There were more than 18,000 people at B.C. Place Stadium in Vancouver on June 16. Most were hockey fans intent on watching the National Hockey League divvy up the talented junior players of the world. Many of those players were present, all hoping to be made participants in the event, all watching their fate unfold.

Todd Hlushko was one of those hopefuls. By the time the Washington Capitals made Hlushko their final draft choice -- 240th overall and 12th from the end -- there but a few die hards -- both players and fans -- left in the building.

"My father {Peter} and I were about the only ones left," Hlushko said yesterday. "There might have been only 12 or 15 people on our side {of the stadium}."

Hlushko and six of the 13 other draft picks were brought to Washington Sunday night for a tour of the city, meetings and tests -- physical and psychological. Besides Hlushko and first-round pick, defenseman John Slaney, the group included defenseman Rod Pasma (second round), right wing Chris Longo (third), left wing Randy Pearce (fourth), left wing Brian Sakic (fifth) and defenseman Steve Martell (eighth). They will be leaving today after meeting with strength and conditioning coach Frank Costello. The four college players (because of NCAA rules) and the three Eastern European players (because of restrictions and distance) drafted did not come.

Hlushko, a 5-foot-10, 180-pound left wing, scored 36 goals with 34 assists for London of the Ontario Hockey League. The Central Scouting Bureau listed Hlushko as a potential sixth-round pick. "It gives you some indication but it's not always accurate," he said.

The trip to Vancouver to attend the draft was pleasant only at the end.

"On the plane ride out, I got food poisoning," young Hlushko said. "So I'm sitting there in the stands and we ended up waiting seven hours. I wasn't feeling so good, but it worked out."

Nervousness might have disturbed his stomach as much as the food. Then he watched as friends and teammates were picked ahead of him. More and more of them went. He hadn't called home to Toronto (three hours ahead) and by that point his mother, Bernice, had gone to bed thinking her son had been disappointed.

"It came to the 12th round and I was losing hope," he said. Vancouver has more than its share of splendid seafood restaurants and the Hlushkos considered leaving the draft to find one, though the thought of food might not have been appealing to Todd. But they stuck it out. And when the Capitals called his name, all was well.

"As soon as I got drafted," Hlushko said, "I seemed to feel a lot better."