The Washington Capitals are expected to choose center Ron Sutter of the Lethbridge Broncos in the first round when the National Hockey League conducts its annual entry draft today in Montreal.
The Capitals pick fifth and it would take either some unforeseen swaps or some silly selections among the four teams ahead of them--Boston, Minnesota, Toronto and Philadelphia--to rearrange that timetable.
Sutter is one of seven brothers, four of whom are playing in the NHL. He and twin brother Rich are likely to join them after the first round is completed today.
Although missing 13 games with a broken ankle, Ron Sutter collected 38 goals and 54 assists for Lethbridge.
He also amassed 207 penalty minutes.
"I just hope he's there when our turn comes," said Washington General Manager Roger Crozier. "He's a pretty good player and he also has some of those other things that give a team a lift. What worries me is that somebody will grab him ahead of us. His stock has gone up in the last few months."
It is generally believed that Boston will select right wing Brian Bellows of Kitchener, then Minnesota will tab defenseman Gord Kluzak of Billings. But there is some doubt about what route Toronto and Philadelphia will take.
Defenseman Gary Nylund of Portland is rated third by most clubs, but there is some talk that Toronto will pick his teammate, center Ken Yaremchuk. Philadelphia probably would go for Nylund in that circumstance, leaving the way clear for Washington to take Ron Sutter, whom the Capitals rate No. 4.
Should Toronto grab Nylund, the Flyers are rumored to be favoring either right wing Rocky Trottier of Billings or center Dave Andreychuk of Oshawa. If both Toronto and Philadelphia somehow pass up Nylund, Washington would be happy to acquire him, but that is considered most unlikely.
Although Crozier expected considerable trading activity in Montreal this week, the only deal thus far was the one that sent Bill Nyrop and Steve Christoff from Minnesota to Calgary for Willi Plett.
"It's been very quiet around the hotel and there don't seem to be as many people here as usual," Crozier said. "There's been a lot of jockeying and I've talked to a lot of people, but as it stands now there will be no deals involving our first pick, unless something all of a sudden happens that's unbelievable.
"Toronto is still holding us up. It's possible something could develop on the floor after we see what they're going to do."
Part of the reason for the restricted activity in Montreal is the absence of a Board of Governors meeting in conjunction with the draft. The governors are scheduled to convene in Toronto June 20-24.
For a second-round sleeper in the draft, the Capitals apparently are eyeing Gary Leeman, a defenseman-winger who recorded 19 goals and 41 assists for Regina. Although Leeman, 5-foot-11 and 168 pounds, is not high on the Central Scouting list, Washington considers him first-round caliber.
Washington does not own a third-round pick, having dealt it to Philadelphia for Bob Kelly. The Capitals have two choices in the sixth round, none in the seventh, as a result of an arrangement with Quebec in the Lee Norwood-Tim Tookey deal. There will be 12 rounds in today's draft.