Mining for Gems Deep in a Draft’s Bedrock

SI.com’s Allan Muir has offered a glowing assessment of the Capitals’ draft work in L.A. this past weekend. George McPhee bolstered his status as a procurer of top-end talent deep in round one, Muir claimed, and the team added skill guys of intrigue afterward. He termed the Caps’ class the “crop we may be talking about most in five years.”

“If George McPhee’s rep for mining gems from the deep substrata of the first isn’t already set, it could be soon. The Caps’ GM, who already hit it big with Mike Green (29th overall, 2004) and John Carlson (27th, 2008), looks like he could have added another jewel to his system with Evgeny Kuznetsov at 26. The 18-year-old winger isn’t big (6-0, 172), but he possesses an offensive explosiveness similar to current Cap Alexander Semin. If not for the Russian passport, his skill level likely would have led someone to call his name sooner. “That could be a real value pick,” a Western Conference scout told SI.com. “They’ve got the people in place there [Alex Ovechkin, Semin and others] that should help with [his] transition and a system that he should be comfortable with. [McPhee's scouting staff] have done a good job loading up that system.” The Caps also may have found value in third-rounder Stanislav Galiev (86th), a skilled right winger from the Saint John Sea Dogs who some experts predicted could go in the first round, and Phil Grubauer (112th), the German-born goaltender who led the Windsor Spitfires to the Memorial Cup last month. A scout noted that neither player projects as a sure thing, but both have elements that make you think “there might be something special there.” “These are both talented kids,” he said. “There’s no rush on either of them. They’ve got time and that may be all they need.”

Muir left Jeff Schultz off his list.

* * * * *

At last summer’s Capitals Convention I had a chance to ask Ted Leonsis about a goodwill tour to Russia his team might undertake to showcase its holdings of high-end Russian talent. This is an idea that’s been brokered by the NHL with Russia’s hockey leaders but hung up, to some degree, over the absence of a player transfer agreement between the governing bodies. The owner demurred at my reference to it, assigning such a tour the designation “distraction” for another day, something to think about after the team had won a Stanley Cup. Maybe, but what if that day doesn’t arrive? It’d still be very wise for the Caps to embark on such a goodwill tour of exhibition games against KHL clubs, for instance; you need spend only 5 minutes in Dmitry Chenokov’s company talking about the Capitals’ popularity in Russia to understand what such a trup would mean to global hockey. I have to think this is a trip the team would very much like to make, in the not-too-distanct future. Obviously, it’s something the captain would savor. And you’d think the Caps would want to pursue it while Ovi is in his playing prime.

I thought about this trip again this past weekend as the Caps selected two more highly skilled Russians in Los Angeles, adding to their aura of being Moscow West. As I noted Saturday, in two years time the Capitals’ second line could feature Alexander Semin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, and Dmitry Kugryshev. Semyon Varlamov may well be cemented as the team’s no. 1 in net, and Dmitri Orlov could be patrolling the team’s blueline then. And of course they’d be captained by the world’s greatest player, a native of Moscow. As an offseason event such a trip would be a media gold mine for the club.

* * * * *

Over the weekend various bloggers for Southeast teams received an invite from well-respected blogger and Cycle Like the Sedins founder James O’Brien to contribute reactions to a fresh reconsideration of the Southeast division, what with all the recent front office changes (Florida, Tampa, Atlanta) and a glut of high-end picks heading to Southeast teams this past weekend. The Panthers had, what, five of the first 36 selections in the 2010?

I didn’t respond to O’Brien’s invitation, for from my vantage, no chair moving or sweater changing can fundamentally alter my outlook on the Bettman abomination that is the SouthLeast. Like Rosemary’s Baby, it was ill-conceived.

The division claimed two Stanley Cup victories within its first 10 years of existence. No matter. Its DNA is in NASCAR and the SEC. Fans can’t travel to away games, except on trust funds. Consequently, there are no significant rivalries that have been birthed. There aren’t even insignificant rivalries. There are no rivalries. And look at the way four of the division’s five teams have drafted for most of the past 10 years. Even when bluechippers are secured, they (Boumeester, Luongo, Jack Johnson, Nathan Horton) can’t get out of Dodge fast enough. Other than Washington, what Southeast destination today would you decsribe as one that free agents can’t wait to sign with?

It needs to be blown up.

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This entry was posted in Alexander Ovechkin, Atlanta Thrashers, Dmitry Chesnokov, Entry Draft, Florida Panthers, Gary Bettman, Morning cup-a-joe, National Hockey League, Southeast Division, Tampa Bay Lightning, Ted Leonsis, Washington Capitals. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Mining for Gems Deep in a Draft’s Bedrock

  1. Geo says:

    Lets hope the players who worship Semin worship his best aspects (that amazing shot, speed, etc.) and not his inconsistency or tendency to disappear when the team needs him most. A Semin who was On, every game, every shift, would be amazing. :)

  2. GEO, this observation is noteworthy, as like you I was struck by the frequency with which Semin’s name was invoked by young Russians we (and other teams) selected this past weekend. I’m one who believes that Semin’s pure skill isn’t appreciated enough by media generally and a fair number of Washington hockey fans particularly. Semin’s is a region of the world renowned for developing it, and the young guns there hold him in the highest regard for his raw ability.

  3. Naomi says:

    Lets hope the players who worship Semin worship his best aspects (that amazing shot, speed, etc.) and not his inconsistency or tendency to disappear when the team needs him most. A Semin who was On, every game, every shift, would be amazing. :)

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