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Capitals' new assistant GM experienced at draft table

by Mike G. Morreale

Don't expect the 2014 NHL Draft strategy of the Washington Capitals to change now that Ross Mahoney has been promoted to assistant general manager.

Mahoney, who will aid new general manager Brian MacLellan, had served as Washington's director of amateur scouting the past 16 years before his promotion was announced Monday.

Mahoney confirmed that in addition to his new duties, he will continue to head the table at the draft in addition to coordinating the club's developmental programs to establish a solid foundation for the future of the organization.

As has been the case in previous seasons, Mahoney will look to select the best available player in most rounds of the draft, but in particular the first round on June 27 at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia (7 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN). The Capitals currently own the No. 13 pick.

Mahoney said this year's draft looks to be strong at forward and maybe not so deep on defense or goaltending.

"We never want to pass a player specifically to fill a position of need and then watch as the player we had ranked higher turn out to be the better player," Mahoney said. "All things being equal you always want to be strong down the middle with good centers. You also need good defensemen, but we've always tried to take the best available."

That was the case in 2012 when the Capitals selected Swedish left wing Filip Forsberg at No. 11. Forsberg was NHL Central Scouting's top-rated European skater for the 2012 draft and a player the Capitals believed would have been a solid addition to their top-six forward group.

That plan went by the wayside, however, when the Capitals traded Forsberg to the Nashville Predators in exchange for Martin Erat and Michael Latta at the 2013 NHL Trade Deadline. Erat, since traded to the Phoenix Coyotes, and Latta combined for two goals for the Capitals in 2013-14.

Mahoney, whose boss at the time was general manager George McPhee, was asked if that was a tough trade to make.

"If you're doing your job you're supplying players that are able to make the Capitals and also supplying assets that enable the GM to make moves they feel will be beneficial to the team at the time," Mahoney said. "As a group we should be happy we were able to provide the GM with an asset he could use to make the deal."

Mahoney wouldn't provide any insight on whether or not he agreed with the trade, but he did say Latta is progressing nicely. The 5-foot-11, 201-pound center, chosen in the third round (No. 72) by the Predators in 2009, had 14 goals, 34 points and 134 penalty minutes in 52 games for the Hershey Bears in the American Hockey League this season.

"He had a good year in Hershey; I thought he played well," Mahoney said. "He came up and played with the Capitals [one goal, four points in 17 games], so I'm looking for him to come into training camp next year and push to be a regular for the Capitals. That should be Michael's goal and that's what we're expecting."

Mahoney also was asked if he would he consider a trade to move up in this year's draft for an opportunity to select one of the top prospects on NHL Central Scouting's final list of the top North American skaters: Center Samuel Bennett of the Kingston Frontenacs, defenseman Aaron Ekblad of the Barrie Colts, center Sam Reinhart of the Kootenay Ice, center Leon Draisaitl of the Prince Albert Raiders or left wing Michael Dal Colle of the Oshawa Generals.

"When it comes to the draft, you identify players you think would be players you would like to get, and if you feel that group might be gone before you pick then you'd have to look at deciding whether you want to try and move up to get one of those players," Mahoney said. "Also, would it be better to move back a bit [in the draft], pick up an extra pick and still get the players you really like? There is some layering that takes place, and you have to see where the layer is going to be when it's your turn to pick."

Mahoney said left wing Andre Burakovsky, the 23rd pick of the 2013 draft, made considerable strides with the Erie Otters of the Ontario Hockey League this season. He had 41 goals, 87 points and a plus-46 rating for the Otters, and also seven points in seven games for silver medal-winning Sweden at the 2014 WJC.

"I'm excited to see how Andre does at training camp, and I've always said these players determine where they end up," Mahoney said. "They come in and have good camps and that determines whether they are returned to junior or go to the AHL or take the next step with the Capitals.

"Andre is definitely on the right path and we're very pleased with his progression. The challenge for him is to get stronger. Knowing the type of person he is, he's working hard to build that strength so I don't think that will be an issue."

Mahoney was also asked to evaluate the team's current depth on defense. The Capitals averaged 2.79 goals-against to rank 21st in the League in 2013-14, and averaged 33.5 shots-against to rank 27th. Mahoney didn't seem overly concerned with the blue line at this stage.

"We have a good, young corps that's playing right now in Mike Green, Karl Alzner, John Carlson and Dmitry Orlov, and Connor Carrick made a jump last year which was good to see," Mahoney said. "Patrick Wey [2009, No. 115] got some games and Madison Bowey [2013, No. 53] had a tremendous year."

As captain for the Kelowna Rockets in the Western Hockey League this season, Bowey had 21 goals and 60 points, breaking the club record for goals by a defenseman held by Tyson Barrie, now with the Colorado Avalanche. Bowey had the third-best point total in a season by a defenseman in franchise history.

"Blake Heinrich [2013, No. 144] and Tyler Lewington [2013, No. 204] also showed good progress and in May we signed Christian Djoos [2012, No. 195], who was quarterback for Sweden on their power play at the World Junior tournament in January. We're happy with the development of our defensemen," Mahoney said.


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