On draft days, General Manager Max McNab of the Washington Capitals usually speaks softly and carries out his big shtick. For three straight years, McNab has been able to say," "Washington picks..." and instantly present both the selected player and his parents.
To repeat that performance today, McNab will need either luck or an unlimited expense account. The reluctance of the No. 1 talent plucker, GM Ray Miron of the Colorado Rockies, to confirm his opening choice has left the rest of the NHL's meat graders on tenterhooks.
McNab, who will choose fourth in today's telephone draft, was prompted to raise his voice an octave yesterday and vow, "If Ray happens to be picking fourth next year, he may have difficulty obtaining information."
What apparently upset McNab even more than Miron's public indecision was the way he chose to express it. Miron is considered 95 percent likely to select Rob Ramage, the all-star World Hockey Association defenseman who rated No. 1 in the current crop. Miron, however, held out the possibility that he might take Perry Turnbull, a talented left wing for Portland of the Western Junior League.
Not coincidentally, the Capitals have a keen interest in the future of young Turnball, who collected 7t goals a year ago. A 6 foot-2, 210-pounder, Turnbull could undoubtedly collect a lot of goals skating alongside another Western product, Ryan Walter. Even if Miron is just teasing, in the custom of his newest employee, Coach Don Cherry, there is no guarantee that Turnbull will survive past St. Louis and Detroit, which follow in the pecking order.
St. Louis has been visualized as choosing Craig Hartsburg, another of those superior WHA defensemen, but General Manager Emile Francis has not confirmed that choice. Detroit is expected to go for Mike Foligno, a right wing who was voted Canada's outstanding junior last season following a 65-goal, 150-point campaign with Sudbury of the Ontaraway, Washington still is guaranteed an outstanding forward. Others available in this fattest of all drafts are right wing Ricky Vaive, the WHA penalty king who still found time to score 26 goals for Birmingham; right wing Mike Gartner, a 27-goal scorer for Cincinnati of the WHA, left wing Michel Goulet, who netted 28 goals for Birmingham, and left wing Brian Propp, who recorded 94 goals League.
With 19-year-olds also subject to draft this year, there is another good forward available in Tom McCarthy, a 69-goal left wing with Oshawa of the OHA. In fact the list is so extensive that the Capitals figure on picking up another good one in the second round.
Turnbull, a teammate of Capital Paul Mulvey a year back, allowed as how he would not mind playing alongside Walter if the draft wheel ordained such an outcome.
"Ever since I was 10 I wanted to play in the NHL," Turnbull said. "I want to play anywhere in the NHL, but if it's the Caps, that's okay. The possibility of playing with Ryan, if the Caps draft me, would be a real treat."