Washington's Weekend Wrap-Up

Posted on January 14, 2013 by Mike Vogel

Entering the second day of the 2012 NHL Draft, the Caps held a total of eight picks over the final six rounds. Washington dealt its second-rounder to Dallas on Friday night in the swap that brought center Mike Ribeiro to the District, but the Caps had at least one pick in each of the other rounds on Saturday. The Caps started Saturday by selecting left wing Chandler Stephenson from Regina of the WHL with their third-round pick (77th overall). Stephenson was ranked at No. 53 by Red Line Report, No. 56 by McKeen’s, No. 60 by International Scouting Services, No. 62 by Hockey Prospectus and No. 74 by The Hockey News. Stephenson is listed as a left wing, but he has played some center as well. He totaled 22 goals and 42 points in just 55 games for Regina last season, and scouts believe he has some offensive upside. Stephenson has added about 30 pounds to a stocky 5-foot-10, 190-pound frame since his draft year in the WHL. “He’s a smart player,” says Caps director of amateur scouting Ross Mahoney of Stephenson. “And he’s got very good hands. He can score, he can move the puck and he’s a good skater. He’s a very good athlete.” Stephenson himself says his skating is probably the best aspect of his game, but scouts also like his hockey sense and his character. The first of Washington’s two fourth-round picks came at No. 100, and the Caps used that choice to draft Thomas Di Pauli, a center from Woodridge, IL – but born in Italy – who played with the US-NTDP last season. Di Pauli will play NCAA hockey with Notre Dame this fall. He was ranked No. 81 among all North American skaters by the NHL’s Central Scouting Bureau. The 5-foot-11, 188-pound Di Pauli moved to the U.S. when he was in the seventh grade so he and older brother Theo – who was draft eligible for the second time in 2012 – could pursue their hockey dreams here. He was the first of four straight picks in which Washington chose players associated with the US-NTDP. Di Pauli played for the US-NTDP each of the last two seasons. “It’s great development,” says Di Pauli. “It’s an honor to put on the jersey every single day knowing that your part of a bigger [thing] – not just a hockey team – but you’re representing your country. It’s an incredible honor to do your best every single day. It was an incredible two years.” Di Pauli sees himself as a reliable defensive player who is good on face-offs and capable of shutting down the opposition’s top line. “I like playing like Ryan Callahan [of the New York Rangers],” he says. “I think he’s a good two-way forward that I like modeling my game after.” Seven picks later, the Caps chose Notre Dame forward, former US-NTDP and good friend of Di Pauli’s, Austin Wuthrich. Eligible for the second time in 2012, Wuthrich’s 2010-11 season with the US-NTDP was interrupted because of a broken leg. He played for Notre Dame in 2011-12, putting up a respectable seven-goal, 17-point campaign in 35 games as a freshman. Playing mainly on the Fighting Irish’s second line, Wuthrich second in scoring among all CCHA freshmen. Wuthrich and Di Pauli will be teammates at Notre Dame this fall, and the two joyously embraced one another as Wuthrich prepared to take the podium for his post-draft interview on Saturday. The 6-foot-1, 190-pound Wuthrich is a native of Anchorage, AK. He is a physical player with a strong work ethic. “I know I need to work on my skating,” says Wuthrich. “Everyone can; it’s just one of those things that you can always get better at. My strong points are just playing physical, being a good two-way player that can play both ends of the ice.” In the fifth round, the Caps chose right-handed defenseman Connor Carrick with the 137th overall pick in the draft. Carrick also played with the US-NTDP in 2011-12, and he’s headed to the University of Michigan in the fall. The 5-foot-11, 185-pound Carrick is a native of Orland Park, IL who shares a billet in Ann Arbor with Wuthrich. Carrick is a mobile, puck-moving defenseman who has a good deal of upside to his game. He was ranked No. 97 by McKeen’s, No. 145 by Red Line Report and No. 162 by International Scouting Services. Carrick will be going from one competitive situation to another this fall when he jumps from the NTDP to NCAA hockey, but he’s ready for it. “If you play somewhere where you’re pampered for your entire life,” says Carrick, “and you go into a situation where there is some adversity for your ice time, you’re not going to know how to react. And I do. I wasn’t always the guy jumping over the boards when the ref’s arm went up. “Hopefully I can grow into that at Michigan. I’m willing to compete for spots. It should be a rewarding experience and I’ll learn a lot from it like I did at the NTDP and just continue to keep moving forward and just get a little better every day.” The Caps went to the NTDP well again in the sixth round when they chose winger and Pittsburgh native Riley Barber with the 167th overall pick. Barber is the son of former NHLer Don Barber, who was Edmonton’s sixth-round choice (120th overall) in the 1983 NHL Entry Draft. Barber was ranked at No. 82 by Red Line Report, No. 96 by McKeen’s and No. 108 by ISS. Here’s what Red Line Report had to say about Barber: “Often overlooked on the U.S. National Team and underrated in general. Just average-sized and a good, but not explosive skater. But he’s an energetic sniper with great hands and shot release – needs almost no time or space to get off hard, accurate shots from any angle. Very persistent and determined in puck pursuit and willing to take hits to make plays – regularly plays in traffic. Great instincts at the offensive end and is able to find open seams. Very opportunistic around the net with a natural scorer’s touch – pounces on mistakes and loose pucks out of nowhere and buries his chances. Was able to consistently create offense for himself this year despite playing with unskilled linemates. Stronger in battles than you’d expect – strong through the core and chest with a low center of gravity. Gets good leverage on his hits and is able to drive through checks." Projection: Versatile 3rd liner with good hands Style compares to: Rich Peverley Washington had three picks in the seventh round. The Caps continued the bloodlines trend started with the Barber selection, picking defenseman Christian Djoos with the first of their three choices in the final round (195th overall). Djoos is the son of former NHL blueliner