2023 NHL Draft
Capitals Often Succeed With Lottery Draft Picks, History Says
When it comes to lottery picks for the Washington Capitals, there are few.
The Capitals stand to pick in the top 10 of next month’s NHL entry draft — a rarity for a team that, since 2000, has only picked in the traditional lottery seven times. If the team keeps their first round draft choice, June’s draft would feature the eighth. They’ll know for certain where they end up in Monday’s draft lottery.
If history provides any insight into what impact such a draft choice could make in Washington, expectations are high. From a handful of key contributors to at least one future Hall of Famer, here’s a look at what those draft picks have gone on to accomplish.
2014: Jakub Vrana
The first draft choice made by Brian MacLellan after his promotion to general manager, the Washington Capitals chose right winger Jakub Vrana with the 13th pick in the 2014 draft.
It took Vrana four years after the draft to become a regular for the Capitals, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. The Czech tallied 27 points in 73 regular season games during the 2017-18 season — in addition to eight points in 23 playoff games — en route to the franchise’s first-ever Stanley Cup.
The Capitals went on to move Vrana at the 2021 trade deadline, along with Richard Panik and two draft picks, for Red Wings winger Anthony Mantha. After playing 42 games in Detroit — and undergoing a stint in the NHL/NHLPA Player Assistance Program late last year — Vrana was again traded, this time to the St. Louis Blues.
2012: Filip Forsberg
Years before Fillip Forsberg became one of the league’s top wingers in Nashville, the Washington Capitals chose him 11th overall in the 2012 draft.
His stint with Washington, who acquired the pick after trading goaltender Semyon Varlamov to Colorado, was short lived. Capitals’ general manager George McPhee flipped him to Nashville in early 2013 for winger Martin Erat and center Michael Latta.
Erat was sent out of town less than a year after being acquired by the Capitals, while Latta remained with the team through the 2015-16 season — albeit in a reserve role.
In Nashville, Forsberg, 28, holds the franchise scoring record with 239 goals — a number likely to balloon after the Swede signed an eight-year extension last offseason, taking him through the 2029-30 season.
2007: Karl Alzner
Passing on players like Ryan McDonagh, Jakub Voracek and Logan Couture, the Washington Capitals selected defenseman Karl Alzner with the fifth pick in the 2007 draft.
After making his NHL debut during the 2008-09 season, he became a Capitals regular two seasons later. He didn’t miss a single game from 2010-17 — setting the team’s record for consecutive games played in the process — and blocked 963 shots across parts of nine seasons in Washington.
Alzner remained with the Capitals through the 2016-17 season before, citing a desire to win, signing a five-year, $23.125 million contract with the Montreal Canadiens. He last played in the 2019-20 season before the Canadiens bought out his contract.
2006: Nicklas Backstrom
The Washington Capitals struck it big in the 2006 draft, selecting center Nicklas Backstrom with the fourth overall pick.
Backstrom first suited up for the Capitals in the 2007-08 season and he’s been in Washington ever since — etching his name into franchise history in the process. To date, Backstrom is the franchise leader in assists, while ranking second in games played, points and goals created.
Unquestionably one of the top players in franchise history, the 35-year-old Backstrom has a strong case for the Hall of Fame once he decides to hang up his skates.
2004: Alex Ovechkin
After winning the 2004 draft lottery, the Washington Capitals made the easiest draft pick in franchise history by selecting Russian winger Alexander Ovechkin with the first overall pick.
Ovechkin quickly blossomed, showcasing his generational potential during his first NHL season en route to earning honors as the league’s top rookie. Nine Rocket Richard Trophies, three Hart Trophies and one Stanley Cup later, he’s long been a member of the league’s elite.
Ovechkin, 37, is widely regarded as one of the top goal scorers of all time. After passing Gordie Howe for second on the league’s all-time scoring list last season, he’s only 72 away from tying Wayne Gretzky’s first-place record.
2002: Steve Eminger and Alexander Semin
A deep draft class saw the Washington Capitals use not one but two lottery picks in 2002, using their own pick at No. 12 to draft defenseman Steve Eminger before acquiring No. 13 to select winger Alexander Semin.
Eminger would play more than 200 games for the Capitals in his first five seasons, but his legacy in Washington has little to do with what he accomplished on the court. During the 2008 entry draft, he was packaged with a third-round pick and dealt to the Philadelphia Flyers for a first round pick that year — one that became 14-year Capitals defenseman John Carlson.
Following a two-year hiatus due to the 2004-05 lockout and mandatory Russian military service, Semin was quick to make an impact in Washington. He became a formidable secondary piece to Ovechkin, tallying 138 goals from 2006-10.
He averaged just over 58 points per season across the seven he played in Washington before signing with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2012. Semin last played in the NHL in 2015, and ultimately retired from pro hockey in 2022.