ST. PAUL, MINN. — The Washington Capitals selected four players at the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, but the success of the weekend, according to team officials, lies with the trade for the rights to a player who can help them immediately.
Acquiring 25-year-old Troy Brouwer, a gritty leader who already has won one Stanley Cup in his career, might not have been the glitziest move that occurred over the past few days while the hockey world assembled in Minnesota. But it’s one that General Manager George McPhee believes will help Washington on and off the ice. It was the Capitals’ lone trade during the draft, and they used picks in the final four rounds to select a goaltender, two defensemen and a center.
“We thought it was a really good move for our club at the right time,” McPhee said. “I talked to him [Friday] night; he was really excited and sounds like a great kid. It’s amazing to feel that after a three-minute conversation, but he seems like the kind of leader that we’re looking for.”
Brouwer had never been traded before but is excited that he was dealt to a team searching for a championship, much like his Chicago Blackhawks squad that won the Stanley Cup in 2010.
That victory showed Brouwer how grueling the playoffs can be and illustrated the importance of having championship-winning players on a team.
“I think having those guys that have won is soothing for a team,” said Brouwer, who could possibly fill the role of Brooks Laich or Matt Bradley should either of the pending unrestricted free agents not return to Washington. “In Chicago we had two guys, John Madden and Andrew Ladd, that had won the Stanley Cup. You get into a tight game and they just bring the insight into what it takes to get through it, they let you know that you can.”
Brouwer is set to become a restricted free agent on July 1 but said he has no concerns about being able to come to terms with the Capitals on a new contract in a timely fashion. In each of the past two seasons with Chicago, Brouwer’s salary counted $1.025 million against the cap.
Although he underwent surgery on his right shoulder this offseason, Brouwer said he expects to be ready for the start of training camp and that his recovery is progressing well. That injury won’t prohibit Brouwer from playing the aggressive, physical style he enjoys.
“I love to hit,” said Brouwer, who finished fifth in the league in hits last year (262). “I won’t go out of my way to make a hit, but I really like to hit when I can. I can be a pretty good goal scorer when given the opportunity to be, I like to help out on the [penalty kill], and I think I can bring some diversity and range to a lineup.”
While Brouwer likely will be part of the Capitals’ near future, assuming both sides can reach an agreement on a new contract, Washington added a few more long-range hopefuls to the pipeline beginning with goaltender Steffen Soberg as the 117th overall pick.
A Norwegian goaltender, Soberg impressed the scouting staff with his tenacity even when his national team was noticeably outmatched by hockey powers Canada, Russia and Sweden at the world championships.
“He’s a very athletic goaltender,” said Dave Prior, the Capitals’ goaltending coach. “In every game he gave his team — which was always the underdog — an opportunity to win. I like that type of goaltender that has instinctive qualities to battle to keep the puck out of the net, has good mobility quickness, reacts to the situation.”
A Norwegian netminder has never played in an NHL game, but McPhee said Soberg was the Capitals’ highest rated goaltender by far.
In the fifth round, Washington selected Patrick Koudys, a 6-foot-3 defenseman who just finished his freshman year at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Ross Mahoney, the Capitals’ director of amateur scouting, called Koudys “a very good skater” and an “intelligent player, [who] moves the puck well.”
The Capitals chose two more players bound for NCAA hockey in the sixth and seventh round, selecting center Travis Boyd at 177 and defenseman Garrett Haar at 207. Boyd will play for Minnesota next year and is a good puck handler who stood out to Washington scouts during international play with the U.S. under-18 team, while Haar is a hard worker set to join Northeastern.
By opting for players bound for college, the Capitals have more time to watch them grow and develop before making a commitment to a player than they would for someone in the major junior leagues.
“A lot of these guys are still very young players, physically they’re young and so getting two extra years of development and working with the good strength coaches that they have is not going to hurt them,” Mahoney said. “It’s going to be more of a help to them in their own development.”