We won’t know until this Sunday afternoon what the Capitals decide to do with their first pick in the 2013 NHL Draft, the 23rd choice overall. The Caps have had a great deal of success picking in the latter third of the first round over the last several years, and they plucked goaltender Semyon Varlamov at No. 23 the last time they picked in that exact slot.
The only other times Washington had the 23rd overall choice were in 1978 and 1995. The Caps chose defenseman Paul MacKinnon – who went on to a modest 147-game NHL career – at 23 in 1978. In 1995, then-general manager David Poile used the choice – the second of two first-rounders for the Caps that year – to take left wing Miikka Elomo. That one didn’t pan out; Elomo’s NHL career consisted of just two games in the league.
The 2013 NHL Draft is said to be perhaps the deepest since 2003, which has turned out to be one of the richest drafts in league history. The No. 23 pick was a fairly fallow slot over most of the early years of the draft, but it has produced several players who have gone on to solid NHL careers over the last couple of decades.
Here’s a quick look back at some of the players chosen with the 23rd pick overall in NHL Draft history.
1969 – The 1969 NHL Draft is generally thought of as the start of the “modern” draft era. That choice was in the second round back then, and the New York Rangers used it to select left wing Bert Wilson in 1969. Wilson debuted on February 27, 1974 and went on to forge an unremarkable journeyman’s career of 478 NHL games over eight seasons with four different teams.
1972 – The Philadelphia Flyers landed defenseman Tom Bladon with the 23rd overall choice – a second-rounder – in 1972. Bladon stepped right into the NHL in 1972-73, totaling 11 goals and 42 points in 78 games as a 20-year-old rookie. He set an NHL record for points in a game (eight) by a defenseman in 1977 and was the Flyers’ all-time leading goal scorer among defensemen when he left Philly in 1978. Bladon played 610 games over nine NHL seasons, totaling 73 goals and 270 points. He was a key cog on two Cup-winning clubs in Philadelphia in 1974 and 1975.
1974 – The Vancouver Canucks chose left wing Ron Sedlbauer with the 23rd choice in the 1974 NHL Amateur Draft. Sedlbauer debuted with the Canucks on Dec. 26, 1974, just months after he was drafted. He spent several seasons bouncing between Vancouver and the minors before busting loose with a 40-goal campaign in 1978-79. Sedlbauer netted 15 of those goals on the power play. He was dealt to Chicago in the middle of the next season, and tallied only 45 more goals in the NHL after his 40-goal season, a single-season Canucks record at the time.
1980 – Winnipeg tabbed defenseman Moe Mantha at No. 23 in 1980. A product of Lakewood, Ohio, Mantha debuted as a 19-year-old in 1980-81 and played 656 games for five different teams in a career that lasted a dozen seasons. Injuries plagued Mantha throughout his career but he had a good run as an offensive blueliner from 1983-87.
1981 – The Detroit Red Wings chose Claude Loiselle with the 23rd overall choice in the 1981 NHL Entry Draft. After debuting late in the 1981-82 season, Loiselle enjoyed a 13-year NHL career, appearing in 616 games with five different clubs.
1984 – In the 1984 draft, the New Jersey Devils grabbed goaltender Craig Billington at No. 23. Billington was the first netminder chosen in 1983, going ahead of Patrick Roy (third round, 51st overall) and Kirk McLean (sixth round, 107th overall). Although he was a backup for the bulk of his career, Billington played 15 seasons in the NHL and one with the Canadian National Team. He spent the last four seasons of his NHL career in Washington, backing up Olie Kolzig from 1999-2002.
1989 – In terms of NHL longevity, Travis Green is one of the best picks ever made at No. 23, going to the New York Islanders in 1989. Green took time to develop; he didn’t join the Isles until 1992-93 after playing 164 games at the AHL level. A center who played top six minutes early in his career and morphed into an effective checking line pivot later on, Green totaled 193 goals and 455 points in 970 career NHL games over 15 seasons with six different teams.
