|Karl Alzner of Burnaby, Canada,puts on a jersey after getting the fifth pick by the Washington Capitals during the first round of the NHL draft Friday, June 22, 2007, in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete) |
When the NHL conducted its annual draft lottery in April, the Washington Capitals’ braintrust collectively winced. The Chicago Blackhawks won the lottery, the same lottery that delivered Alex Ovechkin
to the Capitals three summers ago. This time, Chicago’s fortune looked to be Washington’s misfortune. The Hawks leapfrogged the Capitals in the draft order, pushing Washington from fourth to fifth overall. The Capitals had been eyeing defenseman Karl Alzner
for quite some time, and general manager George McPhee and director of amateur scouting Ross Mahoney both worried that moving down that one slot would be enough to cost them Alzner’s services.
Los Angeles general manager Dean Lombardi stepped to the podium on Friday night in Columbus to make the Kings’ first pick of the draft, the fourth overall choice. When Lombardi went to the stage, the Caps were on pins and needles. Then came the announcement.
“With the fourth pick in the 2007 Entry Draft, we select Thomas Hickey of the Seattle Thunderbirds.”
And it wasn’t just the Kings Washington was worried about. The Caps believed Edmonton – owner of three first-round choices including the sixth and 15th overall – also had interest in moving up to get Alzner. Washington worried that the Kings and Oilers might flip-flop at Nos. 4 and 6, with Edmonton hopping over the Caps to grab Alzner.
In a draft without a lot of top end talent, Washington breathed a big sigh of relief once it had its man Alzner in the fold. After taking Alzner, the Caps still had nine picks remaining. They had a strategy for those choices, and it played out almost perfectly. Washington grabbed two more defensemen, Josh Godfrey (34th pick overall) and Teddy Ruth (46th). Then it began to choose forwards, but it did take one flyer on an OPJHL goaltender (Dan Dunn) in the sixth round. The total haul for the weekend was three defensemen, a goaltender and six forwards (four centers, a left wing and a right wing).
The Caps concentrated on taking character players with upside, North American players, and players who will be developing in strong college programs. McPhee and Mahoney also made a few shrewd swaps, moving back in the draft at a few junctures, and adding three picks for the 2008 NHL Entry Draft in doing so.
|Josh Godfrey |
“We did really well to get the top three guys we got where we got them,” says McPhee. “We’re really pleased with that. We moved back from 28th and added to our picks and got [Josh] Godfrey at 34, which is who we thought we could have gotten at 28. So that worked.
“And then to get Teddy Ruth, we were surprised we were able to get him [with the 46th pick]. So we got three really good defensemen, and then we spent time trying to acquire gritty, hard-working players. It wasn’t a strong draft for Europeans, so we didn’t go that way. It wasn’t a strong draft for goaltenders, so we didn’t go that way. I think we started with 10 picks. We made 10 picks but we also added a lot of picks for next year’s draft, which is supposed to be an exceptional draft.”
With the 28th overall pick, the Caps almost had a deal for an NHL player. But the other team backed out at the last minute on that swap. Instead, Washington shipped the 28th pick to San Jose for the 41st pick in 2007 and the Sharks’ second-round choice in 2008. Had they kept the 28th pick, the Caps would have chosen Godfrey. They believed he would be available later, and he was, but he was another kid they really wanted and they weren’t going to wait any longer. The Caps got Godfrey with the first of their three second-round picks on Saturday.
After being passed over altogether in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, Godfrey figured to go anywhere between the second and fifth rounds in 2007. (It was that kind of draft.) Most scouts agree that Godfrey owns the best point shot in the OHL, where he plays for Sault Ste. Marie. His point shot has been timed at 99.7 mph, and he used it to score 24 goals for the Greyhounds in 2006-07. Godfrey totaled 57 points last year and added an amazing total of nine goals and 14 points in 13 playoff tilts.
It’s been quite a week for Godfrey. Just before heading to Columbus for the draft, he learned he had been chosen to represent Team Canada at the upcoming Canada/Russia Super Series. It’s a one time, eight-game series featuring the best players from both countries under the age of 20. The series will be played from Aug. 27-Sept. 9, with the first four games being played in Russia and the next four in various Canadian cities (Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Red Deer and Vancouver). Red Deer’s Brent Sutter will serve as head coach of the team. Godfrey was one of eight defensemen chosen for the Team Canada roster. Alzner is also on the Team Canada roster for the Super Series.
