The Washington Capitals walked into the 2021 draft without a first-round pick. Originally, the club had five overall picks, but a trade with the New York Rangers in the third round gave them an additional pick in the sixth. In last year’s draft, they chose not to select any defenseman, but in 2021, four out of their six picks were for defenders. It’s a start in the right direction for restocking their prospect system.
Vincent Iorio, D, Brandon Wheat Kings-WHL (Round 2, Pick 55)
Brent Johnson, D, Sioux Falls Stampede-USHL (Round 3, Pick 80)
Joaquim Lemay, D, Salmon Arm Silverbacks-BCHL (Round 4, Pick 119)
Haakon Hanelt, F, Eisbaren Berlin-DEL (Round 5, Pick 151)
Dru Krebs, D, Medicine Hat Tigers-WHL (Round 6, Pick 176)
Chase Clark, G, Jersey Hitmen-USPHL (Round 6, Pick 183)
The Capitals chose to go the defensive route and seem to have picked well, especially with Iorio and Johnson. Johnson was listed higher than Iorio, so he may be considered a steal for Washington. Lemay is a decent pick, but Krebs will be a work in progress for the Caps. Hanelt and Clark are the only outliers in this defense-driven draft. Both are good players in their own right, and it’s possible that we might see Hanelt here in the United States sooner rather than later.
Best Pick: Vincent Iorio
Listed at 6’3” and 191 pounds, Iorio’s a right-handed shot with three seasons at the WHL level under his belt. As he is turning 19 in November, he would be eligible to play for the AHL in the 2022-23 season. Iorio is considered a two-way defender with a hard shot. He’s been able to help anchor the power play for the Wheat Kings, and in last year’s abbreviated season, lorio scored 12 points in 22 games.
Worst Pick: Dru Krebs
For the Capitals, the “worst” player means they have a bit to work on. For Krebs, it would be scoring goals. This past season, he had 11 assists in 23 games. Listed at 5’11” and 182 pounds, look for him to put on some weight while working on his game. Despite a lack of depth, it’s easy to see why the Capitals chose him; he has a solid work ethic and his skating skill is decent, with room for improvement.
Sleeper Pick: Haakon Hanelt
Hanelt is an unknown quantity, especially due to his age playing at the highest level of hockey in Germany. Having one goal in 22 games may make him appear to be not worthy of a chance. However, if you look at previous teams he’s been on, Hanelt is a good playmaking center with a hard shot. He’s represented Germany internationally in the U17 and U18 Junior tournaments. It’s a possibility in 1-3 years, he could crack the bottom six for the Capitals, but we won’t know until he plays over here. It’s the uncertainty that contributes to Hanelt possibly being a diamond in the rough.
The Capitals continue to vie for the Stanley Cup each season, and down the road, we’ll see a few of these picks along the way. They’ve been in a “win now” mode for so long; it’s good to see them trying to sock up on prospects to give them a chance in the future. Despite not having a first-round pick, the Capitals did a great job making the most of what they had to work with.
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Main Image Credit: NoVa Caps