The National Hockey League entry draft will begin at 9:30 this morning in Montreal and by 10 o'clock the 400-plus Capital crazies attending Ron Weber's second-hand player-by-player report at the Capital Club will know whether General Manager Max McNab has been able to obtain immediate first aid.
The Capitals possess the fifth selection in the draft and among this heavily culled crop it would take a longer shot than Summing to make it to the NHL this fall from that position. So McNab has been trying to find a team, with even less draft clout but with strong feelings for somebody a couple of years removed from NHL play, to agree to a swap of choices, with an established player thrown Washington's way.
As of last night, he had been unsuccessful, despite rumors that had such players as Chicago's Doug Wilson. Philadelphia's Mel Bridgman, Boston's Dwight Foster, Edmonton expatriate Don Murdoch and even McNab's Boston-based son Peter coming to Washington.
"We've listened to the possibilities and now we're thrashing it around and we'll be making a decision in the next few hours as to which way we'll go," McNab said shortly after 11 o'clock last night, following yet another hotel-room powwow. "We've talked about a flip-flop and also out best shot, the draft pick straight up for a player. What we'd be getting is the main is a role player, someone who would fill a hole for us for a few years. There are not that many deep teams to offer more.
"We can't read L.A. or Colorado properly, but we think we have a pretty good idea which way they'll go. If we keep the pick, we'll get a good one. It's just a question of how long it would take him to develop."
Winnipeg, Los Angeles, Colorado and Hartford will choose before Washington's turn arrives this morning.
Although there is no doubt that Cornwall center Dale Hawerchuk is the best player available, Winnipeg General Manager John Ferguson is not happy at all with predraft events.
That is because Vancouver's Jake Milford has signed Ivan Hlinka, the Czechoslovakian center Ferguson drafted two weeks ago and was counting on either to help the last-place Jets or to serve as trade bait for Colorado, whose Czech draftee, Jiri Bubla, also opted for Vancouver.
Ferguson yesterday officially charged the Canucks with tampering.
When the drafting does begins, Ferguson conceivably could bypass Hawerchuk. Ferguson's talent evaluation is not renowned -- as the Rangers' boss in 1977, he chose both Lucien DeBlois and Ron Duguay with Mike Bossy still available.
If McNab decides a "role player" is not his favorite act, he is expected to choose Jim Benning, an 18-year-old defenseman for Portland who piled up 28 goals and 111 assists while playing in the weakest division in major junior hockey.
Benning, although not physically aggressive, can move the puck, fire on goal and capably man the left point on the power play.
The problem with selecting Benning, of course, is that he is unlikely to be ready for NHL play in the near future, and Washington needs immediate help to be competitive in the tough Patrick Division.
The other leading candidates for future NHL stardom are defenseman Garth Butcher, a right-hand shot who took over Darren Veitch's point duties in Regina; Robbie Carpenter, the Massachusetts schoolboy who seems destined to go to Hartford; Ron Francis, a touch center for Sault Ste. Marie; Mark Hunter, an aggressive winger for Brantford, and Oshawa defenseman Joe Cirella, who is big but inconsistent.