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Capitals assistant GM on impact of McDavid, Eichel

by Mike G. Morreale

BUFFALO -- 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.

Mahoney was running the Capitals' draft when Ovechkin was taken No. 1 in 2004.

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 four to five years from now," Mahoney said. "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 can make a blockbuster trade, they won't have a chance to draft McDavid or Eichel. Still, Mahoney is hopeful the 2015 draft will help add to the foundation that's been built in Washington. The Capitals currently own five picks in the draft, including No. 22 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 said he was proud of the way his young players battled in the Stanley Cup Playoffs this spring. The Capitals beat the New York Islanders in seven games in the Eastern Conference First Round and then lost in seven games to the New York Rangers in the second round.

While the finish wasn't what the Capitals had envisioned, the building blocks appear to be in place for a promising future.

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


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