1990 – Czech defenseman Jiri Slegr was chosen at No. 23 in 1990, going to Vancouver. Slegr started his North American career in 1992-93, the first of his 11 NHL seasons. He skated in 622 games for six teams, totaling 56 goals and 249 points. After finishing up his NHL career in Boston in 2005-06, Slegr returned to his native country where he played professionally through the 2009-10 season.
1991 – In 1991, the 23rd pick was the first choice in the second round. The San Jose Sharks used it to make probably the best ever choice at No. 23, left wing Ray Whitney. He broke into the NHL in 1991-92, getting into two games with the Sharks. More than two decades, eight teams and 1,261 games later, Whitney is still going strong. Whitney has scored 376 goals in the NHL and has ten 20-goal seasons to his credit. Now 41 years old, Whitney is under contract to Dallas for the upcoming 2013-14 campaign.
1992 – For the first time, the No. 23 pick was in the first round in 1992. Toronto used it on a local boy, right wing Grant Marshall. Marshall went on to enjoy an 11-year career as a rugged, bottom-six winger, playing in exactly 700 games and winning a Cup with the Dallas Stars in 1999.
1993 – Continuing a strong five-year run at No. 23, the New York Islanders tabbed power forward and left wing Todd Bertuzzi in 1993. Bertuzzi’s career took a while to get on track, and it was blemished by the Steve Moore incident in 2004, but he has played in 1,100 NHL games in an 18-year career that may or may not still be active. Bertuzzi has scored 305 goals with a high of 46 for Vancouver in 2002-03. The 38-year-old has one year left on a deal with Detroit.
1997 – San Jose pulled defenseman Scott Hannan at No. 23 in the 1997 NHL Entry Draft. Hannan began his NHL career with the Sharks in 1998-99 and returned to San Jose in a trade this season. He has played in 941 NHL games with five teams, including a brief stint with the Caps in 2010-11. Hannan has been a top four defender who has averaged better than 20 minutes a night for the bulk of his career.
2001 – Ottawa took a defenseman similar in style to Hannan at No. 23 in 2001 when it chose Tim Gleason. Gleason never suited up for the Sens; he was swapped to Los Angeles. He has spent most of his career in Carolina as a top-four shutdown defender who averages about 20 minutes a night. The 30-year-old Michigan native has played 599 NHL games and is under contract for three more seasons.
2002 – Phoenix chose Ben Eager at No. 23 in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft, but he was dealt to Philadelphia and broke in with the Flyers in 2005-06. He has played 400 games for six different teams, topping out at 11 goals with Chicago in 2008-09. He was a member of the Hawks’ Stanley Cup championship team in 2010. Eager is under contract to Edmonton for the upcoming 2013-14 season.
2003 – Vancouver selected center Ryan Kesler with the 23rd overall pick in 2003. Kesler has spent his entire NHL career with the Canucks, totaling 157 goals and 350 points in 578 games. He scored a career high 41 goals in 2010-11, the first season of a six-year contract that has three years remaining.
2004 – Slovakian blueliner Andrej Meszaros went to Ottawa at No. 23 in 2004. Meszaros has played 533 NHL games for three teams in the league, but injuries limited him to just 11 games with Philadelphia in 2012-13. Meszaros has recorded 49 goals and 202 points in the NHL.
Defensemen Jonathon Blum (to Nashville in 2007) and Tim Erixon (Columbus, 2008) and Mark Pysyk (Buffalo, 2010) have been selected at No. 23 in recent seasons. All three have shown varying degrees of promise and all three are still young so the jury is still out on that trio.
Pittsburgh chose defenseman Joe Morrow at No. 23 in 2011 and then flipped him to Dallas earlier this year in the deal that brought Brenden Morrow to the Penguins.
Florida chose defenseman Michael Matheson at No. 23 in 2012, marking the sixth straight year in which a blueliner was chosen with the 23rd choice. The last time that pick was not used on a defenseman was in 2006 when the Caps grabbed Varlamov at the 23 slot.