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Caps Seek Another Gem at '09 Draft

Washington looks to add to its arsenal of young, talented players

Friday, 06.26.2009 / 1:36 AM / Features
By Mike Vogel  - WashingtonCaps.com Senior Writer
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Caps Seek Another Gem at \'09 Draft
Over the last seven NHL Entry Drafts, the Washington Capitals have had a total of 14 first-round selections, more than any other team in the league. The Caps have fared well with most of those choices, and that draft success has helped to fuel the team’s rebuild. The Caps’ scouting and hockey operations departments head to Montreal for the 2009 NHL Entry Draft with seven picks, one in each round.

Washington’s first choice in 2009 is the 24th overall in the first round. The Caps have their eyes on a couple of players who could fall to them a

“[It’s a] pretty good draft,” says Caps general manager George McPhee. “The top two or three players are better than the rest. Then there’s a group of about 11 players who are pretty darn good players. Then it levels off and isn’t quite as strong from the midpoint of the first round on. But we still believe there are a couple players there that if we can get our hands on them, they would have the upside we’re looking for.

“[It’s a] good draft for defensemen. There are some decent centers available as well.”

With the Capitals now ranking among the top teams in the NHL, the new organizational challenge is to sustain that excellence over a period of time by keeping a steady pipeline of young and inexpensive talent flowing into the system. The best way to achieve that goal is to peg two or three regular NHL players at each year’s Entry Draft. That may not seem like a tall task, but history shows that only about one of every four players chosen in the draft will go on to enjoy sustained success as a regular in the NHL. And as the rounds of the draft pass, the likelihood of plucking a gem lessens.

The Capitals’ ascent from the nether regions of the NHL standings to their current perch among the league’s elite has been stoked by a string of first-round successes that began in 2002 when Alexander Semin (13th overall) and Boyd Gordon (17th) were brought into the fold. The 2003 first round brought Eric Fehr (18th) into the organization, and then the Caps hit the jackpot in 2004 with Alex Ovechkin (first), Jeff Schultz (27th) and Mike Green (29th).

A pair of first-rounders from 2005 (defensemen Sasha Pokulok and Joe Finley) has yet to bear fruit, but the 2006 draft brought Nicklas Backstrom (fourth) and Simeon Varlamov (23rd). Karl Alzner (fifth) came to the Caps in the 2007 draft and Washington plucked Anton Gustafsson (21st) and John Carlson (27th) with a pair of first-rounders in 2008.

“I don’t think the philosophy changes,” says McPhee. “We still want to draft the best players we can and really get the best talent we can. I think it’s more of a challenge now when you’re lower in the draft to find players. We think we’ve been drafting pretty darn well the last four or five years and we’d like to keep that going.

“We’re excited about the improvement we’ve made as a staff. We thought we did really well last year in getting Gustafsson and Carlson in the first round. It’s going to be an even bigger challenge this year to hit one out of the park, but we’re going to try to do it.”

Below is a list of selected players chosen in previous NHL Amateur (1969-78) and Entry Drafts (1979-2008) with the same numbered choices the Capitals hold in 2009. Listed players include those who went on to achieve a modicum of success in the NHL and/or those who played for Washington and/or were drafted by the Capitals. The number in parentheses refers to the number of regular season games played in the player’s NHL career.

1st round, 24th overall:
1970 – Al McDonough, Los Angeles (237); 1972 – Jack Lynch, Pittsburgh (382); 1975 – Doug Jarvis, Toronto (964); 1976 – Dave Farrish, New York Rangers (430); 1978 – Steve Christoff, Minnesota (248); 1979 – Errol Rausse, Washington (31); 1980 – Normand Rochefort, Quebec (598); 1982 – Gary Leeman, Toronto (667); 1985 – Sean Burke, New Jersey (820); 1987 – Rob Murphy, Vancouver (125); 1988 – Stephane Fiset, Quebec (390); 1989 – Kent Manderville, Calgary (646); 1990 – David Harlock, New Jersey (212); 1991 – Rene Corbet, Quebec (362); 1992 – Peter Ferraro, New York Rangers (92); 1994 – Chris Wells, Pittsburgh (195); 1995 – Alexei Morozov, Pittsburgh (451); 1996 – Daniel Briere, Phoenox (591); 1998 – Christian Backman, St. Louis (302); 2000 – Brad Boyes, Toronto (328); 2001 – Lukas Krajicek, Florida (278); 2005 – T. J. Oshie, St. Louis (57).

