The Washington Capitals have the greatest goal scorer of all time in Alex Ovechkin and a top-notch core that has made them a playoff team for all but one time over the last 15 seasons.
However, over the years, there are a few notable NHL stars & names in the making that the team just missed out on, whether it be from a trade or missed pick.
Here are just a few of the stars that the Capitals could have had on the roster by circumstance:
In the 2011 NHL Draft, the seventh round presented quite a few different options for Washington. On the clock at No. 207, the Capitals selected defenseman Garrett Haar from the USHL’s Fargo Force. A left-handed 6-0, 196-pound blueliner, Haar had puck-moving potential and promise as a reliable option on the backend.
And then, with the next pick at No. 208, the Tampa Bay Lightning were on the clock. They selected forward Ondrej Palat.
Haar went to go play for Western Michigan University, but after two seasons, Haar was kicked off the team and released after he “did not live up to Bronco Hockey athletic and academic standards.” After his NCAA career ended, Haar went to the WHL and starred with the Portland Winterhawks. Despite signing an AHL deal with the Hershey Bears after his time in juniors, he played with the ECHL’s South Carolina Stingrays and ultimately never made it past that league. Now 29, Haar is retired.
Palat would play in his full rookie season in 2013-14, dishing 59 points in 81 games. He finished second in Calder voting and 11th in Selke voting that season. After that year, Palat would continue to be a force on the Lightning’s top-6 and be a clutch player as the team went for back-to-back Stanley Cup titles in 2020 and 2021 and also made its third straight Stanley Cup Final appearance in 2022.
This one’s interesting, and it also goes back to general manager George McPhee’s final season at the helm before being dismissed by Washington. Back at the 2014 NHL Trade Deadline, the Capitals had traded away Michal Neuvirth and Rostislav Klesla for Jaroslav Halak and a 2015 third-rounder. After the season, Washington traded Halak to the New York Islanders for a 2014 fourth-round pick. That ended up being the No. 104 pick, and the Capitals ended up taking that pick and their other fourth-round pick (No. 118) to the New York Rangers in exchange for the No. 89 pick.
With that selection, Washington took Nathan Walker, the first-ever Australian player to be drafted. With No. 104 and No. 118, the New York Rangers selected goaltender Igor Shesterkin and defenseman Ryan Mantha.
Walker spent years in the Capitals and Hershey Bears system and became a fan favorite, while also becoming the first-ever Australian NHL player and the first from his country to score a goal and hoist the Stanley Cup (he posted an assist in the second-round series-clinching game against the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2018).
Shesterkin worked his way up the ranks and broke out as the New York Rangers star netminder, replacing Henrik Lundqvist (who was going to play in D.C. after his buyout from New York). This past season, Shesterkin secured the Vezina with a .935 save percentage and 2.07 GAA, and he also finished third in Hart voting. He also helped the Rangers make it to the Eastern Conference Final with a .929 SV% in the postseason.
For a goaltending option in that draft, Washington selected Vitek Vanecek, who would be one of the Capitals’ starters just years later.
Drake Batherson is still a rising star and is on his way up with the Ottawa Senators, who are looking like they could be a legitimate playoff team this season. However, he could have been with Washington.
In the 2017 NHL Draft, the Capitals had traded away their picks from the first three rounds and were finally on the clock in the fourth round. With the No. 120 pick, Washington took defenseman Tobias Geisser. At No. 121, the Senators took Batherson.
Geisser had been a work in progress with Washington and signed a three-year, entry-level deal with the club back in 2018. The 6-4, 201-pound mobile blueliner played with both the Hershey Bears and on loan with EV Zug in the Swiss League. While he’s still fine-tuning his game and developing into a puck-mover, his entry-level deal expired this season. He ultimately signed a three-year deal with EV Zug this offseason, though the Capitals extended him a qualifying offer.
As for Batherson, he worked hard and made himself prominent on the top-6 for Ottawa, working well with the team’s young guns like Brady Tkachuk, Tim Stutzle and Josh Norris. He had 44 points in 46 games last season and likely would’ve had more had a major ankle injury not sidelined him for a good amount of the campaign.