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Caps Draft History: 1981 Entry Draft

The Caps made history by selecting 17-year-old Bobby Carpenter, the first US high school product ever taken in the first round.

by Washington Capitals @Capitals /

The 1981 Entry Draft proved to be a fruitful one. Four future Hall of Famers and and several other players who enjoyed prosperous careers were taken in the first round alone. After Winnipeg used the first overall pick to take Dale Hawerchuk, the Caps swung a deal with the Colorado Rockies, trading their first- and second-round picks for the Rockies' first- and third-round picks. This enabled the Capitals to move up two slots in the first round.

With the third overall pick, the Caps made history by selecting 17-year-old Bobby Carpenter, the first US high school product ever taken in the first round. Carpenter made the jump from high school to the NHL, scoring 30 goals in each of his first two seasons with the Caps. He scored 53 goals in 1984-85, but never attained the superstar status that had been predicted of him.

The Caps made two other noteworthy selections. Gaetan Duchesne was taken in the eighth round, and he became a top-notch defensive forward for Washington in the 1980s. Duchesne went on to play in more than 1,000 NHL games and stands as one of the Capitals' best ever late-round sleeper picks. Chris Valentine went 191 picks after Carpenter, but he also scored 30 goals as a rookie for the Caps in 1981-82. He was unable to sustain that level success in the NHL, however.

Quebec took forward (and future Cap) Mike Eagles with the 116th overall pick while the Colorado Rockies selected center (and future Caps assistant coach) Tim Army with the 171st pick.

Hindsight is 20/20: Carpenter was a great pick, but the Caps would have done better to take Ron Francis, selected by Hartford with the fourth overall pick. Ironically, the Whalers wanted Carpenter badly and were miffed when the Caps leap-frogged them to get the New England schoolboy. The Caps' second pick, defenseman Eric Calder, was a washout as the Caps just missed a chance at a Hall of Fame blueliner. Montreal grabbed Chris Chelios with the 40th overall pick, so the Caps did not have a shot at him with their third-round pick. Two longtime NHL defensemen -- Bruce Driver and Steve Smith -- went in the sixth round.



Bobby Carpenter
Made big rookie splash and had a 50-goal year but ultimately failed to live up to hype. Solid, 18-year NHL career.


Eric Calder
Played only three pro seasons; played three games with Capitals.


Tony Kellin
U. of Minnesota product played two seasons in the AHL.


Mike Siltala
Seven pro seasons, total of seven NHL games with Caps and Rangers.


Peter Sidorkiewicz
Native of Poland never played for Caps but played in 246 games for three NHL teams.


Jim McGeough
Played 57 NHL games with Caps and Pens, played professionally through the 2000-01 season.


Risto Jalo
Played three NHL games with Edmonton, picked up three assists.
Gaetan Duchesne
Had a solid, 15-year career as a third-line checking forward and penalty killer.
George White
U. of New Hampshire product spent four seasons as a pro in three different leagues. Rights traded to Calgary in the deal that brought Pat Riggin to DC.
Chris Valentine
Scored 30 goals as an NHL rookie, only 13 thereafter. Played 12 pro seasons in Germany.

Full Draft Results Here

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