2nd round, 55th overall: 1969 – Brian “Spinner” Spencer (553), Toronto; 1971 – Jerry Butler, New York Rangers (643); 1972 – Al MacAdam, Philadelphia (864); 1973 – Dennis Owchar, Pittsburgh (288); 1974 – Paul Nicholson, Washington (62); 1975 – Blair MacKasey, Washington (1); 1976 – Al Glendenning (0), Washington; 1978 – Bengt Gustafsson, Washington (629); 1979 – Jacques Cloutier, Buffalo (255); 1980 – Torrie Robertson, Washington (442); 1982 – Mario Gosselin, Quebec (242); 1983 – Perry Berezan, Calgary (378); 1985 – Jeff Finley, New York Islanders (708); 1986 – Rob Zettler, Minnesota (569); 1988 – Darcy Loewen, Buffalo (135); 1992 – Sergei Zholtok, Boston (588); Mike LeClerc, Anaheim (341); 1997 – Rick Berry, Colorado (197); 1999 – Doug Janik, Buffalo (161); 2000 – Antoine Vermette, Ottawa (376); 2001 – Jason Pominville, Buffalo (304); 2002 – Alexander Steen, Toronto (314); 2003 – Mike Richards, Philadelphia (290).

3rd round, 85th overall: 1972 – Peter McNab, Buffalo (954); 1973 – Ken Houston, Atlanta (570); 1974 – Mike Palmateer, Toronto (356); 1975 – Kim Clackson, Pittsburgh (106), 1976 – Rob Palmer, Los Angeles (320); 1983 – Chris Terreri, New Jersey (406); 1985 – Johan Garpenlov, Detroit (609); 1985 – Sergei Zubov, New York Rangers (1,068); 1992 – Chris Ferraro, New York Rangers (74); 1996 – Justin Davis, Washington (0); 2001 – Aaron Johnson, Columbus (184); 2003 – Alexandre Picard, Philadelphia (139).

4th round, 115th overall: 1975 – Ted Bulley, Chicago (414); 1979 – Marc Chorney, Pittsburgh (210); 1980 – Darren Eliot, Los Angeles (89); 1990 – Alexander Godynyuk, Toronto (223); 1993 – Nolan Pratt, Hartford (592); 1996 – Alexei Tezikov, Buffalo (30); 1999 – Ryan Malone, Pittsburgh (369).

5th round, 144th overall: 1972 – Garry Howatt, New York Islanders (720); 1974 – Kelvin Erickson, Washington (0); 1975 – Jim Ofrim, Washington (0); 1984 – Darcy Wakaluk, Buffalo (191); 1988 – Brad Schlegel, Washington (48); 1991 – David Oliver, Edmonton (233); 1995 – Brent Sopel, Vancouver (515); 1997 – Matt Cooke, Vancouver (659); 2001 – Cody McCormick, Colorado (190); 2008 – Joel Broda, Washington (0).

6th round, 174th overall: 1993 – Andrew Brunette, Washington (868); 1996 – Trevor Letowski, Phoenix (616); 2000 – Jarno Kultanen, Boston (102); 2003 – Esa Pirnes, Los Angeles (57); 2008 – Greg Burke, Washington (0).

7th round, 204th overall: 1980 – Dan Frawley, Chicago (273); 1987 – Chris Clarke, Washington (0); 1988 – Claudio Scremin, Washington (17); 1990 – Espen Knutsen, Hartford (207); 1992 – Nikolai Khabibulin, Winnipeg (678); 1996 – Tomas Kaberle, Toronto (738); 1999 – Tom Kostopoulos, Pittsburgh (376); 2004 – Stefan Della Rovere, Washington (0).

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