The 2014 NHL Entry Draft is 18 days away and the Wild are looking to find that next NHL star to raise their franchise to the next level. Hockey Wilderness is counting down the days with a daily mock draft. We are at pick number 13 today.
Washington Capitals Prospect System
The headliners for the Capitals system are Evgeny Kuznetsov, Andre Burakovsky, and Madison Bowey. Bowey is perhaps the only major prospect the Capitals have on defense, and Kuznetsov and Burakovsky are highly skilled wingers. While the Capitals do have some prospects beyond that, they've got a lack of dynamic talents past those three players.
The Capitals will have time to address depth later, should they choose to. Kuznetsov arrived at the NHL last season, and will likely secure a full-time role next year. With the 13th pick, and the two best defensemen gone, the Capitals are going to attempt to replace their best offensive prospect. They will select Kasperi Kapanen from KalPa of the SM-Liiga.
The Pick: Kasperi Kapanen
If the name "Kapanen" seems familiar to you, it's because he is, in fact, the son and current teammate of Sami Kapanen, the Carolina Hurricanes winger. Sami was legendary for his speed, winning the Fastest Skater competition twice. Kasperi doesn't quite have that speed, but most agree that he has good-to-great speed, and will certainly be an asset in that category.
The young Kapanen, however, isn't all about speed. He's shown himself to be a good offensive player, even if he hasn't exactly broken out huge point totals on his terrible SM-Liiga team. Kapanen's shot is good, but not great, and his ability to get to prime scoring areas make the most of it. His greatest asset seems to be his puck skills and hockey IQ, which lends itself very well to playmaking.
A small, skilled player like Kapanen may get a reputation for being a floater, but Kapanen isn't one of those players. It's agreed that he needs to work on improving his defensive skills, but scouts feel he has a good work ethic, which is a great sign when you're picking 18-year-olds. Kapanen may be more of a project, and while the Capitals could actually use offensive help, Kuznetsov's arrival should buy them a bit of time.
Overall, Kapanen has a very good offensive skill-set, and the Capitals will be very happy to draft Kapanen.
Will He Fit With the Wild?
In some ways, very well, and in other ways, a Wild fan may have some reservations if Fletcher drafts him. Out of players in the Wild system, he is most similar to Mikael Granlund. I'm sure there are people in the Wild fanbase who may have an aversion to smaller playmakers, but hey, teams need playmakers, too.
That would be the only hesitation, though. The Wild and their fans should be very happy if Kapanen falls to 18, which is actually a bit of a realistic possibility. Kapanen would immediately surpass Mario Lucia and Jason Zucker as the highest-upside talent in the Wild's system, and would give Mat Dumba a run for his money as the best Wild prospect. At pick 18, there's no reason to pass on Kaserpi Kapanen, and the Wild should thank their lucky stars on the way to the podium.
And plus, he's a Finnish 18-year-old. How can you lose with that?