Capitals 2001 draft evaluation

By David Rathbun

Near the end of the 2000-01 NHL season, the Washington Capitals pulled off a huge trade right at the deadline, acquiring Trevor Linden and Dainius Zubrus for Richard Zednik, Jan Bulis and a first round selection (Alexander Perezhogin) in 2001. The first selection they made then was in the second round at 58th overall. Five years later, the Caps have only one player that they selected in 2001 currently playing within their system.

Interestingly, the Capitals’ current successes from the 2001 draft have not come from picks of their own. As of now, only Brooks Laich (Ottawa, 193rd overall) and David Steckel (Los Angeles, 30th overall) have been impact players for the Caps. And so far, Laich is the only true NHL player to date.

The Capitals’ 10 picks have played a total of five NHL games, for a league-low average of under one game per pick in that draft year.

Nathan Paetsch, D – Moose Jaw (WHL)
58th Overall Selection
Height: 6’0, Weight: 200 lbs
NHL Games Played: 1
Status: NHL Prospect

With no first round selection in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft, the Caps had to wait until late in the second round, when looking for a defenseman with the ability to move the puck, the Caps selected Nathan Paetsch with the 58th overall pick.

Coming off of a 62-point WHL campaign, the Caps had high hopes that Paetsch would eventually become a power play quarterback to complement what was an already strong special teams unit for the Caps. However, Washington failed to sign Paetsch within the two-year required window, and he reentered the draft in 2003 where he was selected by the Buffalo Sabres with the 202nd overall pick.

Paetsch, like so many, has a legitimate shot at becoming an impact player in the new NHL. Despite his relatively small size for a defenseman, he has been able to put up solid numbers at every level so far in his career, and recently finished his third full AHL season with 50 points (11 goals, 39 assists) for the Rochester Americans. Paetsch also made his NHL debut this season, and skated in one regular season game with the Sabres, registering an assist. He was also recently recalled to help replenish Buffalo’s decimated rearguard, and co-led the Sabres in shots on goal in last week’s Eastern Conference Final Game 7 loss to the hands of the Carolina Hurricanes — his first NHL playoff game.

Paetsch has really progressed nicely since he was originally drafted in 2001, and it would appear that Buffalo may have gotten a draft day steal by selecting Paetsch in the seventh round of the 2003 draft. Paetsch may still yet find a home in the Buffalo organization as a steady fourth or fifth defender with an offensive upside, and at the very worst, would be a solid depth player.

Owen Fussey, LW – Calgary Hitmen (WHL)
90th Overall Selection
Height: 6’1; Weight: 190 lbs
NHL Games Played: 4
Status: NHL Bust

After coming off of a solid 2004-05 AHL season where he was lone Pirate (AHL) forward with a positive plus/minus rating (+6), Fussey’s overall game regressed a bit this year, as the winger struggled to find consistent playing time on a Hershey Bears’ roster that is loaded with talent.

Fussey only appeared in 50 games with the Bears during the 2005-06 regular season, and was unable to score even half as many points as he did the previous year. He ended the season with a disappointing 12 points (2 goals, 10 assists), and finished with a respectable +2 defensive rating. He also appeared in one postseason game with Hershey, but failed to reach the score sheet.

Fussey is a hard competitor and can always be counted on to give 100 percent night in and night out. He works hard on the ice, forechecks with ferocity down low and along the boards, and plays a physical, high-energy game. Unfortunately for Fussey, he is limited offensively, and is far behind many of Washington’s prospects already playing in the AHL.

Jeff Lucky, C – Spokane Chiefs (WHL)
125th Overall Selection
Height: 6’1; Weight: 206 lbs
NHL Games Played: 0
Status: NHL Bust

Jeff Lucky has bounced around quite a bit in the last five years. Unsigned by the Capitals after his two-year rights expired, Lucky then re-entered the draft and went un-chosen. He continued to play in the WHL until his eligibility ran out. In his final junior season in 2003-04, Lucky even appeared in the line-up for three different teams (Spokane Chiefs, Calgary Hitmen, and the Saskatoon Blades). The next season he played one full year in the Canadian Interuniversity Sport League (2004-05) prior to heading to Europe to seek work for the 2005-06 season.

Lucky put up very impressive stats in the nine games that he appeared in this season, registering five goals and seven assists for Miesbach TEV of the German Oberliga. At only 23, it would appear that Lucky’s development could continue. However, Lucky is unlikely to ever reach the NHL at this point in his career.

