The Washington Capitals drafted defenseman Darren Veitch for immediate assistance yesterday, then picked a lot of players for the futures market.

Veitch, the 122-point, 50-minute defenseman from Regina, was still available when the Capitals' turn came to make the fifth selection in the first round at the Montreal Forum.

"We were afraid he might be gone and it cost us a lot of sleep last night," said Coach Gary Green. "He was the man we wanted. He's an excellent all-round player, he has a great shot and whenever he shot the puck, nine times out of 10 it was on the net."

Veitch, a righthand shooter, will inherit Mike Gartner's role as the point man on the power play. he also figures to see plenty of ice time in other situations.

"I got my mom to time me once and she found out I played 51 minutes one game," Veitch said. "I told my coach (Bryan Murray) he did't know how to change lines -- just joking, of course."

"We played 94 games and he played roughly 45 minutes a game," Murray said. "He durable, he has a great shot, he can handle the puck very well and he's a strong skater. He's not a quick skater -- that's one area he will have to work hard at."

"We aren't saying Veitch will step right in, and we won't put pressure on him," said General Manager Max McNab, who would not approve the trade of Robert Picard until he was certain he had corralled Veitch. "But everything indicates he has all the tools and should carry a lot of playing time."

Once the Capitals had acquired the rights to Veitch, they turned their sights on the future because, as McNab said, "The 20-year-olds were cleaned out last year and most clubs are looking down the road a bit."

Washington and two third-round picks, as a result of the Toronto swap, and chose Dan Miele, an 18-year-oldd right wing from Providence College who said he plans to spend three more years there and get a degree from turning pro, and Torrie Robertson, an 18-year-old left wing from Victoria, who spent an eye-popping 298 minutes in the penalty box.

"It wasn't hard," said Robertson when asked how he manages that figure. "Fighting is part of the game and they really can't do much about it."

Lacking a fourth-round choice because of the Gord Lane-Mike Kaszycki deal with the New York Islanders, Washington in the fifth round selected Timo Blomqvist, a 6-foot, 198-pound defenseman who will spend the next 11 months in the Finnish Army.

Rounding out Washington's selections were wingers Todd Bidner, Toronto, and Frank Parkins, Sudbury, and defensemen Bruce Raboin, Providence College; Swede Peter Anderson and Anthony Camazzola, Brandon.

There were few suprises in the selections by other NHL teams. Montreal chose everybody's No. 1 nominee, center Doug Wickenheiser of Regina. Winnipeg followed by taking defenseman David Babych of Portland, then Chicago grabbed Montreal Juniors center Denis Savard and Los Angeles took Peterborough defenseman Larry Murphy.

While most of the Capitals' brass was in Montreal, owner Abe Pollin joined a standing-room-only crowd of season ticket holders at the Capital Club. He spent the morning beaming, except for one brief exchange by telephone with Veitch.

"Welcome to the Washington Capitals, the team of the future the near future," Pollin said.

"Pardon?" Veitch replied.