The Washington Capitals' youth movement accelerated yesterday.
Center Jim McGeough, 18, was called up from Billings of the Western League and winger Lou Franceschetti, 23, was summoned from Hershey. Both previously played under Bryan Murray, the Capitals' new coach, and Murray indicated that both would be in the lineup for tonight's 7:30 Capital Centre game against the Colorado Rockies.
While McGeough and Franceschetti are making their NHL debuts, winger Jean Pronovost, 35, will be in Glens Falls, N.Y., playing his first game as a minor leaguer since 1968. Pronovost, two games from reaching 1,000 in the National Hockey League, cleared waivers and was assigned to Hershey.
McGeough (pronounced McGoo), the Capitals' No. 6 draft pick, was outstanding in training camp at Hershey and did not slow down when he was sent back to Billings. He is leading the Western League with 31 goals and 18 assists in 21 games, despite playing with a sub-.500 club. Last year, he had 50 goals and 44 assists.
"I was sort of surprised when they called me up, but I was coached by Bryan Murray when Regina went to the Memorial Cup and he said he'd give me a shot here," McGeough said. "He didn't tell me how long I'd stay. I guess it depends on how I do."
Billings has only one game scheduled before Thanksgiving, so this is an ideal time for Washington to look him over. Since McGeough is most of the Billings franchise -- the Bighorns obtained him from Regina a year ago for goalie Neil Girard -- he will be sent back unless he should continue his sensational play in the NHL.
McGeough, 5 feet 8 and 165 pounds, was probably under 160 by the time practice ended yesterday at Fort Dupont. Murray had the team going nonstop for 90 minutes, which left a lot of players gasping.
"It's not the kind of practice I'm used to in junior," McGeough said. "Bryan has everybody moving all the time. You don't stand still very often. I don't mind. I'm here to improve and learn, and I really have to work on my defensive game. The offensive game is there."
Franceschetti was expected to earn a spot on the Washington roster this fall, but he had an undistinguished exhibition season in Sweden and wound up in Hershey, where he had scored 59 goals the past two seasons. The rap on Franceschetti, a junior linemate of Mike Gartner at Niagara Falls, was that he had trouble passing the puck.
"I played left wing last year and this year they had me back on right wing," said Franceschetti, a left-hand shot. "I had difficulty giving and going on the backhand with my centerman. I worked on it in Hershey and I got off to a good start. Usually, I get off to a slow start and I was a little disappointed when I was sent back there, but Bryan told me to work hard and forget what happened and it really worked out.
"I guess they're evaluating a lot of guys, but at least I've got the chance to prove to them that I belong here. I've bounced around from left wing to right wing and back so much that now I think I can play either side, and that should help me."
"We want to give the young guys a serious look," Murray said. "We're not doing the organization justice if we don't see what they can do. And when the other young guys see them get a chance, it makes them work harder.
"Jimmy McGeough is a pretty dynamic hockey player with a future. I don't know if he's ready, but if you want to give the kids a goal and make them enthusiastic about a future with the Washington Capitals, you have to give them a chance.
"Lou Franceschetti is a good hitter and he has good speed. We want to add that dimension and have a little quicker-skating team. There's no question he's not a great playmaker on the right side, but if he shows me enough, we might switch him around."
Of Pronovost, Murray said, "He's reported to Hershey and he can make a contribution. I don't know if he's too happy about it, but he can still help this organization."
Pronovost, with one goal and two assists in 10 games, had dressed for only two of the last seven contests.
Bobby Carpenter was the ceremonial puck dropper for the opening of the Suburban High School Hockey League's fourth season at the Wells rink in College Park. Eleanor Roosevelt, the three-time champion, was upset by Bowie, 2-1, as Doug Rowan scored both goals . . . Colorado will be without its No. 1 goalie, Phil Myre, who was suspended in the wake of a chair-breaking incident that followed his removal from Sunday's game in Chicago, won by the Hawks, 10-0.
In NHL games last night, Matti Hagman and Dave Hunter scored in the first six minutes and Wayne Gretzsky scored his 20th and 21st goals of the season as Edmonton won at host St. Louis, 5-1; Quebec beat the visiting New York Islanders, 7-2, as Michel Goulet and Anton Stastny each scored one goal and assisted on two others; in Calgary, Jim Peplinksi scored four goals as the Flames defeated Winnipeg, 6-4.