Artem Ternavsky, D – Sherbrooke (QMJHL)
160th Overall Selection
Height: 6’3; Weight: 206 lbs
NHL Games Played: 0
Status: NHL Bust

Ternavsky was an intriguing pick. At 6’3 tall, Ternavsky possessed the ideal frame for an NHL defender, but was never able to develop further. He is currently playing hockey in Russia for Kazakhmis Karaganda of the Russian High League — a step below the Russian Super League. He not known for his offensive prowess, and backed that up with only five points (3 goals, 2 assists) in 39 games this season. Unsigned by the Capitals, it would appear that Ternavsky will be a career player in Europe.

Zbynek Novak, LW – Slavia Praha (Slovak Jr.)
191st Overall Selection
Height: 6’3; Weight: 210 lbs
NHL Games Played: 0
Status: NHL Bust

Like Ternavsky, Novak also possesses tremendous size, but he too is playing in Europe and is unlikely to ever make it to the NHL. Novak appeared in 32 games with HC Kobra Praha this season, and posted 14 points (8 goals, 6 assists) in the equivalent of the Czech minors.

Johnny Oduya, D – Moncton Wildcats (QMJHL)
221st Overall Selection
Height: 5’11; 196 lbs
NHL Game Played: 0
Status: NHL Bust

Johnny Oduya was one of Washington’s tougher picks, notorious for being one of the best fighters in the SEL and annually ranks among the league leaders in penalty minutes. He is, however, a pretty good hockey player and not just a pugilist. Coming off of a sub-par season which saw him register only six points (2 goals, 4 assists) as a member of Djurgårdens IF, Oduya rebounded this season in a big, big way, scoring eight goals and registering 11 assists in 49 games with his new club, Västra Frölunda HC Indians (SEL).

The Capitals chose not to sign him by the June 1, 2006 deadline, however, and he became a free agent.

Matt Maglione, D – Princeton (ECAC)
249th Overall Selection
Height: 6’0; Weight: 200 lbs
NHL Games Played: 0
Status: NHL Bust

Maglione, a standout defender with the Princeton University Tigers, turned pro after graduation and recently finished his second season in the ECHL. As one of the Trenton Titans’ steadier defenders, Maglione chalked up his best season to date, registering 19 points (4 goals, 14 assists) in 75 games.

Despite the fact that Maglione led all Princeton defenders in scoring during his senior year, Washington failed to sign the young defender and now his future is uncertain. Although he is currently playing professional hockey, Maglione is a long-shot to ever appear in an NHL game.

Petr Polcik, RW – MHC Nitra Jr. (Slovak Jr)
254th Overall Selection
Height: 6’4; Weight: 190 lbs
NHL Games Played: 0
Status: NHL Bust

After a sub-par 2001-02 season in the QMJHL where he registered just nine goals and 12 assists in 70 games, Polcik practically fell off the map before resurfacing and appearing in four games during the 2003-04 season with Nitra MHC of the Slovakian League. He failed to reach the score sheet in any of those four games, and has not appeared in an elite league game since.

Robert Mueller, G — Mannheim Eagles (Germany)
275th Overall Selection
Height: 5’7; Weight: 165 lbs
NHL Games Played: 0
Status: NHL Bust

Robert Mueller, the only goaltender taken by the Caps in 2001, recently completed his fourth season as a member of the Krefeld Penguins, appearing in 51 games and finishing the year with only a modest GAA of 3.08. He has yet to get a taste of North American hockey, and by the looks of things, doesn’t look like he ever will. Small goaltenders must be exceptional to make it, and Mueller was not exceptional. The Capitals rights’ to him expired on June 1.

Viktor Hubl, LW – HC Slavia Praha (Czech)
284th Overall Selection
Height: 6’0; Weight: 182 lbs
NHL Games Played: 0
Status: NHL Bust

Viktor Hubl is arguably one of the more talented players that Washington drafted in 2001. He has been a regular in the Czech league for the last eight seasons, and just last year, led Ceske Budejovice HC in scoring with 35 points (16 goals, 19 assists) and appearing in all 52 games.

To date, Hubl has never played a professional game in North America, and at the age of 27, would probably find the transition difficult. The Capitals lost his rights on June 1. In any event, Hubl remains one of the premier players in his respective league, and will probably remain in Europe for the remainder of his hockey career.

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