Washington Capitals — Drafts By The Decades

Photo: NHLI via Getty Images

Here are a few memories of players that the Washington Capitals drafted in past NHL drafts. This focus was inspired by a “Days Gone By” section of a small-town newspaper called “The Greeley Citizen”, which printed memories from “10 Years Ago”, “20 Years Ago”, “30 Years Ago”, “40 Years Ago”, and “50 Years Ago”.

10 Years Ago

10 years ago, the NHL Draft took place on June 22–23, 2012, at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It was the weekend best known for the DeRecho weather event that caused numerous power outages in North America. As far as the NHL draft was concerned, it was a draft of disappointments and mismanagement for many of the teams in the league, especially when it came to first-round picks.

Photo: Keith Srakocic/The Canadian Press/Associated Press

In this draft, the Capitals had two first-round picks, their original pick at #16 and an additional first-rounder they had acquired as part of the Semyon Varlamov trade. With pick #11, the Washington Capitals chose forward Filip Forsberg, who was unexpectedly still available, as most of the teams drafting just ahead of the Caps drafted defenseman.

The pick looked like a coup for the Caps. However, he is now remembered as a “star who got away” as the Capital traded him at the 2012-13 trade deadline for Martin Erat. Erat’s productivity drastically declined as he was bothered by injuries and bad coaching. While Forsberg, as expected, developed into the star he was expected to become.

With pick #16, the Capitals chose Tom Wilson, a right-winger from the Ontario Hockey League, who made his NHL debut during the 2012-13 playoffs. During the early years of his career, he was used as a fourth-line enforcer, which appeared to be a waste of a first-round pick. But his role expanded to penalty killing, and eventually, he earned a role among the Capitals’ top six forwards.

The early negative on Wilson was the fact he kept getting suspended. It was after a long suspension to start the 2018-19 season that he began to develop into a perennial 20-goal scorer. He is regarded as having great leadership potential and some feel he will be the Capitals’ next Captain.

In the third round, the Capitals drafted Chandler Stevenson with pick #77 overall. He was part of the Caps Stanley Cup-winning team of 2017-18, and then traded to the Las Vegas Golden Knights during the 2018-19 season. He eventually became the Knights’ first-line center.

An additional draft pick from that round, Christian Djoos, was also part of the Stanley Cup-winning Caps team. One other fact from the 2012 draft is the Caps drafted three players who were part of the US National Development Team: Thomas DiPauli, Connor Carrick, and Riley Barber. All three of those players have appeared in the NHL, but none have become NHL regulars.

The Derecho Draft: What Became of the Players Selected in the First Round Of The 2012

NHL: Capitals  Trade Filip Forsberg to Predators For Martin Erat

20 Years Ago

The 2002 NHL Entry Draft was held at the Air Canada Center in Toronto, Ontario, on June 22-23. The draft featured several first-round busts and other first-round picks who had NHL careers that ended prematurely due to injury.

The Capitals had three first-round selections; pick #12, where they chose defenseman Steve Eminger, pick #13, where they chose winger Alexander Semin, and pick #17, where they chose center Boyd Gordon. None of their other draft choices from that year made it to the NHL.

Eminger was the first of their first-rounders to play in the NHL. However, he never lived up to the lofty expectations for a first-round pick and was traded to the Philadelphia Flyers for their first-round draft pick in 2008. The Capitals used the pick to select John Carlson, who became a stalwart on defense.

Photo: Dave Sandford/Getty Images/NHL

Before being drafted, Alexander Semin ranked second in goals on the Russian team taking part in the IIHF Under 18 Championships. The player who ranked first in goals for that team was a phenom named Alexander Ovechkin.

Semin was a productive forward for the Caps who generally would rank second on the team in goals until he left the team in free agency after the 2011-12 season. He played in the NHL until the early part of the 2015-16 season. After that, he continued his career in the KHL with 2020-21 being his last professional season. He is currently an assistant to the General Manager for his hometown team, Sokol, in Krasnoyarsk.

Boyd Gordon was the Capitals third first-round pick. He ultimately found a role as a great faceoff artist who would generally play on the fourth line, however, he dealt with numerous injuries throughout his career.

As part of their rebuild, which took place during the 2003-04 season, the Capitals acquired two more first-rounders in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft: Jakub Klepis (pick #16 originally owned by the Ottawa Senators) and Jonas Johansson (pick #28 originally owned by the Colorado Avalanche).

Klepis made it to the NHL but never established himself in a regular role and would eventually return home to the Czech Republic. Johansson played in just one NHL game with the Capitals in 2005-06.

