Connect with us

2023 NHL Draft

Capitals Giddy Over The Upside Of Day 2 Draft Picks



Washington Capitals assistant general manager Ross Mahoney is one of many thrilled with the value the team obtained in the 2023 NHL Draft.

In a best-case scenario kind of way, lightning struck twice — maybe more — at the NHL Draft for the Washington Capitals.

The team didn’t expect American forward Ryan Leonard to be available when they went on the clock at No. 8 overall. But the Arizona Coyotes made a surprise pick at No. 6, the Philadelphia Flyers opted for Russian winger Matvei Michkov at No. 7, and Leonard fell right into the Capitals’ lap.

It happened again Thursday, as Canadian winger Andrew Cristall — the No. 15 North American forward, according to NHL Central Scouting — fell to the Capitals’ second-round pick, No. 40 overall.

“I thought he was gonna go in the first round, we had him in the first round,” general manager Brian MacLellan said. “He was a target coming into the second day. We tried a couple opportunities to jump up and pick him. Fortunately we got him with our regular pick.”

Assistant general manager Ross Mahoney, who leads the team’s draft operations, echoed MacLellan.

“You could’ve asked me if we were gonna get Leonard and Cristall with our first two picks,” Mahoney said. “I probably would’ve said ‘No, I don’t think so, hopefully we get one of those.’ I think we got real good value.”

But it didn’t stop there for the Capitals, who made six picks over the draft’s two days.

In the fourth round, the Capitals took their only defenseman — Cam Allen, himself the winner of the 2022 OHL Rookie of the Year trophy, as well as Central Scouting’s 12th-ranked North American defenseman.

“You’re looking at a guy who was captain of Canada’s Hlinka team, he was captain again of Canada’s under-18 team in the World Championship,” Mahoney said. “Very, very competitive guy. 

“I thought he definitely, for me, had a chance of going a couple rounds higher, but I kind of get it. Maybe sometimes when your year doesn’t go the way you want it to as compared to your underage year, maybe you slide a little bit in the draft, and I think that’s probably the case with Cam.”

Then, after trading back into the seventh round, the team took virtually unknown goalie Antoine Keller at No. 206 — a move generating such excitement internally that it could not be contained.

“I’m really excited about Antoine Keller,” an elated Mahoney said, the inflection of his voice rising. “He’s very interesting … we saw him play in the under-20 tournament before Christmas. And then the year before we also saw him, we had interest in him. He really kind of came on our radar then. I’m really curious to see where he’s gonna be in a few years.”

While most of the prospects are a ways away from impacting the Capitals organization on the ice, a select few will be in town this weekend for development camp — the first chapter of their professional hockey lives.

Jared Serre covers the Washington Capitals for Washington Hockey Now. He is a graduate of West Virginia University.