WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Washington Capitals were busy on the second day of the 2021 NHL Entry Draft, making six selections despite trading away their first-round pick. The Capitals focused on defensive players this year, drafting a number of defenders and goaltenders, and the team made a minor trade of the 75th overall pick to move back to 80 while acquiring the 176th overall selection to get their sixth pick. Four of Washington’s six picks were defensemen.
The only forward picked in the group is a center with experience playing defense, starting a re-stock of the team’s pipeline on the back-end, which has started to become a bit bare in recent years. Many of these players will become Hershey Bears players in the future, and we’re getting to know them today.
Vincent Iorio was selected with the team’s 55th pick in the second round, one choice sooner than the one the team used to take Brett Leason during the 2019 draft. Iorio is an exciting defensive choice, shooting right-handed and stands at 6’3, 194 pounds. Iorio has three seasons of experience in the WHL, all with the Brandon Wheat Kings, tallying 38 points (ten goals, 28 assists) over the course of 131 games played. Iorio had perhaps his best season in a shortened campaign in 2020-21 and has steadily improved his play over the course of his career. Iorio turns 19 in November, so it’ll be a bit of time before he makes the leap to the AHL, at least until possibly the 2022-23 season.
“I’m still in shock right now, it’s a blessing to be a part of a great organization like this one. It’s something I’m very, very proud of. I know Brendan Dillon quite well and I just got a text from him and I’m so thankful for my family and all they’ve done for me.” – Vincent Iorio
The Caps moved back from 75th to 80th in the third round and selected Brent Johnson. Despite sharing a name with a former Washington Capitals netminder, Johnson is a right-handed shooting defender standing at 5’11, 161 pounds. He skated parts of the past two seasons with the Sioux Falls Stampede. He tallied 32 points (11 goals, 21 assists) over 47 games played in the 2020-21 season and finished at plus-15, impressive marks for a defenseman. Johnson turned 18 this year and will likely need more time to develop, but he’s got an impressive start to his young career. Johnson is slated to take his talents to the University of North Dakota for the 2021-22 season.
Washington then selected another defender in Joaquim Lemay with their 119th selection. The 6’1, 178-pound defender skated with the Salmon Arm Silverbacks of the BCHL this past season, recording ten assists in 15 games played. The mark ranked second among rookie defenders during that time for the left-handed shooting skater. Lemay is committed to the University of Omaha-Nebraska for the 2021-22 season.
With the 151st pick, Washington selected center Haakon Hanelt. The 6’0, 194-pound skater shoots left and skated for the Eisbaren Berlin hockey club in the DEL, scoring one goal in 22 games played. The 18-year-old is gaining valuable experience skating in a competitive league like the DEL and had experience this past season playing defense, fitting for this year’s draft class. Hanelt may be a steal at this draft position, being ranked 17th among international centers by NHL Central Scouting. In addition, he’s gaining valuable experience in international play as Germany’s captain in two U-18 tournaments.
In the final round of the draft, Washington selected defender Dru Krebs 176th overall. The 5’11, 182-pound lefty skated with the WHL’s Medicine Hat Tigers, tallying 11 assists in 23 games played with a plus-four rating. Krebs had an impressive uptick in production over a shortened season, nearly matching his point output with 32 fewer games to play. Krebs will have a few more seasons until he is ready to make the transition, but has an exciting future and some good potential.
Lastly, the Capitals selected netminder Chase Clark from the Jersey Hitmen of the USPHL 183rd overall. Clark has a lot of potential, standing at 6’6, 202 pounds, and recorded a 1.92 goals-against average along with a 0.935 save percentage in 22 games played. The 19-year-old goaltender went 18-2-1-0 this past season and helped the Hitmen win the USPHL championship, as well as collecting the league’s best regular-season record along with three shutouts.
Despite the lack of a first-round pick, the Capitals addressed a number of their future needs during this draft and will surely make some exciting additions for the Bears in due time. With so many of Hershey’s current roster comprised of players selected at NHL drafts of years past, it’s safe to say the Bears’ future is in good hands with these picks.
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