Capitals 2002 draft evaluation

By Ryan Bright

Steve Eminger, D — Kitchener Rangers (OHL)
Drafted: First round, 12th overall
Height: 6’2,  Weight: 185 lbs
NHL Games Played: 192
Status: NHL player

With Washington’s first pick in 2002, they chose Steve Eminger, a mobile offensive defender who could quarterback the power play.  The next year, Eminger went on to win the OHL’s J. Ross Robertson Cup with the Kitchener Rangers.

Immediately after winning the OHL championship, Eminger was called upon to make his NHL debut, and continued to play in 17 games with Washington in the 2002-03 season.  After graduating from juniors, Eminger began a very promising rookie season at the NHL level in 2003-04.  Playing behind veteran defenders Sergei Gonchar and Brendan Witt, Eminger had the opportunity to learn behind the best Washington had to offer.  However, the promising season went sour, resulting in Eminger being sent to the AHL‘s Portland Pirates, to save him from what was becoming a sinking Capitals ship.

Eminger spent the entire 2004-05 season with Portland due to the NHL lockout.  There he registered 3 goals and 17 assists in 62 games played.  In the 2005-06 season, Eminger made his return to the NHL, scoring 5 goals and 13 assists in 66 games.  In 2006-07, Eminger regressed, only tallying 1 goal and 16 assists in 68 games.  Despite being third among Washington defenders in average ice time of 18:56 minutes per game, Eminger seriously lacked any offensive production.  These struggles also translated to special teams, where he received no power play points all season.

Though Eminger has yet to fulfill his high potential with the Capitals, he is still only 23 years old and could very well mature into the player that Washington hoped when they drafted him.

Alexander Semin, RW
— Chelyabinsk Traktor (Rus)
Drafted: First round, 13th overall
Height: 5’11, Weight: 175 lbs
NHL Games Played: 129
Status: NHL player

The Capitals traded their 26th and 43rd overall pick in 2002, and a sixth-round pick in 2003, to the Stars to acquire the 13th overall pick in the 2002 draft. The player Washington was after was talented Russian forward Alexander Semin.  In hindsight the deal was remarkably successful for the Capitals, who garnered a perennial all-star in return for three picks representing players who have not yet been able to crack the NHL (#26 Martin Vagner, #42 Marius Holtet, #185 2003 Francis Wathier).

Drafted out of the Chelyabinsk Traktor hockey school and on the heels of an outstanding 2001 World Under-18 Championship, Semin projected to be a potential top line sniper and big game player.

In 2002, in only his first year with Russian team Tolyatti Lada, Semin ranked fifth in points with 17, 10 goals and 7 assists, despite being the second youngest on the team. In 2003, Semin made a quick transition to the NHL, scoring 10 goals and 12 assists in 52 games in his rookie season with the Capitals.  At the end of the year, he was sent to the Portland Pirates of the AHL to contribute in the AHL playoffs.  He had 4 goals and 7 assists in seven playoff games with Portland.

During the NHL’s lockout season of 2004-05, Washington had plans for Semin to remain in North America and further develop his game with Portland.  Semin returned to Russia, however, prompting an immediate suspension from the Capitals on the ground of broken contractual obligations to his entry-level agreement.  Semin reported to his former Russian team Tolyatti Lada, who after being pressured from the Capitals to return Semin, threatened to release him allowing the Russian military to enlist him for mandatory Russian service. 

Semin remained in Russia for the entirety of the 2005-06 season, but in 2006 made his return to North America and the Capitals with a renegotiated new contract. The 2006-07 season was a breakout year for Semin, who playing alongside fellow Russian Alexander Ovechkin, racked up a phenomenal number of points.  Scoring 38 goals and 35 assists in 73 games, Semin was second on the team in points with 73 and first in power-play goals with 17.

Although his career in the NHL is still young, playing alongside a talent such as Ovechkin leaves Semin’s potential high. With this kind of early success and potential, Semin is easily the gem of the 2002 draft for the Capitals, and as time could very well tell, could also be the biggest steal in the entire 2002 draft.

Boyd Gordon, RW
— Red Deer Rebels (WHL)
Drafted: First round, 17th overall
Height: 6’0, Weight: 191 lbs
NHL Games Played: 137
Status: NHL player

In a move made on Nov. 10, 2001, the Capitals traded Trevor Linden and the 55th overall pick, for the 17th overall choice in the 2002 draft.  With this pick the Capitals chose two-way forward Boyd Gordon of the WHL.  In the 2002-03 season Gordon put up his best numbers in the WHL, collecting 33 goals and 48 assists in 56 games.  This success led Gordon to his first NHL experience in the 2003-04 season, as he split time between Washington and the Portland Pirates of the AHL. In the NHL lockout year of 2004-05, Gordon spent his first full season in the AHL, scoring 17 goals and 22 assists in 80 games. In the 2005-06 season, he only played 25 games at the NHL level, registering an assist, but had a better year with the Hershey Bears, scoring 16 goals and 22 assists in 58 games.  Gordon spent the entire 2006-07 season with the Capitals.  As a defensive forward he excelled, finishing the season with a team leading plus-10 rating in 71 games played, while also producing 7 goals and 22 assists.

Maxime Daigneault, G
— Val d’Or Foreurs (QMJHL)
Drafted: Second round, 59th overall
Height: 6’1, Weight: 190    lbs
NHL Games Played: 0
Status: NHL Prospect

After a very successful 2001-02 QMJHL playoffs, and being named best goalie of the 2001 Memorial Cup, Daigneault was seen to have too high of a potential talent ceiling to pass on, despite Washington’s crowded goaltending ranks.  After being drafted by the Capitals in the second round in 2002, Daigneault had back to back 23-win seasons for Val d’Or Foreurs.  In the 2004-05 season, Daigneault split his time between the South Carolina Stingrays of the ECHL and the Portland Pirates of the AHL, combining for a 14-8-2 record in 24 games.  Daigneault spent the 2006-07 season as a backup goaltender for the Hershey Bears, playing 33 games and achieving a very respectable record of 23-6, with a goals against average of 2.64.

Patrick Wellar, D — Portland Winter Hawks (WHL)
Drafted: Third round, 77th overall
Height: 6’2, Weight: 200 lbs
NHL Games Played: 0
Status: NHL Bust

Washington chose physical defenseman Patrick Wellar in the third round of the 2002 draft.  After being drafted, Wellar played two more seasons in the WHL but was not signed to a contract by the Capitals.  Wellar was picked up by the St. Louis Blues in 2004, but has not yet graduated from the ECHL’s Alaska Aces, despite multiple short stints in the AHL.

Derek Krestanovich, C — Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL)
Drafted: Third round, 92nd overall
Height: 6’1, Weight: 175 lbs
NHL Games Played: 0
Status: NHL bust

This talented forward was somewhat of a gamble in the third round.  Krestanovich was not ranked by Central Scouting, but was drafted 92nd overall on the heels of a good year with 48 points in 63 games, and strong play in the playoffs.  Krestanovich continued to play in the WHL for three more seasons before ending up with the San Jose Sharks‘ ECHL team, the Fresno Falcons.  Since then, Krestanovich has jumped around the ECHL playing in Pensacola and the Victoria Salmon Kings.

Jevon Desautels, LW
— Spokane Chiefs (WHL)
Drafted: Fourth round, 109th overall
Height: 6’2, Weight: 205 lbs
NHL Games Played: 0
Status: NHL bust

Tough guy Jevon Desautels was chosen as one of Washington’s two fourth-round picks.  He was thought to have a good work ethic, and had good size at 6’2, 205 lbs. Desautels spent three more seasons with the Spokane Chiefs of the WHL, then made his AHL debut with the San Antonio Rampage, the Phoenix Coyotes‘ AHL affiliate.  But after only playing three games in the AHL in 2004-05, Desautels enrolled in the University of Calgary, where he continued to play hockey.

Petr Dvorak, C
— Havirov Femax HC (Czech)
Drafted: Fourth round, 118th overall
Height: 6’0, Weight: 194 lbs
NHL Games Played: 0
Status: NHL bust

Washington drafted offensive talent Petr Dvorak in the fourth round, who had had a very successful season in the Czech junior league, with 49 points in 40 games. After being drafted in 2002, Dvorak joined the Regina Pats of the WHL, where he had a nice season with 16 goals and 23 assists in 64 games.  After his decent season in North America, Dvorak fell off the hockey map.

Robert Gherson, G
— Sarnia Sting (OHL)
Drafted: Fifth round, 145th overall
Height: 6’0, Weight: 155 lbs
NHL Games Played: 0
Status: NHL bust

The second goalie picked by Washington in the 2002 draft was North American Robert Gherson.  Gherson was thought to have good work ethic and character.  He played three more seasons in the OHL, and made his AHL debut in the 2005-06 season with the Manitoba Moose and Hartford Wolfpack.  In the 2006-07 season, Gherson played with the Colombia Inferno of the ECHL.

Marian Havel, C — Vancouver Giants (WHL)
Drafted: Sixth round, 179th overall
Height: 6’0, Weight: 180 lbs
NHL Games Played: 0
Status: NHL bust

With the 179th pick in the 2002 draft, the Capitals picked another European forward in Marian Havel.  Havel played one more season in the WHL before leaving to play for Czech club Plzen HC in 2003-04.  Havel only played two games with Plzen HC, and in 2004-05 played only 30 games with Dukla Jihlava.  Havel’s last recorded playing year was in 2004-05.

Joni Lindlöf, LW — Tappara (Fin)
Drafted: Seventh round, 209th overall
Height: 6’1, Weight: 170 lbs
NHL Games Played: 0
Status: NHL bust

With their seventh-round pick in 2002, the Washington Capitals chose Finnish forward Joni Lindlof.  Lindlof was the 126th-ranked European skater by Central Scouting, and had 17 goals and 25 points in 33 games for his Finnish junior league team, Tappara.  Lindlof played two seasons in the WHL, then returned to Finland to play for HPK Hameenlinna in 2004-05.  Lindlof continues to play professional hockey in Finland.

Igor Ignatuchkin, C — Elemash Elektrostal (Rus)
Drafted: Eighth round, 242nd overall
Height: 5’11, Weight 175 lbs
NHL Games Played: 0
Status: NHL Prospect

The Capitals drafted Russian forward Igor Ignatuchkin 242nd overall.  Ignatuchkin did not turn many heads until the 2001-02 season when he had an excellent WJC for the Russian National Team.  After being drafted in 2002, Ignatuchkin had an ordinary season with his hometown club, Elemash Elektrostal, with 9 goals and 10 assists in 36 games.  In 2004-05, he had a total of 10 goals and 4 assists in 51 games, between Russian clubs, Kristal Elektrostal and Neftyanik (Leninogorsk).  Ignatuchkin was thought to be a project when he was drafted.  A player with a ton of potential, Ignatuchkin is still considered a prospect because he is still young and has made progress, moving up in the Russian leagues.

Patric Blomdahl, RW — AIK (Swe)
Drafted: Ninth round, 272nd overall
Height: 6’1, Weight: 205 lbs
NHL Games Played: 0
Status: NHL bust

Another European forward, Washington chose with the 272nd pick Swedish forward Patric Blomdahl.  Very much an offensive talent, Blomdahl has progressed from the Swedish First Division to the Swedish Elite League.  Despite eight goals and four assists in 42 games in the 2003-04 season, Blomdahl’s offensive numbers have declined to only six goals total in the following two seasons.  He had only one assist in 47 games in the 2006-07 season with SEL team, Linkoping HC.

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