Class of ’02: A Review of the 2002 NHL Entry Draft

30 Years Ago

The 1992 NHL Entry Draft was held on June 20, 1982, at the Montreal Forum in Montreal, Quebec. It was the first NHL Draft that was held after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Hence, more Russians were available to be drafted, with six Russians ultimately being drafted in the first round and seven being drafted in the second round.

The draft also featured several players from another nation that was formerly behind the Iron Curtain, Czechoslovakia, including the first overall pick, Roman Hamrlik, who signed with the Capitals as a free agent many years later.

The Capitals’ first selection that year was 14th overall, which they used to pick defenseman Sergei Gonchar, who was from Chelyabinsk, Russia (same hometown as Evgeny Kuznetsov). Before joining the Capitals, Gonchar played with both Traktor Chelyabinsk and Moscow Dynamo.

Gonchar first played with the Caps during the 1994-95 season and became a full-time player for them the following season. He was a defenseman who had great offensive skills, playing with them until 2003-04, when he was traded to the Boston Bruins in the “great fire sale”.

Gonchar played for five seasons for the Pittsburgh Penguins and then played for three other teams before hanging up the skates. He was the last active player from his draft class. Fun linguistic fact — his last name means “potter” in Russian.

Photo: NHL

Other notable Capitals drafted in the 1992 Draft include Jim Carey, the rookie from Massachusetts, who was called up from the AHL and took over the goaltending job during the lockout-shortened 1994-95 season. Unfortunately, he was not able to sustain his early success and was eventually traded to the Boston Bruins. In a fun fact: Paul Carey, who briefly played with the Caps, is one of his cousins. Paul Carey, who briefly played with the Baltimore Orioles, is his brother.

One other future Capitals player, Darius Kasparaitis, who the Caps later acquired in a trade, was also drafted. He was Lithuanian but would represent Russia internationally, since the Lithuanian hockey program was not well developed at the time.

Only two other Capitals’ draftees from that draft appeared in the NHL: Stefan Ustorf and Martin Gendron.

NHL: Caps Draft History: 1992 Entry Draft

40 Years Ago

The 1982 NHL Entry Draft was held on June 9, 1982, in the Montreal Forum in Montreal, Quebec. The Capitals had the fifth pick overall and chose defenseman Scott Stevens, who played junior hockey with the Kitchener Rangers, and went on to become one of the best defensemen in Capitals franchise history.  He was a strong contributor on offense and outstanding, defensively. He left in free agency after the 1989-90 season and eventually went on to have a Hall of Fame career.

Photo: NHL

They also drafted center Dean Evason in the fifth round with pick #89. Evason only played in 17 games for the Caps before getting traded to the Hartford Whalers at the 1984-85 trade deadline.

Evason ultimately played in over 800 games, mainly with Hartford. He became an assistant coach with the Capitals before the 2005-06 season and remained with them in that capacity through the 2011-12 season. He is currently the Head Coach of the Minnesota Wild.

Other players the Caps drafted that year that eventually appeared in the NHL were: Milan Novy, Ed Kastelic, and Wally Schreiber.

Two notable future Capitals players, who were part of their 1997-98 team that made the Stanley Cup Finals, were also drafted in 1982: Brian Bellows (#2 overall by the Minnesota North Stars) and Phil Housley (#6 overall by the Buffalo Sabres).

NHL: Caps Draft History — 1982 Entry Draft 

50 Years Ago

On June 8, 1972, the NHL awarded two expansion team franchises, one to Washington, DC, and the other to the city of Kansas City. The Washington, DC franchise was awarded to Abe Pollin, who owned the Baltimore Bullets basketball team. The team would be named the Washington Capitals.

The other franchise was awarded to the city of Kansas City and would be named the Scouts. Those two cities were chosen to prevent the World Hockey Association (WHA) from expanding to those cities. (The Kansas City Scouts eventually moved to Colorado and became known as the Rockies. They eventually moved to Newark, New Jersey where they are now known as the New Jersey Devils.) The two new expansion teams became play during the 1974-75 season.

Building The Washington Capitals: A Look At The Expansion Draft Of 1974
NHL: Capitals — Red Letter Day

By Diane Doyle

Related Reading
Recap Of The Last 20 Years Of The NHL Entry Draft
Tom Wilson’s Draft Day Was a  “Whirlwind of Memories and Emotions’
21st Century Capitals: A Look At the Capitals’ Draft Picks Since 2000
Reviewing All Of The Washington Capitals First Round Draft Picks And How They Turned Out
“We Could Have Had ….” — Washington Capitals Draft Day Regrets — 2000 Through 2010
“We Could Have Had…” — Washington Capitals Draft Day Regrets – 2011 – 2013

By Diane Doyle

About Diane Doyle

Been a Caps fan since November 1975 when attending a game with my then boyfriend and now husband.
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