Update 9:10 p.m.: Vrana wore a red Capitals sweater as he navigated through the media gantlet Friday night, the No. 13 overall pick for the Washington Capitals. When he finished interviews with beat writers, the team website, a local television station and a Swedish radio network, a public relations official handed him a telephone. Alex Ovechkin was on the other end, wanting to say hello to the 18-year-old Czech winger and wish him congratulations.
Ovi's on the line. pic.twitter.com/Dsmib6QH1U
— Alex Prewitt (@alex_prewitt) June 28, 2014
Barring a Capitals move in the back end of the second round, it’s time to go write for the print edition. Thanks for following along. We’ll be back Saturday morning with more from Vrana and rounds two through seven, beginning at 10 a.m.
Update 8:33 p.m.: The Capitals have selected right wing Jakub Vrana from the Czech Republic. Signing off the updates to head to the interview room. More later.
Update 8:21 p.m.: The Nashville Predators, with Barry Trotz and Lane Lambert looking on from the Washington camp, picked left winger Kevin Fiala. Arizona, formerly Phoenix, is up next. Then come the Capitals.
Update 8:18 p.m.: Bruce Boudreau and Anaheim selected Nicholas Ritchie at No. 10. We’re slowly inching towards Washington’s pick at No. 13, without much action happening at the Capitals table still.
Update 8:11 p.m.: Brian MacLellan looks really thrilled to be having his picture taken.
Update 8:05 p.m.: The first mid-draft trade has happened.
BREAKING NEWS: James Neal traded to the @PredsNHL for Patric Hornqvist and Nick Spaling.
— Nashville Predators (@PredsNHL) June 28, 2014
The Penguins had been reportedly fielding calls for Neal’s services over the past several days.
Update 8:02 p.m.: At No. 8, Toronto selected William Nylander, son of former Capitals forward Michael Nylander. The elder Nylander logged 74 games for Washington over two seasons in the early 2000s, and then came back for 112 games over two more seasons from 2007-09.
Update 7:56 p.m.: Former Flyers captain Rod Brind’Amour received a massive ovation from the crowd before announcing the pick at No. 7 for Carolina, which selected defenseman Haydn Fleury. Fleury and Ekblad were the two highest-rated defensemen in this draft, both of whom MacLellan predicted would go in the top 10. This makes it all the more likely that, if the Capitals indeed have their eye on a blue-line prospect, the organization will explore a trade down, something MacLellan alluded to at length before the draft.
“I think we spent a lot of time tweaking the list,” MacLellan told Monumental Network from Philadelphia. “Guys move maybe a couple spots, up or down. We finished up some interviews and maybe some second interviews where we’ve had questions in the past. We’ll go over a little draft strategy with Ross and his group, possibilities of who might fall to where we’re picking or do we want to move back if it plays out a certain way.”
Update 7:38 p.m.: Buffalo milked its three-minute window for all it was worth and finally selected 18-year-old center Sam Reinhart. Edmonton did the same and went with German Leon Draisaitl of the WHL, while Calgary rounded out the consensus top-four prospects with Sam Bennett. No trades so far through a relatively ho-hum, chalk opening four picks. The Capitals table, where new assistant coach Lane Lambert has joined Coach Barry Trotz, MacLellan and assistant GM Ross Mahoney, has mostly been sitting back and watching the draft unfold from the perch.
Update 7:19 p.m.: After a hearty roll call with plenty of boos from a sizable Flyers contingent — including a sustained Bronx cheer throughout the duration of commissioner Gary Bettman’s introductory speech — we’re underway in Philadelphia. Rumors had swirled about a possible deal for the top overall pick, but the Florida Panthers decided to keep it in-house and drafted defenseman Aaron Ekblad, who three years ago became the youngest player to reach the OHL, at age 15. He was considered by many to be one of two defensemen among the top 10 prospects in this draft alongside Haydn Fleury. Buffalo will pick second.
Update 6:02 p.m.: Spoke briefly with Nashville general manager David Poile about new Capitals coaches Mitch Korn (goaltenders) and Lane Lambert (forwards), both of whom worked under Barry Trotz with the Predators.
“Well they’re getting three-quarters of our coaching staff, which has proven to be successful together, a lot of experience,” Poile said. “I can’t think of a better start in a new regime. We made a change with our coaching in Barry, but it was not for not doing their job. It was just a timing situation. I think the Caps really benefited from this. They’re all really good people, first of all, and they’re very knowledgeable, good coaches, and I know they’re all excited about their new opportunity.”
Korn and Trotz spent all 15 seasons in Nashville’s existence together, dining on the roads and lunching before home games, to the point that Poile joked they’re probably sick of seeing each other during the offseason. As for Lambert, a former AHL head coach who was ultimately promoted to the Predators bench underneath Trotz for the past three seasons, Poile reiterated Trotz’s belief that Lambert will one day find his way into an NHL head coaching role.
“I think Lane’s going to get the opportunity to be a head coach sooner than later,” Poile said. “He’s got a great knowledge for the game, a great presence, good presentation to the players.
“It’s well-rounded because he’s been everything as a head coach. He’s not just with the forwards. In the NHL you get more specialized, and Lane was a forward, so that’s probably where he coaches, but he’s worked with our defense in Nashville, then our forwards, and that’s what Barry’s using him for.”
PHILADELPHIA — The suits have begun milling about the open floor here at Wells Fargo Center, site of the 2014 NHL draft, where the first round begins at 7 p.m. Friday night. The Washington Capitals own the No. 13 overall pick, sandwiched between Arizona (not Phoenix anymore) and Dallas. Rounds two through seven kick off Saturday at 10 a.m., with plenty of room for trade discussions in between. Will rookie General Manager Brian MacLellan feel compelled to make a splash one month into the job? The Capitals are no strangers to draft-day deals, having made them in each of the past six seasons under George McPhee.
This thread will be updated throughout Friday night with any major trades, picks and deals across the league, with an eye on the Washington table located near the middle of the herd. But first, a few notes:
>> The NHL announced its 2014-15 payroll range, with a lower limit set at $51 million and the upper cap at $69 million. According to CapGeek, this gives the Capitals roughly $12.8 million of space to burn. MacLellan has made his intentions — and the priority of those intentions — clear: First, he wants to upgrade Washington’s blue line, hopefully with a top-four defenseman. Next comes a backup goaltender, ideally a veteran, to play behind Braden Holtby. After that? “[We’ll] go from there, depending on how much the defense is going to cost us,” MacLellan told the team-owned Monumental Network from Philadelphia.
>> Among the many moves made by Vancouver on Friday — all pointing toward a significant reset by the organization — the Canucks dealt defenseman Jason Garrison to Tampa Bay, along with the rights to Jason Costello, in exchange for the 50th overall pick. Garrison is a perfectly serviceable blue-liner who waived his no-trade clause to complete the deal, so it’s unknown whether the Capitals even inquired about acquiring him. But they do own the 44th overall pick in Saturday’s second round.
>> Some draft-night reading: