By Seth Keggins, John Blankinship, and Rick Davis
First Round Surprise
Vice President and General Manager George McPhee made ripples in more than one way at the 2003 Entry Draft, but probably no more than the selection of forward
Eric Fehr, from the WHL Brandon Wheat Kings. Fehr is known as a strong skater in full stride with good agility and balance. He is a very good puckhandler with effective passing abilities, even in heavy traffic. Considered a freight train by some, who is often compared to a young Dave Andreychuk. Fehr had a very strong WHL playoffs in the 2002-03 season and stole the show from fellow teammate and potential first round selection, Ryan Stone (who was selected by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round).
“Eric has a real nose for the net, a pure scorer. He’s the guy who’s most likely to score the ‘big goal’. He plays well in traffic, skates well for his size. He’s a very competitive guy and very well respected by his teammates,” says Brandon head coach Dean Clark.
Eric is also very capable of playing a physical game though is not overly aggressive. He is a tenacious forechecker which makes him a fixture on special teams with his solid two-way game.
Local Boy Hops On Board
With their third round selection, the Caps took locally bred winger,
Stephen Werner. Werner is currently going into his sophomore year at Umass-Amherst having recently broken several freshman scoring records at the school. He is an average size winger, but excels at the speed aspects of the game. Werner is the owner of good puck handling and is considered a good all-around player. Because Werner is not very physical, he may not be a dedicated cornerman but one cannot overlook how outstanding a postseason he had leading Amherst to their improbable playoff run.
In August, Werner will participate in the 2003 U.S. National Junior (under 20) Evaluation Camp in Lake Placid, N.Y having been named by USA Hockey. Most Caps fans will recognize him this summer at camp since he was invited to participate at Piney Orchard Ice Arena last year, not to mention he played two sports (hockey and lacrosse at Bethesda-Chevy Chase HS).
McPhee & Co. Draft Swedish Speedster
With the 109th pick (4th round) in the 2003 Entry Draft, the Capitals looked overseas to select Swedish Elite League winger, Andreas Valdix. In a trend which followed McPhee and Mahoney though out the draft, the team took another player whom was considered to go later in the draft. What was significant about this pick was that the Capitals traded up to get ‘their man’. Redline scouting services recently ranked Andreas Valdix at 145, which is lower than some competing scouting services (Central Scouting- European at 38). Andreas is a great skater with a powerful stride. He has good playmaking ability and sees the ice well enough to chip in the occasional timely goal. Valdix is an aggressive forechecker and protects the puck well. However, having only played at the junior level, he will need to bulk up to remain as competitive in the Elite League this coming season.
Valdix is also expected to anchor the Swedish Junior team along with Robert Nilsson and Alexander Steen. He has the potential to become a good second or third line player in the NHL, however he will need to become established enough next season to make a propelled jump from the Elite League to the NHL no earlier than the 2005-06 season.
High School Talent
The Capitals took high school forward Josh Robertson with their fifth round pick (155 overall). Though he has not officially committed to playing at Northeastern in 2004-05, he has verbally expressed that he is going to attend.
Robertson is an offensive center. His coach describes him as exciting and dynamic; he’s an honor student as well. He’s returning to his prep school Proctor academy to try and help them repeat as champions. One of his coaches there compared him to Jeff Halpern at the same age. Robertson is a project that the Caps will allow to grow slowly. They have plenty of time with him as they’ve drafted alot of good young players.
Caps Pick Another Youngster
In the eighth round, the Capitals drafted another young player in Andrew Joudrey. Having participated in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League for the last two years for the Notre Dame Hounds, he has consistently potted 24-25 goals. Joudrey compares himself to New Jersey Devils playmaker Scott Gomez. He sees the ice very well and knows what to do with the puck at all times. At 5’11” and 191 pounds he’ll need to be nifty with his puck handling skills and he will be tested this season as he plays for the University of Wisconsin, having turned down Maine and Notre Dame.
Drop The Gloves
With their last pick, 279th overall, the Capitals selected WHL tough guy Mark Olafson. The 205 pound forward for Kelowna accumulated 109 PIM’s in 50 games. But similar to other Caps prospect, Jevon Desautels, he can pot some points too. Mark totaled 12 points including 4 goals. In the playoffs, he stepped up with 6 points in 19 games.