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Sunday, June 29, 2014

Capitals 2014 NHL Draft: Aussie! Aussie! Aussie! Goalie! Goalie! Goalie! And Some Creative Way to Include Vrana

The Washington Capitals 2014 NHL Entry was quite interesting.  It had been said numerous times that the Capitals would not draft players based on position, but based on who was the best player available.  They made that quite evident.  While, it seems to be the popular consensus that this team lacks any sort of prospects in the pivot position, and maybe need to shore up the backend a bit, the team went for a left handed winger in Jakub Vrana.  Ok, Vrana is listed as a center on the NHL website, but, according to ESPN's Corey Pronman, who pretty much knows everything there is to know about NHL prospects, stated that he sees Vrana as a wing.

It's really no biggy that the Caps went with a winger instead of a center.  They obviously need a center now, but if they were to draft a center with the first pick, he would most likely not make the team this year.  Realistically, the Caps will see these guys in two or three (probably three) years.  So, it really makes sense to draft the best available player at any given point, as you never know what may happen.  Still, it's a little odd that the Caps were one of only two teams to go this entire draft without drafting a defensemen.  It's also a little odd that the Caps drafted a goalie with their second pick, and then traded for a goaltender.  But what do I know?

Let's take a look at each of the Caps picks.

1st Round, Pick 13 - C/LW Jakub Vrana.  Czech Republic.  5'11", 172 lbs.  Linkopings HC.

Vrana has bounced between the senior team and junior team in the Swedish Hockey League.  You may have seen him play in the World Junior Championships, where he has actually played twice.  In 2013, he was the youngest player in the whole tournament, and in 2014 he tallied a goal and an assist in two games.  Vrana was ranked as the fourth best European prospect in the entire 2014 Draft Class. Here's what a few people have to say about him:

"He plays with determination and drive, has an excellent work ethic and is a very fast skater with excellent all-round skills. He is able to control the game and create a lot of scoring possibilities with his quick moves." - Goran Stubb, Director of European Scouting.

"An offensively skilled winger. Vrana is a good skater, works hard for the puck and has good technical skills. Is a capable goal scorer with a quick release and a nose for the net. Can improve his defensive game." -

"NHL strong, goal scoring's what he's all about," - Bob McKenzie, hockey analyst.

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He has been compared to Marian Gaborik and Patrik Elias.  Pronman also stated that his defense could use some work, and he is sometimes be selfish, but, then again, that is about the same critic as every single European player.

Now, for the important stuff.

His favorite actor is Steven Seagal, which I'm like 80% sure is Evgeny Kuznetsov's favorite actor as well.  So, at least they have a conversation starter.  His favorite movie is Miracle On Ice, so I guess he also loves America, which means he probably would have no problem coming over here quickly.  Oh, and he is definitely willing to just pick up and move, as he left the Czech Republic at 15 to play in Sweden, where he lived by himself in an apartment complex.  He sounds like a winner.

More info on him

2nd Round, Pick 39 - G Vitek Vanecek.  Czech Republic.  6'0", 180 lbs.  HC Bili Tygri Liberec U20.

This is an odd pick.  The Caps actually traded up for Vanecek, who went after a string of goalies in the second round.  He's rated as the 7th best European goaltender, according to the International Scouting Services.  He was not within the top 100 prospects in The Hockey News.  No one really saw the Caps going with a goaltender like this, and Vanecek appears to be a project goaltender.  That being said, the Caps have had success with drafting goaltenders the last few times they've done it, so, in the worst case scenario, this guy becomes trade bait.  Here's what the International Scouting Services had to say about him:

"Vanecek was arguably the MVP for the Silver Medalist Czech Republic throughout the U18 World Championships as he elevated his game and was put in the position to steal games when needed.  Good size in net and shows great net coverage as he challenges well making himself look big. Great lateral extension couldn't keep track of the amount of lateral desperation saves he had to make on the opposition rush.  Never gives up on the play, excellent to see him battle against the elite opposition forwards.  Great post work and covering short side.  Air-of-confidence between the pipes, always focused and ready to go to work.  Has shown tremendous promise at the U18s and with Liberect Jr."

