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Washington Capitals Entry Drafts: 1997

If the 1996 draft was noted for its paucity of talent, the 1997 group featured a bountiful array of talent in comparison. But the Capitals had few picks with which to work and a new man at the top. Exactly two weeks prior to the draft, George McPhee took over as Washington's general manager, replacing David Poile. Poile had been on the job for nearly 15 years. McPhee conducted the draft with Poile's scouting staff in 1997 and then brought in his own people afterwards.

After making the playoffs for more than 20 consecutive seasons, Boston tumbled down to the bottom of the league in 1996-97, thereby "earning" the first overall choice in the 1997 Entry Draft. The Bruins grabbed center Joe Thornton with the pick and then snagged Sergei Samsonov with their second first rounder, the eighth overall pick.

Boynton held out for two years before re-entering the draft in '99

Ironically, Boston later employed the ninth overall pick, defenseman Nick Boynton. Washington chose Boynton but was unable to come to terms with the blueliner in the two years allotted to reach an agreement. Boynton went back into the draft in 1999 and was a first round Bruins choice then.

Among the other first-rounders in 1997 were Patrick Marleau (second), Olli Jokinen (third), Roberto Luongo (fourth), Eric Brewer (fifth), Marian Hossa (12th), Scott Hannan (23rd) and Brenden Morrow (25th).

Notables taken later in the '97 draft include Kristian Huselius (47th), Maxim Afinogenov (69th), Mike York (136th), Matt Cooke (144th), Ladislav Nagy (177th) and Karel Rachunek (229th).

As for Washington, the Caps had only seven picks in the draft. Only Boynton and second rounder J-F Fortin ever made it to the NHL.

Hindsight is 20/20: Boston could have done the Caps a favor by passing on Samsonov with the eighth pick but alas, it was not to be. Boynton was a good pick as the third defenseman drafted and one of only seven chosen in the first round, but the Caps could not have known how difficult it was going to be to get him signed. Fortin played in the league which is more than can be said for several of the defensemen drafted ahead of him. David Aebischer (161st) was drafted long after Cruikshank was taken with the 89th pick and obviously had a much better career. Grabbing Magnus Arvedson, an overaged European, with the 116th pick would have been prescient, but would have also required a philosophical leap. The Canucks nabbed Cooke with the pick after the Caps chose Petre. There were few gems to be found in the late rounds but Rachunek (229th) was chosen after Washington made its final pick.

NO. PLAYER POS. COMMENT

9

Nick Boynton
D
Did not sign with the Caps, re-entered draft. Taken by Boston in 1999 Draft.

35

Jean Francois Fortin
D
Played 71 games with Washington, now playing in Germany.

89

Curtis Cruickshank
G
Played four pro seasons in three different leagues. Still active in Britain as late as 2007-08.

116

Kevin Caulfield
RW
Graduated from Boston College in 1999, did not sign with the Caps. Played four pro seasons in ECHL, UHL and AHL.

143

Henrik Petre
D
Swedish defensemanis still active in Europe. Played in Finland in 2007-08.

200

Pierre-Luc Therrien
G
Played three pro seasons in three different leagues. Later played in Quebec Sr. Pro League.

226

Matt Oikawa
RW
Played one season in WPHL after collegiate career at St. Lawrence U.
       

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