Ruth is a hard-nosed kid who will attend Team USA’s annual National Junior Evaluation Camp at Lake Placid, NY in August. After that, he will attend Notre Dame, a university he chose over Michigan St. and Miami of Ohio. Ruth’s birthplace is listed as Naperville, Ill. but he lived in various locations all over the country as a kid. He spent time in St. Louis, Florida, Pittsburgh and Texas, and kept playing hockey along the way.
It was the second time in three drafts that Washington used its top three choices on defensemen (it used its top four picks on blueliners in 2005). While Alzner is thought of as a two-way defenseman and Godfrey as a decidedly offensive blueliner, Ruth is more of an old-fashioned stay-at-home type, although he does move the puck well.
|Ted Ruth |
After moving down to 41 in the trade with San Jose, Washington swapped that 41st pick to Philadelphia for the Flyers’ second-rounder in 2008 and the 84th overall choice in 2007. The Caps then exercised the 84th pick (a late third-rounder) to select another kid who had been passed over in the 2006 draft. Washington chose center Phil DeSimone, a center who spent last season with Sioux City of the USHL. A native of East Amherst, N.Y., DeSimone totaled 26 goals and 73 points last season. He finished second in the league’s scoring race and was named the league’s Player of the Year for his efforts. DeSimone will attend the University of New Hampshire this fall.
Washington had two selections in the fourth round of the draft and it traded the first one, the 95th overall choice. The Caps swapped that pick to Los Angeles in exchange for the 154th selection in the draft and the Kings’ fourth-round choice in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft.
With the 108th choice in the draft, the Capitals tabbed another USHL forward. This time they went with Brett Bruneteau, a center who had a dozen goals and 40 points in 55 games with Omaha last season. Born in San Francisco, Bruneteau is the grandson of longtime pro Eddy Bruneteau, whose career included three stints in Omaha, two as a player and one as a coach. Eddy Bruneteau played 181 games in the NHL but his brother Modere “Mud” Bruneteau (Brett Bruneteau’s grand-uncle) owns a coveted spot in the annals of hockey lore.
Playing for the Detroit Red Wings against the Montreal Maroons in a first-round playoff game on Mar. 24, 1936, Bruneteau scored the goal that ended what remains the longest game in NHL history. Bruneteau’s goal came at 16:30 of the sixth overtime period, giving Detroit a 1-0 win and ending the game after 176:30 of play.
Brett Bruneteau will attend the University of North Dakota, starting in the fall of 2008.
|Brett Bruneteau |
|Brett Leffler |
|Justin Taylor |
|Phil DeSimone |
In the fifth round Washington went back to the Western League. The Caps chose Regina right wing Brett Leffler with the 125th pick of the draft, just one selection after the Kings had taken Leffler’s Regina teammate Linden Rowat. Leffler totaled 13 goals and 26 points in 69 games with the Pats last season. More noteworthy for a player who patterns his game after that of feisty Toronto winger Darcy Tucker are Leffler’s 114 penalty minutes.
The Caps closed out the draft with a pair of picks in each of the last two rounds. With the 154th overall choice obtained from Los Angeles earlier in the day the Caps selected goaltender Dan Dunn from Wellington of the Ontario Provincial Junior Hockey League. Dunn is listed at 6-foot-5 and 200 pounds in the NHL’s Entry Draft Media Guide. According to stats provided by the Central Scouting Bureau, Dunn posted a 1.83 goals against average and a .939 save pct. with Wellington last season. Dunn will enter St. Cloud St. University this fall.
Center Justin Taylor spent some time as Dunn’s teammate with the Wellington Dukes last season. In midseason, Taylor signed on to play under former Capital Dale Hunter with the OHL’s London Knights. The Caps grabbed Taylor with their second sixth-round choice, the 180th pick overall. He had six goals and 18 points in 31 regular season games with London, and added four goals and 10 points in 16 playoff contests. With several big-name Knights off to continue their careers elsewhere, it’s possible that Taylor will see more ice time and in more high leverage situations at London in 2007-08.
With the first of their two seventh-round selections (185th overall), the Capitals chose center Nick Larson
, who was a teammate of Bruneteau’s at Omaha of the USHL this season. Larson got into 10 games with the Lancers (totaling three goals and five points) and also played for Hill-Murray high school, where he racked up 27 goals and 57 points in 25 games. Larson is slated to attend the University of Minnesota in the fall of 2008.
Washington closed out its 10 choices of the 2007 draft when it selected left wing Andrew Glass
with the 199th overall pick. Glass registered seven goals and 17 points in 18 games with Nobles High School in 2006-07. Glass is scheduled to attend Boston University in the fall of 2008.