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Capitals' Mahoney talks impact of McDavid-Eichel

by Staff Writer / Washington Capitals

Washington Capitals assistant general manager Ross Mahoney was asked if the top of the 2015 NHL Draft could one day rival that of 2004 when Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin went first and second, respectively, to the Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins.

Many believe Erie Otters center Connor McDavid and Boston University center Jack Eichel could turn out to be the best 1-2 tandem since Ovechkin and Malkin. Others are willing to wait before offering a verdict.

"I guess time will tell 4-5 years from now," Mahoney said with a grin. "They are both so talented and can take over a game. They always seemed to step it up when their teams needed them to do so by scoring or creating; they are difference-makers.

"Usually you get one of them in a draft, but to have two of them in the same draft is definitely unusual."

Unless the Capitals have a blockbuster trade up their sleeve they likely won't have a chance to draft either McDavid or Eichel. Still, Mahoney is hopeful the 2015 draft will help add to the foundation he has in place in Washington. The Capitals currently own five picks in the draft, including one in the first round.

"I think there are talented centers and defensemen in this year's draft," Mahoney said. "It's hard to tell how deep it will be; sometimes I'm surprised how drafts look strong or weak and then four or five years later it's the other way."

Mahoney was proud of the way his young players battled in the Stanley Cup Playoffs this spring.

The Capitals won a hard-fought seven-game series against the New York Islanders in the Eastern Conference First Round before losing a seven-game series against the New York Rangers in the second round.

While the finish wasn't exactly what Mahoney and senior vice president and general manager Brian MacLellan envisioned, the building blocks are certainly in place for an even more promising future.

Braden Holtby showed why he should be considered one of the best young goaltenders in the game and rookie forward Evgeny Kuznetsov has seemingly solved the team's need for a second-line center. Rookie right wing Andre Burakovsky saw a lot of time on the Capitals top line with Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom and rarely looked out of place, though coach Barry Trotz would like to see him become more of a two-way player.

"We didn't make the playoffs in 2013-14 so it was good to reach Game 7 in the second round this year; it would have been nice to continue on of course but as far as the young players went it was a really good learning experience for them," Mahoney said. "We had Tom Wilson gain that experience and Burakovsky was a 19-year-old gaining valuable time with Ovechkin and Backstrom. Kuznetsov played his first full year in the NHL.

"Those were all very positive experiences for those young guys to take moving forward and it will only help us achieve more."

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mikemorrealeNHL

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