Over the course of the 2021 NHL Draft, the Washington Capitals placed emphasis on defense, taking four blueliners, one center and a goaltender.
Washington selected defenseman Vincent Iorio at No. 55, then traded down to No. 80 to take blueliner Brent Johnson. After that, the Capitals took Joaquim Lemay at No. 119, center Haakon Hanelt at No. 151, defenseman Dru Krebs at No. 176 and goalie Chase Clark at No. 183.
Iorio describes himself as a “poised, smooth-skating two-way defenseman who’s reliable in all three zones.” He’s also trained with Brenden Dillon and models his game after John Carlson. The 6-3, 191-pound blueliner can move the puck effectively up ice and isn’t afraid to join the rush, and he has a strong point shot to boot. A product of the WHL’s Brandon Wheat Kings, Iorio’s been able to improve at both ends. Through 22 games last season, he registered five goals and 12 points and was a plus-8.
READ MORE ON WHN: Iorio Talks Washington Capitals Selection, Improving Game
Washington followed up another right-handed d-man at No. 80, taking Johnson. The myth is that he was named after the former Capitals goalie, and though he also specializes in defense, he brings a lot of firepower to the table.
The 38th highest-ranked North American skater, Johnson hails from the USHL’s Sioux Falls Stampede. He dished 32 points in 47 games last season, and his stickhandling, playmaking ability and skating make him a threat on the forecheck. Johnson also doesn’t shy away from playing a physical game. He intends to play for the University of North Dakota next year.
READ MORE ON WHN: Meet Capitals Prospect Brent Johnson
For the third-straight pick, Washington elected to go with a blueliner, this time taking a left-hand shot in Lemay. Another college commit (University of Nebraska – Omaha), Lemay spent 2020-21 in the BCHL and picked up 10 assists through 15 games with the Salmon Arm Silverbacks.
Lemay is another impressive puck-moving defender, who can make strong passes, start the breakout and join the rush. He also grew up a Capitals fan, idolizing Alex Ovechkin.
At No. 151, the Capitals shifted their focus to the forward position, taking German center Hanelt. He was ranked 17th by NHL Central Scouting. The 6-0, 194-pound center is an incredibly versatile forward with good hands and great defensive awareness. He won a DEL Championship with Eisbaren Berlin in the DEL last season and also recorded one goal in 22 games. Back in 2018-19, he had 43 assists and 59 points in 20 games with the EBJL’s RB Hockey Academy U18 team.
Washington shifted back to the blue line at No. 176, taking defenseman Dru Krebs. The younger brother of Vegas prospect Peyton Krebs, Dru is a product of the WHL’s Medicine Hat Tigers and had 11 assists in 23 games last season. His biggest asset is his skating ability, which allows him to move the puck effectively and make deceptive plays.
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Lastly, the Capitals checked off the last box on their list with a goaltender, taking Chase Clark. The 6-6 netminder impressed last season in 22 games for the NCDC’s Jersey Hitmen, going 18-2-1 with a .935 save percentage and 1.92. He also played three games with the USHL’s Tri-City Storm, where he registered a .899 SV% and 3.03 GAA.
In the end, Washington was able to add even more depth on defense, especially on the right side. Not only that, but they were also able to take a strong defensive center in Hanelt, and picked up another promising netminder in Clark.