When Ryan Walter was selected by Washington in the 1978 amateur draft, it was written that he would one day become captain of the Capitals. Few expected it to happen so soon.

Walter was wearing the "C" as the Capitals opened their sixth NHL campaign here tonight, the choice of his teammates in a secret ballot election to replace Guy Charron. At 21 and beginning only his second pro season, Walter becomes one of the youngest captains in NHL history.

"I'm honored and I'm surprised," Walter said. "I hope I'm worthy of it.

I know one thing: I'm not going to jump right in. I'm going to talk a lot of things over with Guy.

"I'm not going to play any differently and I'm sure Guy won't play any differently, either. This team has a lot of talent and it's up to each guy to make his contribution. If I can make a contribution as captain, I'm glad to do it."

Walter is living with rookies Mike Gartner and Errol Rausse and they can expect a 24-hour hockey day. Last year, Walter and Robert Picard shared a house and Picard claimed to be awed by Walter's dedication to the sport.

"We have a lot of young players on this team and I think Ryan will be an inspiration to them," said General Manager Max McNab. "His work habits are remarkable and he is a most dedicated young man. even the veterans can't help but look up to him."