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Silber: Capitals Won Big In 2022 NHL Draft — And Made A Couple Steals Too



Capitals draft pick Ivan Miroshnichenko

Heading into the 2022 NHL Draft, the Washington Capitals were on a mission. With Nicklas Backstrom‘s NHL future hanging in the balance, the veteran core aging and the Stanley Cup window only open for so much longer, this year’s draft would be a vital one for a team looking for several answers to several questions.

They did just that — and won big.

The Capitals kicked off the draft making arguably the biggest steal possible. Washington took a calculated risk and decided to select Ivan Miroshnichenko. The VHL product had been pegged as a top-10 talent, thanks to his wicked shot and ability as a sniper combined with strong skating and puck-moving prowess. However, a diagnosis of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in March led to his draft stock dropping.

After reviewing his medical records and speaking to him on Wednesday, Brian MacLellan, Ross Mahoney and the Capitals decided the reward outweighed the risk and went with the Russian at No. 20. He has the potential to be an Evgeny Kuznetsov-type player, a star at the highest level. And, as he gets back in the swing of things, he is eager to fulfill that star role.

Miroshnichenko is now in remission and received clearance to return to the ice in June. He will stay in North America for development camp and then return to Omsk for the 2022-23 campaign.

“Just a tremendous feeling, such a great organization,” Miroshnichenko said. “There are so many great players, Russian players that played for the organization. So to join them is a tremendous honor.”

READ MORE ON WHN: Meet Ivan Miroshnichenko, Who Is Ready To Make Mark With Capitals

Washington wasn’t done there. Heading into the second round, the team had its eye on a higher pick, and also had their goaltending situation in mind. And, in a decision that surrounded around “supply and demand,” MacLellan traded Vitek Vanecek, along with the No. 46 pick, to the New Jersey Devils in exchange for the No. 37 and No. 70 selections.

At No. 37, the Capitals again impressed with their selection, taking one of the top defensemen left available. The organization is stacked when it comes to left-hand shots, and this time, got a RHD in Ryan Chesley.

The U.S. NTDP blueliner is coming off a strong season and will play NCAA hockey at the University of Minnesota in 2022-23. He was ranked No. 18 among all North American skaters and describes himself as a “two-way, puck-moving defenseman who has the ability to shut down any player at any time.” When it comes to his game, think Ryan McDonagh or Charlie McAvoy.

Chesley has great upside and potential to be a shutdown top-4 defenseman. He is tough to play against, as the 6-0, 195-pound d-man isn’t afraid to lay the body and is very aggressive on the backcheck. He can win battles and knock opponents off the puck, and break up plays easily. Chesley also knows how to start the breakout and makes strong passes, and he also possesses a solid shot to boot.

RELATED: Ryan Chesley Ready To Pack Punch With Capitals

Washington then loaded up on the left side, taking two left wingers in Alexander Suzdalev and Ludwig Persson with the No. 70 and No. 85 respectively, and they both hail from the Sweden-Jr league. Suzdalev uses his 6-2, 175-pound frame and speed to his advantage and takes good care of the puck, and he’s a good playmaker with quick hands and a high hockey IQ. The Russian is also versatile and can make a maor impact in the offensive zone with strong passing and stickhandling ability. Persson, meanwhile, possesses a great shot and gets to the right areas to score, and he can open space for himself in the offensive zone.

After having four selections in the first three rounds, Washington closed out the draft with Jake Karabela at No. 149, who has played both center and wing, can make great passes, take good care of the puck and battle for scoring chances while staying calm under pressure. Then, at No. 181, the Capitals took Ryan Hofer, the oldest player in the draft class. The 6-3, 191-pound center is a huge presence who is coming off a great season with the WHL’s Silvertips. He is physical, hard to take off the puck and has a knack for the net. Lastly, Washington closed out the draft with Michigan State defender David Gucciardi at No. 213. He has good puck control and quick hands, which benefit him as a puck-mover who loves to jump on the rush and play a role on special teams.

Overall, it was a strong draft for the Capitals, who leave with a lot more forwards in their arsenal after going defense-heavy in 2021. And, at the end of the day, they may have stolen some of the most talented players in this year’s class.