The Washington Capitals, looking to fly after five years of aborted take-offs, paid close attention to their wings in yesterday's National Hockey League entry draft.
The Capitals selected right wing Mike Gartner, a solid 27-goal scorer in the World Hockey Association; left wing Errol Rausse, a junior linemate of Capital standout Ryan Walter, and left wing Harvie Pocza before closing out with underaged center Tim Tookey and defenseman Greg Theberge.
Gartner was the Capitals' first-round choice, after Colorado named WHA all-star defenseman Rob Ramsage, St. Louis took winger Perry Turnbull and Detroit grabbed winger Mike Foligno.
The Blues' selection of Turnbull was a mild surprise, but it was hardly the supreme shock of the day at Capital Centre. That was provided by several hundred fans, who jammed the Capital Club in distinctly non-hockey weather to listen to the telephone hookup among the 21 NHL clubs.
"The fans are beginning to get the good feeling, too," said th Capitals' captain, Guy Charron, who dropped by on his way to the golf course and demonstrated that he is almost 100 percent again physically, following his May knee surgery.
Besides air-conditioned refuge from the heat and a free lunch served up by the Capitals, the fans were able to savor such inside tidbits as New York Rangers General Manager Fred Shero's referring to his first pick, Doug Sulliman, as "Simon Sulliman."
There was a loud groan when St. Louis chose the highly rated Turnbull, mild applause at the Capitals' choice of Gartner. The biggest cheer followed a Washington victory in an argument with the New York Islanders over the third choice in the second round.
The Capitals originally possessed two second-round picks. They sent oneto the Islanders in October for Michel Bergeron, with the stipulation that they would designate which pick was involved unless Bergeron scored 30 goals, in which case the Islanders were to be given the choice.
The Islanders disputed that selection, even though it was only a matter of picking third or fourth. There was much laughter when Washington general Manager Max McNab noted that "as we all know, Bergeron (released after an undistinguished seven-goal performance) did not score 39 goals."
Gartner could not be reached by telephone immediately after his selection, because he had gone to the YMCA in his hometown of Barrie, Ontario, to work out.
"You have to get in shape some time," Gartner said later, while claiming to be "excited" about his selection by Washington.
"The Caps are a real young team, a good team," Gartner said. "I played with Ryan Walter on Team Canada (juniors) two years ago and I hope I can be with him again. It's going to be a bit of a jump to the NHL, BUT THat was one of the main reasons I went to the WHA a year ago, to give me a better chance to move up to the NHL. I think I'll have an edge on a junior player, because I've been involved in better competition."
Gartner joined Cincinnati a year ago at age 19, following a 41-goal season with Niagara Falls in the Ontario Hockey Association. He managed his 27 goals in the WHA despite being troubled by a hip pointer, a bruised knee and a broken thumb.
"I think I could possibly have scored more if I hadn't concentrated on defense last year," Gartner said. "I knew I'd have to think more defense in the NHL. But the whole WHA was not as bad defensively last year as it had been before."
At Niagara Falls, Gartner was a line-mate of left wing Lou Franceschetti, a Capital draftee of a year ago who signed a pro contract Wednesday following a 103-point season in the International League.
"He's good in the corners and very good with the puck," Franceschetti said of Gartner. "He puts himself in the right place. He has a good shot and he's one of the fastest skaters around. If there's any mess going on out there he'll help you out. I'd sure like to get a chance to play with him again."
Rausse recorded 65 goals and 47 assists with Seattle of the Western Junior League. Fourth-round selection Pocza had 42-55 figures with tbillings of that league. Tockey, a center, finished 33-47 with Portland, where Turnbull was the big gun. Theberge collected 80 points for the Memorial Cup champion Peterborough Petes of the OHA.