The Washington Capitals have played some intense games in Raleigh, N.C., but no one day since the franchise’s inception has had a bigger impact than June 26, 2004, at RBC Center.
Washington’s management team expected to get a very good player with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2004 draft, but Alex Ovechkin
has taken the franchise to new heights. Just drafting Ovechkin would make that day a momentous one, but the Capitals had two more first-round picks and used them on Mike Green
and Jeff Schultz
“You get a top-four, steady defenseman like Schultz and you’re happy with that, but those other two guys are elite players, franchise players,” Capitals general manager George McPhee said. “To get two of them on the same day is pretty rare in our business. You are lucky to get one every 10 years, and we got two on the same day.”
Ovechkin was a pretty easy choice for Washington. He was the consensus top player available, with fellow Russian Evgeni Malkin the only other player in the discussion.
After the Capitals drafted him, Ovechkin saw a group of Capitals fans and pumped his fist – and the love affair between him and this city was born.
“Obviously we were all excited about Alex,” McPhee said. “We had a lot of discussion, but he was the unanimous choice as the right guy for us. Some teams were trying to trade for the pick, but we weren’t going to do it.”
What made the day truly special were picks No. 27 and 29. McPhee acquired the picks in trades for Sergei Gonchar and Robert Lang during the 2003-04 season as part of the team’s plan to rebuild the franchise.
Ovechkin has been the key piece as McPhee constructed the team into a Stanley Cup contender, but Green and Schultz have been vital to the success as well.
“Schultz we originally had [projected] later, sometime in the second, but we moved him up, and then we just really liked Green,” McPhee said. “That’s just how the draft goes sometimes. We didn’t believe that anybody else had [Green] as high as we did. He played on a team that didn’t have a good year, and not many people went to see him. We were high on him, and strategically we thought we could get him at that pick, and it has really worked well for us.”