He posted a .922 save percentage this season, which is phenomenal.  It's just really interesting that the Caps were willing to trade up to snag him.  It seems to fall in line with the fact that three quality goaltenders were selected right before him, and the Caps may have really, really wanted to grab one early.  I just wonder how far Vanecek could have fallen.

More info can be found here.

3rd Round, Pick 89 - LW Nathan Walker.  Australia.  That is not a typo.  He is from Australia.  5'9", 185 lbs.  Hershey Bears.

We got our Aussie back!  You might recognize Walker from the Hershey Bears.  He was never drafted, and became eligible this year again as a 20 year old.  Walker is the first Australian ever drafted by the NHL.  Walker will most likely return to the Bears this season, where he had five goals and six assists in 43 games.  Walker also has a realistic shot at making a couple of appearances on the Capitals this season.  Again, the Capitals traded up to grab him, but it's good to know our mate is back.

We have to make sure to come up with an incredibly creative cheer or something for this guy.

You can follow Nathan Walker on twitter @NathanWalks10.

More info can be found here.

5th Round, Pick 134 - LW/C Shane Gersich.  Minnesota.  5'10", 165 lbs.  USA U-18, USHL

I love players drafted from the USA Development team.  The teams are loaded with talent.  This guy played behind a lot of first round talent in Dylan Larkin, Sonny Milano, Alex Tuch and Jack Eichel.  It's tough to be a superstar on a team with those guys.  You know who else played behind a lot of talent and dropped in the draft?  Riley Barber, and it looks like he has the potential to be a stud.

Gersich comes from a hockey family.  His uncles are Neal, Aaron and Paul Broten, all of whom were drafted into the NHL.  Neal is the most famous.  He was on the "Miracle on Ice" team that won gold in 1980, and won a Stanley Cup with the New Jersey Devils.  Gersich did pretty well for himself on the development team.  He scored 16 goals and added 14 assists in 53 games last season.

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It sounds like the kid has a good head on his shoulders.  He will be playing for the University of North Dakota this fall.  You can follow him on twitter at @shane_gersich9.

More info can be found here.

6th Round, Pick 159 - RW Steven Spinner.  Minnesota.  5'11", 192 lbs.  Eden Prairie High School.

Not many players get drafted after primarily playing in high school, but Steven Spinner was able to do just that.  Spinner scored 17 goals and added 22 assists in 25 games.  Spinner is said by Pronman to be a very fast player, who "darts all over the ice."  Spinner has good size at nearly 200 pounds.  It sounds like he plans on playing Division I College hockey, where he has a chance to really develop his skills.  Definitely a project player, but he does have tremendous upside.

You can follow Spinner on twitter at @SJSpinner.

More info can be found here.

7th Round, Pick 194 - RW Kevin Elgestal.  Sweden.  6'0", 172 lbs.  Frolunda Jr.

Could not find that much information on Kevin Elgestal.  He recorded 13 goals and 22 assists in 44 games for the Frolunda junior club.  He was also a part of Sweden's World Junior Championship U-18 team, where he scored a goal and two assists in seven games.  Here he is with a pretty solid wrist shot at around the 1:45 mark.

He is Swedish, so I can only assume he is really quiet and has really quick hands.

You can follow him on twitter at @KElgestaal.

More info can be found here.

So these are your newest Capitals.  The way I see it, there is no clear cut stud, but a lot of potential within the 2014 Caps draft class.  We'll just have to wait and see.


  1. Anonymous3:19:00 PM

    Thanks for the info and your style of reporting. Most fans think they are experts and hope is all we have with these kids. Really refreshing reporting. Look forward to reading more from you and I have your website bookmarked now. Mark

  2. Mark, thank you for taking the time to read this, and I really appreciate the kind words.