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2022 NHL Draft

2022 NHL Draft: Who Could Capitals Take At 20th Overall?



Who will the Capitals take at No. 20?

In just under two hours, the 2022 NHL Draft will kick off in Montreal. As of right now, the Washington Capitals hold the No. 20 pick, marking the first time since 2020 that they’ve had a first-round selection.

General manager Brian MacLellan noted that nothing’s off the table with regard to that pick, but unless there’s an offer out there that’s too good to turn down, the Capitals are “more likely” to make that pick, as they like several players in that range.

“There’s been a couple of discussions about moving it,” MacLellan explained. “I think if it made sense and you know, we get something that really improved our team, we’d consider it. Other than that, I’d say we’re more likely to make that pick. Ross [Mahoney] and his staff really like the range we’re in. We think we’re going to get a player that they really like.”

AGM Ross Mahoney added that there are “four or five guys” that Washington is interested in that they could take, and they “vary in position,” from forwards to defensemen.

Here are some names to watch as a potential 20th overall pick heading into Thursday:

C Frank Nazar, U.S. National Team Development Program

Nazar, ranked No. 21 among North American skaters, is a product of the U.S. National Team Development Program. In 56 games this season, he dished 28 goals and 52 assists. In 24 more USHL games with the USNTDP Juniors, he picked up 15 goals and 20 assists. He will play NCAA hockey with his hometown Michigan Wolverines next season.

The right-hand shot is an explosive skater and can use his speed to get to the high-danger areas. He can also make decisions on the fly and plays well in all three zones. Nazar is also a talented playmaker and doesn’t shy away from taking risks, though he does have good two-way awareness. If he’s available at No. 20, he could be a good option, as the Capitals need to continue to add center depth with Nicklas Backstrom’s NHL future in question and the core aging.

C Juri Kulich, HC Energie Karlovy Vary

Kulich has impressed as a 17-year-old skating in the Czech Extraliga, playing against grown men. He is known for his versatility and hockey IQ, and he can do a lot of damage in the slot. He had nine goals and five assists in 49 games in the Czech League, and also wore the “C” for Czechia in the U18 World Junior Championships, putting up nine goals and two assists in just six games. Kulich also had 22 points in 16 international U18 games in 2021-22.

He also has good vision and puck-carrying ability that helps him start the breakout and make picture-perfect passes. Not to mention, he has a wicked shot and get to the high-danger areas, and he can operate well on special teams.

RW Jagger Firkus, Moose Jaw Warriors

I’ve always been a fan of Firkus, though he’s now projected to go later in the first round or even early in the second round. He is ranked 12th among North American skaters and has a wicked shot and great hockey sense. He can get into the high-scoring areas and, like Kulich, can work wonders in the slot. The right-wing is the kind of player that can get to the front of the net and score, but he can also convert from range. His shot and stickhandling ability also make him a major asset.

Washington needs depth on the right side going forward, along with secondary scoring. Firkus can bring that to the table and is coming off an excellent year with the WHL’s Moose Jaw Warriors, where he put up 36 goals and 44 assists in 66 regular-season games.

RW Jimmy Snuggerud, U.S. National Team Development Program

Another right wing, Snuggerud is a University of Minnesota commit coming off a strong season. He spent 2021-22 with the U.S. National Team Development Program, dishing 24 goals and 39 assists for 63 points in 59 games. He also played 26 USHL games with the USNTDP Juniors, racking up six goals and 20 assists.

Snuggerud has an excellent skill set and is known for his outstanding shot. She can shoot from anywhere and has a quick release, and he can also go under the radar and deceive netminders. The 6-1, 181-pound winger is also a strong skater with quick hands who doesn’t shy way from puck battles or being aggressive on the forecheck.

C Rutger McGroarty, U.S. National Team Development Program

Shifting back to center, Rutger McGroarty could be a name of interest. The Nebraska native is coming off an impressive campaign that saw him dish 35 goals and 34 assists in 54 games with the U.S. National Team Development Program’s U18 team. He also posted 15 goals and 18 assists in 25 games with the NTDP Juniors in the USHL.

The 6-1, 204-pound right wing has been compared to Matthew Tkachuk and Anders Lee. He’s not afraid to get to the gritty, dirty areas in front and battle for positioning in the high-danger areas to boot. He’s also physical and good along the wall. In addition to that, he has great hands, skill, good hockey sense and a solid shot. He can also start the play and make a good breakout pass, then get to the right area to finish it.

D Denton Mateychuk, Moose Jaw Warriors

Yes, a WHL defenseman. The Capitals are no stranger to this area, as a lot of their high-end defensive talent over recent years has come from the Western Hockey League (see Vinnie Iorio, Dru Krebs, Lucas Johansen, etc.).

The Capitals are loaded on the backend with plenty of promising prospects, but Mateychuk is a high-end player with plenty of upside, and the draft mentality is usually to prioritize the best player rather than position. He is a puck mover who gets involved in the rush, and he makes sure he is involved and can start the breakout and carry the puck up ice and safely into the offensive zone, and he’s improving his shot. At one point, Mateychuk led all draft-eligible WHL blueliners in points and points-per-game, and put up 13 goals and 51 assists in 65 games this season, which ranked fifth among all WHL blueliners.