The 1992 NHL Entry Draft
That 1992 NHL Entry Draft will be most remembered for the intrigue surrounding 1991 top pick Eric Lindros and his refusal to play for the team that drafted him, the Quebec Nordiques. The Nordiques solicited offers for the 19-year-old center, and got two huge ones, one from the New York Rangers and another from the Philadelphia Flyers. Trouble was, the Nords agreed to both deals and an arbitrator had to be brought in to sort out the ensuing mess. Philadelphia ultimately won the rights to Lindros, and won the right to pay a king’s ransom in personnel to get him, too.
As for the Caps, they headed up north to Montreal with a pair of first round picks. The 1992 draft was the second of five in which Washington had the St. Louis Blues’ pick in the first round because of the Blues signing Caps defenseman Scott Stevens as a restricted free agent after the 1989-90 season.
Washington used its first choice in the draft – the 14th overall pick – to select defenseman Sergei Gonchar from Chelyabinsk in Russia. The choice reflected a trend that year; a record 11 European players were chosen in the first round. Gonchar was the fourth defenseman chosen and the third European defenseman following Roman Hamrlik (first overall to Tampa Bay) and Darius Kasparaitis (fifth to the Islanders).
“He’s aggressive,” said the late Jack Button, Caps player personnel director of Gonchar in the June 21, 1992 edition of The Washington Times. “He finishes his checks. He throws a great first pass. He’s very strong and he grew a lot in the past year. The best thing for Sergei would be to play a season or two with Dynamo, but we think he is going to be an exceptional player.”
Button was spot on. Gonchar played two seasons with Dynamo, then came to North America. He broke into the NHL in 1994-95 and has been an exceptional player in the league. Now with the Penguins, Gonchar has 191 goals and 634 points in 929 NHL games.
The Capitals traded their other first-round pick (the 23rd overall) to Toronto along with a fourth-round choice in exchange for the Maple Leafs’ second- and third-round picks. Washington then chose goaltender Jim Carey with that second-round (32nd overall) pick and German center Stefan Ustorf with the third-rounder (53rd overall).
“Jim Carey is a very big guy [6-foot-2, 190 pounds] with great athletic ability,” said Button. “He’s got a great catching glove.
Carey is the brother of Paul Carey, an outfielder for the Baltimore Orioles at the time. Jim Carey broke into the NHL with a splash in 1994-95 and was a finalist for the Calder Trophy that season. Carey won the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s top goaltender in 1995-96, but was traded to Boston in a six-player deal on March 1, 1997. His career fizzled thereafter, and he was out of hockey by the time he had reached his mid-20s.
Ustorf played briefly with the Capitals, getting into 54 games over parts of two seasons with Washington. Another third-rounder, right wing Martin Gendron ((71st overall), got into 28 games in two seasons with the Caps. Gonchar, Carey, Ustorf and Gendron were the only four of Washington’s 10 choices that year who ever appeared in the NHL.
The Capitals were also busy in the days leading up to the draft. Washington signed goaltender Steve Weeks so it would have a goaltender to expose in the expansion draft, then it lost defenseman Shawn Chambers and forward Tim Berglund to Tampa Bay in that expansion draft. The Capitals dealt popular winger Nick Kypreos to Hartford for Mark Hunter, brother of Washington pivot Dale Hunter. The Caps also swapped veteran sniper Dino Ciccarelli to Detroit for forward Kevin Miller, brother of Caps winger Kelly Miller. The Ciccarelli deal proved to be one of the worst the team has ever made.
Ciccarelli, who had earned a base salary of $400,000 in 1991-92, was seeking a contract worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $850,000 to $1 million. Washington brass dealt the scrappy forward rather than double his salary.
“Dino’s contract was going to be a problem,” admitted Caps GM David Poile in the June 21, edition of The Washington Times, in discussing the trade. “No question, it was going to be a very tough negotiation.”
Another very popular player with Caps fans, Ciccarelli totaled 112 goals in just over three seasons with the Caps, adding 21 more in just 30 playoff games.
History shows that Ciccarelli still had four 20-goal seasons left at that stage of his career. He scored 41 goals for Detroit in 1992-93 and 35 for the Lightning in 1996-97.
Central Scouting Bureau reports of noteworthy players:
LW Donald Brashear (6-3, 210) – Named Most Improved Player three seasons in a row, Don also plays soccer and tennis and enjoys music when he isn’t studying. He admires Cam Neely because he is a complete player. Childhood Idol: Eddie Murphy Highlight: Winning the provincial championship in Midget AA. Toughest opponent: Sandy McCarthy. Aspirations: NHL, PhysEd teacher. Favorite Subject: Biology.
Coach Claude Therrien says: “Donald is a big player who gets involved in the physical play and understands his role well … disciplined and hard-working … very respected throughout the league …” Central Scouting Report: Good skater with strong stride. Good size, strength. Very aggressive play along boards and in slot, good balance. Good shot, scores most of his goals in close. Gets room to move. Keeps improving each time out.
G Jim Carey – (6-2, 190)Jim is a Grade 12 student who has earned MVP honors in baseball and also plays golf. He enjoys the fast-moving nature of hockey and the competitiveness. Favorite NHLer: Andy Moog – the smartest goaltender in the NHL. Highlight: winning the state championship all three years at Catholic Memorial. Ambitions: NHL, law. Toughest opponent: Matignon. Coach Bill Hanson says: “He’s very quiet back there and just does his business … for his size, he’s very athletic … from what I have seen, Jim is the best goalie in the country in his age group.” Central Scouting Report: A very athletic goaltender who plays the angles very well. An excellent catching glove. Good size and quickness.
D Sergei Gonchar – (6-0, 178) Played first full season as a regular in Russian senior league; captain of the Russian national junior team. Great skater with excellent balance. Concentrates on a defensive game. Fast and accurate passes, good timing, reads the play well. Solid positional player. Very effective in own end of the rink. Good checker, stays with his man, completes his check. Handles himself well, uses his size. A leader on the ice, highly motivated.
C Stefan Ustorf – (5-11, 172) Played for Germany at World Junior and European Junior championships. One of the most talented forwards in Germany. Fast skater, good playmaker. Wins face-offs. Good puck control. Used in all game situations. Plays his position well. Good awareness on the ice. Good two-way player. Solid checker, works hard, uses stick well. Checks at both ends and comes back to help the defense. Uses sie to advantage. Plays a finesse game but gets involved. A leader respected by his teammates.