Defenseman Kevin Hatcher, the Washington Capitals' No. 1 selection in the June entry draft, agreed to terms with the hockey club yesterday.
Hatcher, 6 feet 3 and 200 pounds, wants to play for Washington this season. However, since his 18th birthday is Sunday and the addition of three free-agent defenders leaves the team somewhat overstocked at the position, it seems more likely that he will be back with his junior team in North Bay, Ontario.
The Capitals can keep Hatcher as long as they wish, but if they send him down, he must go to North Bay and cannot be recalled under a new rule passed this year, unless Washington is faced with three emergencies because of injury.
"We'll give Kevin a good look at training camp," General Manager David Poile said. "If he has a chance to play for us, we won't send him back to North Bay. If he does go back, it will mean he hasn't much chance to play this year.
"Whether he plays for us this year or not, I'm glad to have him signed, because I know he's going to play here for a lot of years.
"One good thing: we can wait for Kevin Hatcher. Before, with Bobby Carpenter and Scott Stevens, it was a case where they had to play, because the Washington Capitals needed them right away. Now, we have a solid nucleus and we can afford to wait on younger players.
"I'm completely open-minded about Kevin. He'll play as many exhibitions as any other defenseman, and then we'll see."
The Capitals open formal training camp at Mount Vernon Sept. 18, then commence a 10-game exhibition schedule against the New York Rangers in Richfield, Ohio, Sept. 22. With seven players competing in the Canada Cup, the remainder of the 42-man squad will get an unusually good chance to display its talent.