The Washington Capitals got their man, Robert Picard, in yesterday's National Hockey League amateur draft. Then they received an unexpected bonus.
When it came time to exercise his second-round selection, No. 21 overall, Washington general manager Max McNab was amazed to see the name of right wing Mark Lofthouse still unclaimed by his rival flesh appraisers.
"We didn't expect to get him," McNab said. "We needed a sizable winger and there he was. He's the kind of guy who will fit in here. He skates all summer - and he looks like Gary Dornhoefer."
So McNab achieved his goal in the kiddie raffle. He pulled out two names that gifure to grace the major league roster next season. The Capitals' two sorest sports, defense and right wing, have been improved immeasurably.
Picard, a Washington visitor for the first time, agreed to terms with the Capitals. The delay in signing him is the result of a possible change in the standard player contract, to be thrashed out by the owners and player representatives in Chicago next week.
"I talked to Mr. Jean Beliveau," Picard said, "and he said that in the top five (drafting teams) Washington was the best organization to be part of. I was in Mr. (Capitals president Peter) O'Malley's office this morning and I was a little shaken, but when I heard (Dale) McCourt had gone to Detroit my heart beat a little slower than before."
O'Malley, who likes to talk about the Capitals' "family," brought Picard and his parents here is the hope that things would work out favorably, and they did.
Detroit, disdaining trade offers from Montreal, chose center McCourt, Canada's player of the year with St. Catharines. Colorado selected defenseman Barry Beck, a teammate of Lofthouse at New Westminster. Then family man O'Malley was able to proudly announce that "we've had a birth."
Picard was a superior point man for the Montreal Juniors and McNab said, "He has a good shot and he's very mobile. He gives us three power shooters from the point, with Rick Green and Jack Lynch. We were suffering last year after Green was hurt."
Pressure on a No. 1 draft is a key factor, as the Greg Joly failure demonstrated, and Picard said, "The pressure will be on me a little bit. But with the Montreal Juniors everybody in the league wanted to beat us. We didn't have that good a team and there was a lot of pressure on me."
Four New Westminster players were selected among the first 21, with defensemen Beck, Brad Maxwell (Minnesota) and Miles Zaharko (Atlanta) preceeding Lofthouse.
"It was a surprise that he (Lofthouse) was still there," said the Capitals' chief scout, Red Sullivan "He had a great Memorial Cup playoff. He didn't have the best of centermen the last two years. If he had, he would have scored a lot more."
Lofthouse, with 122 goals in those two seasons, seemingly scored enough to rate somewhat higher.McNab, anyway, wasn't just looking at the scoring statistics.
"We have centermen who can put it in the net if we can get the guys to dig the puck out of the corner," McNab said."We're going on attitude. We've taken guys who can get knocked down and get up again for the next couple of years."
Everything didn't work out perfectly. The Capitals were hoping to grab Rod Langway of the University of New hampshire, but the Canadiens picked him off in the second round.
"It was a disappointment," McNab said. "We were sitting 39 and they jumped in there and took him 36th. He's a great athlete - a quarterback in football - and I had a personal feel there, but there weren't many where we got nipped."
Washington grabbed five players from the Quebec Major Junior League, generally considered the weakest of Canada's three junior groups, but McNab called it "just a coincidence. We took the best men available each time."
He the Capitals drafted with sentiment, they might have chosen Washington-born Kevin McCloskey, the Capitol Boys Hockey Club product who went north to Toronto at age 15 and became a pretty fair defenseman with the Calgary Centennials. McCloskey, 6-foot-1 and 180 pounds, was selected by Minnesota in the fourth round.
"I would have liked to go to the Caps," said McCloskey, who was visiting friends in Rockville. "But I have no regrets at all. I'd have benn happy with the fifth round! This is just great."
Montreal, with its multitude of picks, drafted two current WHA players, right wing Mark Napier of Birmingham and defenseman Gord Roberts of New England. Another WHA underage acquistion, center John Tonelli of Houston, was chosen by the New York Islanders.
There was a hint of nepotism in the seventh round when Detroit took Randy Wilson of Providence College. He is the son of Red Wing coach Larry Wilson.
Goalie Richard Sirols, Capital Bob's brother, was chosen by Buffalo in the fifth round.
As part of the Joly-Bryan Watson deal, Detroit had the option of wsitching selections with the Capitals in the third round. By finishing with the NHL's worst record, the Red Wings earned the first choice on their own.
The Capitals made their last pick in the 10th round. Earlier, the Islanders quit and tenderd their remaining selections to Montreal for $1 apiece. That prompted NHL president Clarence Campbell to comment, "We sound like a bunch of damn fools."
The Capitals hope a few of them are particularly those who passed up Lefthouse.