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Caps Draft History: 1978 Entry Draft

Each of Washington's top eight picks made it to the NHL

by Washington Capitals @Capitals /

Washington finally hit draft paydirt in 1978 as each of its top eight picks made it to the NHL. More significantly, Ryan Walter (second overall) and Bengt Gustafsson (55th) became major contributors. However, given the fact that the Caps had two picks in each of the first two rounds, four of the top 23 picks in the draft and seven of the top 55, the 1978 draft was not nearly as fruitful as it could have been.

After the Minnesota North Stars selected Bobby Smith with the top pick, the Caps tabbed Walter. "He plays a physical, unselfish game and he has national league anticipation," said Caps GM Max McNab of Walter. "It's the intangibles that make him so valuable." Smith won the Calder Trophy in 1978-79; Walter was the runner-up.

The Caps also had the last pick of the first round, the 18th overall selection. McNab chose left wing Tim Coulis with that pick. A rugged six-footer with a scoring touch, Coulis sat out his first pro season with an injury. He played in 19 games for the Caps before being packaged with Robert Picard to obtain Mike Palmateer from the Leafs. Coulis later played for the Minnesota North Stars but his claim to infamy was being suspended for the entire 1982-83 season for assaulting a referee in the Central Hockey League.

With their own second round pick, the Caps chose Paul Mulvey, the younger brother of Blackhawks winger Grant Mulvey. In his last two years of junior hockey, Paul Mulvey scored a total of 86 goals in 127 games while amassing more than 500 penalty minutes. He spent three years with the Caps as a role player before being transferred to Pittsburgh as compensation for the Caps' signing of free agent Orest Kindrachuk. Mulvey's NHL career ended in 1982 when, as a member of the LA Kings, he refused his coach's orders to go into a game and fight.

Still in dire need of defensive help, the Caps opted for defensive defenseman Paul MacKinnon with their second pick in the second round. MacKinnon, who played junior hockey under the tutelage of Roger Neilsen, spurned the Caps to sign with the Winnipeg Jets of the WHA. He played for the Avco Cup-winning Jets in 1978-79 before being reclaimed by the Caps when the NHL absorbed four WHA franchises for the 1979-80 season. MacKinnon was a regular for the Caps in 1979-80, playing in 63 games. He spent the next four seasons shuttling between DC and Hershey of the AHL before his career came to a close.

In the third round, the Caps took center Glen Currie and defenseman Jay Johnston. Currie was a big scorer with Laval of the QMJHL but spent his NHL career bouncing between the minors and the parent club. Johnston played only eight games in the NHL.

With the 55th overall pick, the Capitals took forward Bengt Gustafsson. The 20-year old native of Sweden elected to play the 1978-79 season in his homeland, but he signed with the WHA's Edmonton Oilers in March of 1979. Gustafsson made his North American pro debut in the WHA playoffs that spring, picking up a goal and two assists in two games. When the Oilers merged into the NHL, the Capitals reclaimed Gustafsson's rights from Edmonton. He scored 22 goals and totaled 60 points as a rookie with the Capitals and was one of the team's top forwards throughout the 1980s.

Hindsight is 20/20: You can't argue with the selection of Walter in the first round. Coulis's injury may have impacted his development, but Minnesota took left wing Steve Payne with the very next pick. Payne went on to play in 613 NHL games, registering 228 goals and 466 points. Tough guy winger Curt Fraser -- now the Thrashers head coach -- was selected two picks after Mulvey. Fraser's career turned out to be three times as long and five times as productive. None of the defensemen taken immediately after MacKinnon had any lasting NHL success. You have to go down to the 54th overall pick (Minnesota's Curt Giles) to find a defenseman whose NHL career lasted more than 500 games. In the third round, the Caps passed up Stan Smyl to take Currie. Smyl went on to play in 896 games and later had his number retired by the Vancouver Canucks.



Ryan Walter
Had a solid 1,003-game NHL career and played for Cup winning Habs in 1986.


Tim Coulis
Played 19 games with the Capitals, 47 in the NHL. Noteworthy for being suspended for entire '82-83 season because he butt-ended a minor league ref.


Paul Mulvey
Three seasons with the Capitals, scored 15 goals in 1979-80. Brother of former NHLer Grant Mulvey.


Paul MacKinnon
Spent five seasons in the Washington organization, playing in 147 games. Minor hockey teammate of Wayne Gretzky.


Glen Currie
Spent parts of six seasons with Caps, scored 12 goals and 36 points in best year.


Jay Johnston
Played pro hockey for nine seasons in the AHL and IHL, eight games in NHL.


Bengt Gustafsson
Nine seasons with Capitals, one of team's best ever all-around forwards.
Lou Franceschetti
Ten seasons in NHL -- seven with the Caps -- as a gritty role player. Was junior teammate and linemate of Mike Gartner.
Vince Magnan
Played college hockey at Denver U. and played three pro seasons in the CHL and AHL. Brother of former NHLer Marc Magnan.
Mats Hallin
Played parts of five NHL seasons with Islanders and North Stars.
Rich Sirois
Drafted by Buffalo in '77 but did not sign. Played seven pro seasons in the IHL. Brother of ex-Cap Bob Sirois.
Denis Pomerleau
Played total of 17 games for three different IHL teams in his lone pro season.
Barry Heard
Never turned pro.
Mark Toffolo
Drafted by Cleveland Barons in '77 but did not sign. Played six seasons in four pro leagues.
Paul Hogan
Never turned pro.
Steve Barger
Played college hockey at Boston College, never turned pro.
Rod Pacholzuk
Played college hockey at U. of Michigan, never turned pro.
Wes Jarvis
Spent nine seasons bouncing between AHL and NHL, three with Capitals. Cousin of ex-Cap Doug Jarvis.
Ray Irwin
Pro career consisted of three games with the Milwaukee Admirals of the IHL.

Full Draft Reults Here

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