Left wings Andre Hidi and Jim McGeough emerged yesterday as the big winners in the Washington Capitals' camp survival contest. They will be the only newcomers in the lineup when the Capitals open the season Thursday at Philadelphia.
Coach Bryan Murray said that Hidi, 24, would play alongside Bob Carpenter and Mike Gartner. McGeough, 21, has been assigned to a line with Doug Jarvis and Craig Laughlin.
The losers, at least temporarily, and recipients of plane tickets to Binghamton, N.Y., were goalie Bob Mason, defenseman Mike McEwen and forwards Gary Sampson, Dean Evason and Paul Gardner.
McEwen will work out with the American Hockey League Whalers pending his clearance of waivers, a formality necessitated by the fact that he is on the Capitals' 16-man protected list.
Left unresolved was the status of defenseman Kevin Hatcher, the Capitals' No. 1 draft choice. Hatcher is one of eight defensemen still on the roster.
"Hatcher will stay until the season starts," said General Manager David Poile. "Beyond that, it will require some soul searching on my part."
Hidi, who collected two goals and three assists in seven exhibition games, impressed Poile with his strength and his touch around the net. Hidi (6 feet 2, 205 pounds) scored 45 goals in 49 games last year while leading the University of Toronto to the Canadian college title. He played three games for Washington, including two playoff contests against Philadelphia.
"We signed him last year because he was a left wing, a position we were short on," Poile said. "He's big and strong with goal-scoring ability. In training camp he's done all we could ask and now hopefully he will take everything a step further -- play as big and strong as his body allows and score goals for us."
McGeough, a sixth-round draft pick in 1981, shared the team scoring lead with Alan Haworth and Craig Laughlin during the club's 8-2 exhibition season, recording four goals and five assists in nine games.
McGeough, who is 5-8 and weighs 165 pounds, played four games with the Capitals during the 1981-82 season. A center shifted to left wing because of the Capitals' greater need there, McGeough had 40 goals and 36 assists for Hershey last year.
"Jim McGeough won a job in training camp based on consistent, spirited play," Poile said. "He adds a dimension of speed and he's been pretty consistent putting the puck in the net. I think Washington fans will find him exciting to watch. He's the most undisciplined player on a disciplined hockey club."
Both Hidi and McGeough were made aware that they must produce or changes will be made. Adding timely pressure will be the scheduled Oct. 24 return of right wing Bryan Erickson, currently shelved with a broken thumb.
"I told Andre Hidi and Jim McGeough that they were getting the chance they deserve, because they won the jobs here in training camp," Poile said. "They have a foot in the door, they're in the driver's seat. Now they'll take the driver's test and if there are no accidents, they will stay.
"If they do run into trouble, in all fairness to what we're trying to create, we will not hesitate to go to the farm team for replacements. Winning, as we have in the exhibitions, promotes stability. Anything less promotes some form of change.
"We had no confidence in our farm system the last two years. We didn't use the farm team and when we called players up because of injuries, they more often than not sat on the bench. Now, for the first time in the franchise's history, we do have players on the farm who are capable of playing for us."
Predictably, Hidi and McGeough expressed pleasure at making the team, while noting it was no guarantee of a full season in Washington.
"I'm really happy, because I know it must have been a very difficult decision," Hidi said. "Some guys who played very well didn't make it.
"I feel like I'm getting more confidence. I'm reacting quicker and if I can keep improving, I should be all right. I do know there are some things I have to work on."
"It's just the start of the season, and I know I have to work hard every game, because they still can make changes," McGeough said. "I can create opportunities by my speed, but I can't be all over the ice like a centerman. I have to stay on my wing.
"Even on the left side, I tend to wander, and that will get me in trouble. Last year Washington had a great record and didn't need to make any changes, so I couldn't be upset at playing all season in Hershey. This is my year to get a chance."
Poile said that loyalties to last year's team played a big part in his decisions. Accordingly, McEwen was dispatched to Binghamton, although he seemed to outshine veterans Larry Murphy and Darren Veitch during training camp. Veitch, virtually written off a week ago, saved his job with strong performances against Hartford and Philadelphia.
"We took a very strong look at Mike McEwen because of his offensive skills," Poile said. "We could very easily have kept him as a specialist on the power play. But we plan to use Scott Stevens and Peter Andersson on the points with Larry Murphy and Darren Veitch, and if they can do the job, it means our better players will get more ice time. If they can't do the job, then others will come in."
Although Evason was impressive, he is at his best as a center, a position at which Washington is well stocked. He seems a prospect for the future, however, and Murray said, "Dean Evason will be back."
Sampson, like Mason a U.S. Olympian, was a regular with the Capitals over the last 15 games of the season and throughout the playoffs. Murray felt that his conditioning this fall was not up to his post-Olympic status.
Gardner was signed for added offensive thrust, but he scored only once in eight games while many of last year's veterans were displaying improved offensive capabilities.