Per Djoos. Slightly built at 5-foot-11 and just 158 pounds, Djoos is a native of Gothenburg, Sweden. His father was also chosen in the seventh round (127th overall) of the 1986 NHL Entry Draft. The elder Djoos weighed 176 pounds during his playing days as an offensive defenseman with Detroit and the New York Rangers. Christian Djoos was ranked 18th among all European skaters by Central Scouting and No. 151 overall by ISS. The Caps went with a third straight bloodlines pick at 197, choosing mammoth (6-foot-4, 223 pounds) defenseman Jaynen Rissling, nephew of ex-Cap Gary Rissling. Djoos and Rissling are physically about as different as two defensemen can be. “Christian is almost six-foot,” says Mahoney. “But he needs to obviously get a little bit stronger. But he’s a very intelligent player. Good hands, moves the puck really well. He played in all the U18 tournaments for the Swedish team. Jaynen is the opposite. Jaynen is 6-foot-4, about 223 pounds, a good skater and more of a physical player.” Rissling was ranked at No. 64 by Red Line Report and No. 187 by ISS. He had 10 fights last season. Here’s what Red Line had to say about Rissling: “Huge and physically mature defender is an adequate north/south skater for his size, but defensive footwork has room for improvement as he has trouble sticking with quicker, shifty forwards down low. Does use his long reach in containment and to force attackers to the outside. Uses size to punish opponents down low – makes forwards pay a price for real estate. Also a tough and willing fighter. Has simplified his game and made major improvements in own end with better defensive zone positioning. Seals and pins forwards along the wall. Offensive skills are limited, but he’s making smarter pinches now and getting his heavy shot through on net. Patient enough with the puck that he’s comfortable handling it along offensive blueline, and is not afraid to step up as an outlet. Making better decisions in distribution, though he’ll never be a PP quarterback. Projection: Physical #5-6 defenseman Style compares to: Adam McQuaid With the last of their 10 choices in the 2012 draft, the Caps went for the obligatory goaltender. They chose Russian netminder Sergei Kostenko, who wasn’t listed with the NHL’s Central Registry until the Caps requested his listing just prior to the start of the seventh round. “They just saw something there,” says Caps’ general manager George McPhee of Kostenko, and referring to his scouts and goaltending coach Dave Prior. “They think he can be a National Leaguer. “He wasn’t on the list for Central [Registry], and we got him on the last as we entered the seventh round, we made sure he was on the list. They had to research it and make sure he was eligible to be drafted. So we didn’t put him on the list until we got to that seventh round and got it approved and then we took him. [Caps director of media relations] Sergey [Kocharov] had a conversation with him [Friday] and really vouched for his character. He said he would love to come over at the right time, so we thought it was well worth the pick.” Kostenko, who shares a birthday with Caps star Alex Ovechkin, will turn 20 in September. He has two years left on his contract in Russia. Kostenko will compete for a backup job in the KHL this season, but more than likely will play another season at the junior level before graduating to the KHL in 2013-14. He is amenable to coming to the States after that. Kostenko is a close friend of Caps defenseman Dmitry Orlov, and Prior had him ranked as the best Russian goaltender with a 1992 birthdate. “He’s very athletic and very competitive,” says Mahoney of Kostenko. “We have seen him before in the past. He also played well when he played with Russia’s U20 team when they came across and did the Subway Series. He basically ended up being the third goalie on the World Junior team, the U20 team. We’ve been tracking him for three years.” Told that if he were picked in the 2012 draft, it wouldn't be until very late, Kostenko responded, "That's okay. Pavel Datsyuk went late, too." Datsyuk was Detroit's sixth-round choice (171st overall) in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft. McPhee and Mahoney also had a few more worthwhile words on Washington’s weekend in western Pennsylvania. Here’s McPhee on Filip Forsberg, the first of the Caps’ two first-round selections in the 2012 Draft, and the forward Washington had ranked highest on its list: “We’ve targeted him now for a couple of years. We thought he’d be one of the better prospects in this year’s draft. To have him fall to us was we think really good fortune for us. We were very fortunate to have the opportunity to call his name out.” McPhee on right wing Tom Wilson, the Caps’ second first-rounder (16th overall): “You can find guys that are tough, but if they can’t play, what good are they? This kid seems to be that rare combination these days of a big guy who is tough who can play. Worst-case scenario is he plays on the fourth line. But we think if he develops properly he could be a third- or second-line player.” McPhee on the weekend as a whole: “I thought we had a great weekend. We’re really delighted with the way things went. We got an elite talent [Friday] in Forsberg. And picking up Ribeiro makes us a much better team. I like the tough kid Wilson and we just made a lot of picks today. “It’s just nice to sort of restock this year. We’ll see how they are in a couple of years. And we have all of our picks for next year, so we’re in good shape.” McPhee on the start of free agency next Sunday: “I don’t mind where we are. We’ll explore some things in free agency, but I don’t think we’re desperate to do anything.” Mahoney on the US-NTDP: “They’re winners. They won again. Talking to the people in that program, they said it was the best group of kids they’ve ever had. And they’ve had some really good young men come through that program. We think they’re all good athletes and they’re players, and as I said, they’re winners.”

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Caps Land Middle Man

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For the better part of the last two decades, the Washington Capitals have had a very good center at the top of their depth chart. Michal Pivonka, Adam Oates, Robert Lang and Nicklas Backstrom have all filled that top pivot spot ably for the Caps over those years. Washington has struggled somewhat


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