Kicking off the second half of the first round of the 2024 NHL Draft at Sphere in Las Vegas, the Capitals chose right wing Terik Parascak of Prince George of the Western Hockey League. As a 17-year-old rookie in the WHL last season, Parascak more than lived up to his nickname of “Super Rookie,” amassing 43 goals and 62 assists for 105 points. He finished in a tie for ninth place in the WHL in goals and was eighth in the circuit in scoring. Parascak celebrated his 18th birthday a month ago, on May 28.

The Caps have always prized hockey sense as one of the top attributes they’re after on draft day, and Parascak checks that box.

“A really intelligent player, a really, really smart player,” says Caps’ assistant general manager Ross Mahoney, who is conducting his 27th draft for the Capitals here this weekend. “He sees the ice really well, has a really good touch around the net, if you take a look at the number of points he had and the number of goals he scored. But I think that intelligence really translates over into his penalty kill; he might have been fourth in the league in shorthanded goals.

“He’s a hard-working kid, but I really like the hands and the hockey sense.”

Parascak had a large contingent of family and friends follow him down to Vegas this weekend for his big moment.

“I don’t even know the exact number; I think it’s probably close to 40 or 50,” he says. “It’s pretty unbelievable for them to come down and support me. I couldn’t be more grateful.”

Parascak spent most of his age 16 season skating for Edge School, though he did get into four WHL contests as well. It’s been a whirlwind of a ’23-24 season for the native of Lethbridge, Alberta, and he was surprised and thrilled to hear his name called midway through the first round on Friday night at Sphere.

“Yeah, I think just the whole experience here, I didn’t know what to expect, and it was all just play everything by ear,” says Parascak. “That was kind of my whole year, just go with the flow of everything. I was definitely surprised, but I couldn’t be more excited.”

The Caps figure to be quite familiar with Parascak; he was a teammate of Zac Funk at Prince George, and Washington inked Funk – who led the WHL with 67 goals and finished second in scoring with 123 points last season – to an entry level contract on March 1 of this year.

“I had a couple of meetings with them,” says Parascak of the Capitals. “I thought the meetings went well with them, and I thought there was some interest there for sure. And obviously, I’m excited to be drafted by them for sure.”

Parascak and Funk combined to score 100 goals last season. Funk turns 21 in about three weeks, and he’ll be turning pro in the Washington organization this fall.

“We were chasing after Terik, and watching [Funk], and we’ve watched Zac for a couple of years already,” says Mahoney. “I think when Zac got traded to Prince George it was really good for him. He got traded about halfway through not last year but the past year, and we’re fortunate to get Zac, too. That’s a lot of goals between the two of them.”

Asked about his big splash as a rookie this past season, Parascak credited his offseason work last summer.

“I think a lot of it came down to the work I put in in the offseason, and I think understanding what it takes to jump to a junior level like that,” he says. “I got a little taste for it the year before, and I just kind of took that information and took into that last year there.”

The other part of the equation was Parascak’s maturity in handling the disappointment of not cracking the Prince George roster as a regular the previous season.

“It was definitely hard at the time, but I definitely understood the whole process of everything,” says Parascak. “I wasn’t in a position where I would get enough ice time to really develop my skills, and I didn’t really want to ruin my development that way. They sent me back and I was able to build tons of confidence and I was able to come into this season and do what I did.”

Playing under former NHL player and NHL assistant coach Mark Lamb, Parascak lit up the WHL straight out of the gates last season. In his first game of the campaign, he had two goals and three points, the first goals and points of his WHL career. It kicked off a four-game goal scoring streak in which he rattled off eight goals and a dozen points, the highlight of which was a four-goal, six-point outing in his third game. Parascak totaled a dozen multi-goal games last season and he had 16 multi-assist games as well.

Having put in the necessary work to take a huge leap in his development this season, Parascak believes the process will serve him well in future years whenever he again finds himself trying to make the transition to a higher level of play.

“Yeah for sure,” he says. “Everything I’ve been through so far has been a learning experience. I was definitely cut from quite a few teams growing up, and taking that all as a learning experience, and I think that has shaped me into the person that I am. Nothing is ever going to be given to you; you’re going to have to earn everything, and everything happens for a reason. Just taking all those things and being able to face adversity like that, and hopefully I’ll get to where I want to be one day.”

Even as a younger player on a veteran team last season in Prince George, Parascak was able to gain the trust of the coaching staff and to carve out a larger role for himself in his first full season in the WHL. He played on the top power play unit, killed penalties, and was trusted for deployment late in tight games, whether Prince George was seeking to lock down a late lead or to manufacture a tying tally of its own in the game’s waning minutes.

“The kind of player I am, I think I can play a lot of different roles; I think that offensive side of my game for sure,” says Parascak. “And this year I definitely developed that defensive side; I can play on the penalty kill and I can be trusted in those late minutes of the game to get pucks out of the zone and defend the lead as well, so I think I’m a very versatile player.”

Like most NHL hopefuls his age, Tarascak will be concentrating on adding some muscle and filling out his 6-foot, 180-pound frame as he progresses through his NHL career.

“To improve on going forward, I think it’s definitely my strength,” says Parascak. “I think I need to get a lot stronger, be in the gym a little bit more, and fill out my body. I think that’s a big start for me, and then I think with that, will come my skating as well. I’ll be able to build better speed and that sort of thing.”

Mahoney concurs with Parascak’s assessment.

“For sure,” says Mahoney. “He tested really well at the combine, but obviously he’s got some room to grow physically, and to get stronger. I think when he gets stronger too, his skating will improve even more.”

Parascak mentioned veteran Caps winger T.J. Oshie as a player he would like to pattern has game after.

“The player that I always try to compare myself to is T.J. Oshie. I always thought of his game and found some similarities in mine, so I really enjoyed watching him. That’s definitely one guy, for sure.”

If Parascak is able to carve out a career even close to that of Oshie, the Caps will be more than thrilled.

“I do [see some similarities], and it’s not fair when you start to compare players to such good players,” Mahoney points out. “T.J. Oshie is such a good hockey player and has been so good for us, but there are a lot of similarities. They’re not 6-foot-3; they’re more around that 5-foot-11, 6-foot tall. But the hands and the sense, and the release on his shot, and also not afraid to go to the dirty areas to score goals, just like T.J. Oshie. And really good on puck retrievals.

“There are a lot of similarities. But I can only hope he ends up being as good as T.J. Oshie. That would be fantastic for us.”