Capitals 2003 draft evaluation

By Zak McGinniss

The 2003 draft saw the Washington Capitals enter with only six picks, after a campaign that saw them finish second in the Southeast Division and sixth in the conference.  However, five years later, there are few bright spots in this draft, with only first-round pick Eric Fehr playing in any games in the NHL so far.  Taking into account how deep the 2003 draft class was, the Capitals cannot be pleased with their performance, considering how many NHL regulars were chosen after a Capitals selection, including current all-stars Mike Richards and Ryan Getzlaf.

The Capitals were purely focused on offense at the draft, not selecting a single defenseman or goaltender.  The Capitals also focused on size, as the smallest pick of these selections, Andreas Valdix, a very solid 5’11 and 190 lbs.  It should come as no surprise then that only one pick, Valdix, was from Europe, the rest taken from a potpourri of North American leagues, with Fehr and Mark Olafson both coming from the rough and tumble WHL

Of the six choices made in 2003, only Fehr, Stephen Werner, and Andrew Joudrey remain with the organization, and only Fehr is expected to become a regular player for the Capitals.  His 48 games played gives the Capitals an average yield of just 8 NHL games per pick, the fifth-worst of NHL teams during this draft.  To compare, the average team has yielded 30.58 games per pick.

Eric Fehr, RW – Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL)

1st round, 18th overall
Status: NHL Prospect
NHL Totals: 48 games

Drafted for his size, this bruising 6’4 power forward is poised for a breakout season in 2008-09, making continual improvements to his game after making the jump to the pro level.  Fehr was drafted after his breakout season in the WHL, with 55 points in 70 games.  His final two years saw Fehr generate 195 points in 142 games, leading his Brandon Wheat Kings in goals and overall points both years.  His play earned him top honors in 2005, collecting the Bob Clarke Trophy for most goals and the Four Broncos Memorial Trophy as WHL Player of the Year.
 
Fehr’s made a smooth transition to the AHL in 2005, potting 53 points in 70 games, earning an 11-game call-up to the Capitals in his first pro year. Last year, Fehr was better than a point per game player in Hershey, earning his second call-up to the Capitals.  He was injured in February of 2007, ending his season with a back and hip ailment.  Until this point, he was producing at over a point for game rate.  This injury did not resolve itself until January of 2008, and after a month long rehab in Hershey, Fehr finished the season with Washington, and dressed in five of the Capitals’ seven playoff games this year. 

As long as Fehr stays injury-free in the next season, he should be expected to spend the year in Washington DC, most likely on the third or fourth lines.  He brings needed physicality to a smaller Capitals lineup, along with a tremendous nose for the net.  Fehr has the tools to become a quality power forward in the NHL and a regular in the Capitals’ lineup, including time on the power play.  These next few years, along with staying healthy, will be critical in his development and will determine if Fehr can live up to his billing. 

Stephen Werner, RW – University of Massachusetts – Amherst (NCAA)

3rd round, 83rd overall
Status: NHL Prospect
NHL Totals: 0 games

While Fehr has been a bright spot, the Capitals cannot be pleased with the progress of their third-round draft pick Stephen Werner.  Werner is a bit of a fan favorite, as the first Washington DC native to be drafted by the Capitals.  He was selected after a very successful freshman year, with 38 points in 37 games for the Minutemen.  It was this explosive production that convinced the Capitals to grab the local star with the 83rd pick.  Unfortunately, his production tailed off after that, but he finished with a respectable 116 points over 143 games.  After graduating, he joined Washington’s AHL affiliate Hershey for the four games left in their season, but was held off the potent roster during their successful Calder Cup campaign.

Werner has struggled for ice time with Hershey the past two years, and was demoted to the South Carolina Stingrays of the ECHL to gain more playing time each season.  He has put up decent numbers in the ECHL, putting up 38 points in 51 games spread over two seasons, as well as 19 points in 15 games for South Carolina in the most recent playoffs.  Werner’s increased production bodes well for his development, but a potentially nagging shoulder injury and an increasingly deeper depth chart will make his journey to the NHL more difficult.  No longer counted on as much of an offensive threat, Werner will need to continue to round out his defensive game.

Andreas Valdix, LW – Malmo IF (SEL)

4th round, 109th overall
Status: NHL Bust
NHL Totals: 0 games

A relative unknown at the draft in 2003, the highlight of Valdix’s career so far has been his participation representing Sweden in the World Juniors Championships in 2003 and 2004.  It was his performance in these tournaments that convinced the Capitals to draft Valdix.  He has played the past two years with IK Oskarshamn of the HockeyAllsvenskan, the second highest league in Sweden.  Valdix dressed in only 18 games this year and produced 11 points.  Considering his progress, it should be expected that Valdix will not leave Sweden to play in North America. 

Josh Robertson, C – Proctor Academy (New Hampshire)

5th round, 155th overall
Status: NHL Bust
NHL Totals: 0 games

The Capitals reached with their fifth pick of the draft in Josh Robertson, and unfortunately the Caps will end up with nothing.  Following a successful career at Proctor Academy in New Hampshire, including capturing a state championship, Robertson committed to Northeastern. After putting up 18 points in 43 games for the Huskies over his freshman and sophomore years, Robertson has not played in any games the past two years, and it appears as though his career is over. 

Andrew Joudrey, C – Notre Dame Hounds (SJHL)

8th round, 249th overall
Status: NHL Prospect
NHL Totals: 0 games

Joudrey is a bit of a last-round gem for the Capitals, who selected him with the 249th pick.  He was selected after tallying 78 points in 53 games in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League.  After playing four years at Wisconsin where he was good for 93 points in 158 games, Joudrey joined the Hershey Bears for their playoff run in 2007 and suited up in 61 games this past year for the Bears.  The AHL rookie ranked 13th on the team with 25 points, and his game should continue to improve.  At this point, his highest potential is probably as sporadic call-up to the Capitals, though he seems to have found a home in Hershey. 

Mark Olafson, RW – Kelonwa Rockets (WHL)

9th round, 279th overall
Status: NHL Bust
NHL Totals: 0 games

With their last pick of the draft, the Capitals went with Kelowna Rockets enforcer Mark Olafson.  Drafted after his first year in the WHL, Olafson earned 109 penalty minutes in 50 games.  However, Olafson was disciplined for his age, producing 6 points in 19 games, and limiting himself to 20 PIM at the same time during the Kelowna’s successful championship run.  This combination of tempered toughness coaxed the Capitals to select him, but after two years, Olafson reentered the draft in 2005 and was not selected.  After playing a single game for the Victoria Salmon Kings after his WHL career ended in 2006, Olafson is no longer playing hockey.