The draft board pages include every player who was left unprotected in the 1998 Expansion Draft. The overwhelming majority of players who do not carry over are either old, unproductive, injured, primarily used for fighting, marginal players, minor league veterans, or unsigned European prospects. The majority of pending UFAs (Group III, Group V, and Group VI) will not carry over. Exceptions to these rules are provided if the incumbent team left almost nothing of value available to choose from, in which case everyone gets at least a closer look.
As we are capped by league restrictions to selecting no more than six pending free agents, we must be judicious with our choices.
For over a decade beginning in 1982-83, the Capitals put together dominant seasons in the standings and then fell apart in the playoffs. They made the postseason 14 straight times, seven of those coming after finishing at least 10 games above .500. And they only made it past the second round one single time, which somehow came in the one season they finished under .500 and yet made the playoffs anyway.
1997-98 simply defied logic. Yes, the Capitals finished with 92 points and were the #4 seed, but this team wasn’t supposed to do anything. There are only a couple of key contributors who are old in hockey terms, but there were a ton who simply had an enormous amount of mileage on them despite not being “old”.
Goalies: Stephane Beauregard(Gr.V – UFA), Martin Brochu
Defensemen: Patrick Boileau(Gr.II – RFA), Jeff Brown(Gr.III – UFA), Phil Housley, Stewart Malgunas(Gr.II – RFA)
Forwards: Brian Bellows(Gr.III – UFA), Andrew Brunette(Gr.II – RFA), Mike Eagles, Dale Hunter(Gr.III – UFA), Kevin Kaminski(Gr.II – RFA), Todd Krygier(Gr.III – UFA), Mark Major, Jeff Nelson, Pat Peake(Gr.II – RFA), Esa Tikkanen(Gr.III – UFA), Jeff Toms(Gr.II – RFA), Stefan Ustorf
Washington is leaving us 18 to choose from, but forward Andrew Brunette stands so far above the rest that he’s the only player on our board and nothing will convince us to go another direction.
F Andrew Brunette – 25-year-old forward, originally a 7th-round pick of Washington (1993)
The case for taking Brunette – Brunette was passed over in his draft year (1991), then again in his second year eligible (1992) despite putting up 51 goals and 100 points on an Owen Sound team that finished 18 games under .500. In his third year of eligibility, he put up 62 goals and 162 points in 66 regular season games, then another 8 goals and 14 points in 8 playoff games. Washington was so impressed by this that they made him their 7th-round pick in the 1993 Entry Draft. Brunette would split 1993-94 between Hampton Roads of the ECHL and Portland of the AHL, where he would combine for 21 goals and 50 points in 43 regular season games. He’d then add another 7 goals and 14 points in 9 playoff games, also split between the two teams.
It’s not uncommon for a player to put up huge scoring numbers in junior hockey a year after his first draft-eligible season. Whether this is a sign of things to come or if it’s simply a case of an older, more physically mature player outclassing inferior competition is a job for the scouts to decide.
Brunette would celebrate his 21st birthday before the 1994-95 season, then put up 30 goals and 80 points in 79 games in the AHL. He earned callups to the NHL in 1995-96 and 1996-97, then got an extended look in 1997-98 that saw him put up 11 goals and 23 points in just 28 NHL games (registering a point in 17 of those games, with six multi-point games). And when he was in the AHL this past year, he led Portland in scoring despite only playing 43 games at that level.
And that brings us to the present day. Brunette will turn 25 right before our first training camp, and there is simply no point in considering anyone else from Washington. He could be a Predator for the next 10 years; he’s demonstrated a scoring touch in the NHL, and just needs more ice time. His methodical style combined with his deft hands around the net are perfectly suited for the modern game, and he’ll be given plenty of ice time in the top six to be able to contribute.