilson, a 6-3, 205-pound winger out of the Ontario Hockey League, combined flashes of skill and grit — traits McPhee said he was looking for in this draft. McPhee acknowledged that Wilson, whom the team selected with the 16th pick, will need to take steps to improve his game over the next few years.
“It’s going to take a lot of work to get him where we need him, but he plays tough,” McPhee said. “When we were in the middle of the playoffs, I made a note after the games: ‘Remember these games when you’re at the draft. Remember how intense they are, how physical they are, how demanding they are and make sure you get someone who wants to play in that kind of stuff.’ ”
After taking Western Hockey League forward Chandler Stephenson in the third round, the Capitals went on a streak, selecting four straight players from the U.S. national team development program with their two fourth-round picks and their fifth- and sixth-rounders.
Center Thomas Di Pauli, defenseman Connor Carrick and right wings Austin Wuthrich and Riley Barber all played together on the under-17 team during the 2010-11 season.
“I asked [the scouts]: ‘Are we drafting the whole team? What are we doing here?’ ” McPhee quipped, before adding that these particular players stood out to the staff. “They said that of all the teams they’ve seen, that team was the most close-knit. They really liked the way they were coached and the way they play together.”
In the seventh round, Washington took two defensemen — Christian Djoos from Sweden and Jaynen Rissling from the WHL — and Russian goaltender Sergei Kostenko, whom director of amateur scouting Ross Mahoney said the team has tracked for three years.
Now that the draft is complete, the attention of the Capitals’ brass turns back to the current NHL squad. On Saturday, McPhee said the coaching search “might” wrap up this week. Former Chicago assistant coach Mike Haviland and current New Jersey assistant coach Adam Oates are believed to be among the favorites to land the job.
“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 these people, but of people who know them.”