Connor Bedard’s sweater will not be red, white and blue next season, but that doesn’t mean the Washington Capitals have received a death sentence in Wednesday’s NHL entry draft.
The Capitals secured the No. 8 draft pick by way of last month’s draft lottery, setting general manager Brian MacLellan up with the team’s first top 10 pick in more than 15 years. And with a deeper than normal draft class, the addition of a high-potential prospect to the team’s future plans appears imminent.
“It’s not fun getting to this point, but I think everybody in our organization is excited about the player that we’ll be able to draft in that spot,” MacLellan said in May.
During the 2022-23 season, seven players chosen eighth overall saw considerable time at the NHL level. Some are established veterans, others are still trying to find their way.
Here’s a look at some of the best No. 8 draft picks on the ice today.
Casey Mittelstadt, 2017
Mittelstadt, 24, has left much to be desired during his young NHL career, but has shown signs of his future potential.
The Sabres, who selected the American center in 2017, saw him become a regular in Buffalo during the 2018-19 season, playing 77 games at age 20. But Mittelstadt has struggled to stay on the ice for much of his NHL career, battling injuries limiting him to 41 or fewer games from 2019-22.
However, he’s fresh off a breakout year in Buffalo after tallying a career-high 59 points in a full 82-game season, as well as the team’s fourth-most assists.
Zach Werenski, 2015
After placing third in Calder Trophy voting during his rookie year, Werenski has since become a stalwart of the Blue Jackets’ blue line, in addition to a major piece of the team’s entire operation.
So much of an impact in fact that, after only seven seasons in Columbus, Werenski ranks seventh in points in franchise history and is only five points away from the No. 6 spot, held by RJ Umberger.
Werenski is coming off a limited season, totaling 24 blocks and 14 takeaways before a torn labrum in November ended his season.
William Nylander, 2014
Nylander has cemented himself as one of the game’s best since becoming an NHL regular in 2016.
With the Maple Leafs, Nylander has blossomed into a skilled playmaker and scorer. He’s tallied 59 or more points in five of his eight seasons, and has scored 30 or more goals in a season three times.
Nylander is also fresh off his best-ever season, tallying 87 points in 82 games as a member of Toronto’s core four.
Sean Couturier, 2011
Couturier has long drawn praise for his all-around skills, ultimately winning the Selke Trophy in 2020 as the league’s top defensive forward.
After being drafted by the Flyers in 2011, he quickly commanded playing time before finishing ninth in Calder voting. Since then, he’s had four 40-point seasons, as well as four others nearly crossing that threshold.
Couturier, 30, has struggled with injuries of late, and was sidelined for the entire 2022-23 season.