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Capitals not content to rest on laurels

by Mike G. Morreale

OTTAWA -- Despite being witness to a major turnaround in the Eastern Conference and earning numerous team awards, Washington General Manager George McPhee refused to sit tight at the 2008 NHL Entry Draft.

After moving up two rungs to No. 21 in a trade with New Jersey, Washington landed Anton Gustafsson, the son of former Capitals forward and current Swedish national team coach Bengt-Ake Gustafsson.

McPhee then dealt defenseman Steve Eminger, along with a third-round pick, to Philadelphia for the No. 27 pick, which they used on defenseman John Carlson.

“Our 2007-08 season was a great story with regard to the comeback of the team and emergence of a lot of good players,’’ McPhee told “But you have to win every year in this League, so we put together a plan to sort of rebuild the team we have. Things were a little ahead of schedule this year, but if we’re not winning next year than we’ll all be disappointed.’’

Here is a look at Washington’s 2008 NHL Entry Draft class:

No. 21 Anton Gustafsson, C, Frolunda Jr. (Sweden) – A skilled two-way center with good hockey sense, Gustafsson possesses size, strength and a nose for the net. He had 15 goals and 17 assists for Frolunda in the Swedish Junior League. He’s certainly no liability on defense, as well, which was one reason he became the second Swede to come off the board -- behind No. 15 Erik Karlsson to Ottawa.

“We were hoping to get Gustafsson in the first round in the area where we were picking, and our backup plan was that if he was gone already, we would take (John) Carlson,’’ McPhee told “As things turned out, we got both of them, which is pretty nice.’’

No. 27 John Carlson, D, Indiana (USHL) – In 59 games with the Ice, Carlson had 12 goals, 31 assists and 43 points and a plus-11 rating. He represented the East Division at the 2008 USHL All-Star Game and was named an assistant captain of Team USA for the 2007 Under-18 Ivan Hlinka Tournament in Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

“The first thing I noticed about John was how talented a player he was,’’ McPhee said. “He has good size (6-2, 212 pounds), good hands, powerful legs and good hockey sense. He needs to learn how to train and get in shape, but he’s going to a good program in London (Ontario Hockey League), so he’ll be well-coached for the next couple of years.’’

No. 57 Eric Mestery, D, Tri-City (WHL) – Mestery, a left-handed defenseman, had two goals and 14 assists with 65 penalty minutes in 71 games last season for Tri-City.

No. 58 Dmitri Kugryshev, RW, CSKA 2 (Russia) – He posted four points in seven games to help Russia capture the bronze medal at the 2008 World Junior Championships.

No. 93 Braden Holtby, G, Saskatoon (WHL) – Faced the second-most shots (1,875) among Western Hockey League goalies in 2007-08. He still won 25 games and posted a .908 save percentage and 2.84 goals-against average.

No. 144 Joel Broda, C, Moose Jaw (WHL) – Broda had 30 goals and 23 assists in 73 games for the Warriors last season.

No. 174 Greg Burke, LW, Jr. Monarchs (EJHL) – A 6-1, 185-pound forward, Burke had 46 points and 21 goals in 40 games with the Junior Monarchs of the Eastern Junior Hockey League.

No. 204 Stefan Della Rovere, LW, Barrie (OHL) – Della Rovere registered 32 points and 171 penalty minutes with Barrie in the Ontario Hockey League this past season.

Contact Mike Morreale at

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