Troy Brouwer was a member of the Blackhawks during their run to the 2010 Stanley Cup. (Christian Petersen/GETTY IMAGES)

General Manager George McPhee stressed in the days leading up to the 2011 NHL Entry Draft that he and Washington Capitals scouts didn’t see the type of “difference makers” they hoped for in this year’s crop of prospects. So McPhee didn’t hesitate to deal his first-round pick when the right opportunity surfaced.

Nearly 21 / 2 hours after the No. 1 pick was made by the Edmonton Oilers, the Capitals announced they had traded the 26th overall selection to the Chicago Blackhawks for the rights to gritty left wing Troy Brouwer.

“Even if this was a better draft, this is the kind of guy you would like to insert into your lineup,” McPhee said. “He’s a power forward who can get us 20 goals a year and play physical. He just won a Stanley Cup a year ago and is supposed to be a real good leader. We’re delighted to be able to add that to our lineup.”

Brouwer, 25, is set to become a restricted free agent on July 1, but McPhee said he is not concerned about negotiating a new deal with the British Columbia native. The Capitals received two years of negotiating rights to Brouwer in the trade, McPhee said.

Brouwer (6 feet 2, 214 pounds) recorded 17 goals and 19 assists in 79 regular season games with the Blackhawks last season. He is known for being a versatile, physical presence and finished fifth overall in the NHL in hits (262) in 2010-11. But that punishing style has had repercussions: Brouwer underwent surgery on his right shoulder this offseason.

Brouwer was also part of Chicago’s Stanley Cup winning squad in 2010. During that year he posted a career-high 40 points in the regular season and eight more in the playoffs.

“Absolutely, we’d like to have more guys like that,” McPhee said when asked about Brouwer’s championship background. McPhee added that Brouwer’s ability to play on any of the four forward lines, as he did with the Blackhawks, also stood out.

“The way Bruce [Boudreau] coaches, he uses a lot of different combinations so we can see [Brouwer] playing a lot of places,” McPhee said.

McPhee explained that trade talks with Chicago began earlier in the week and that the deal was done before the draft began with the Oilers taking Ryan Nugent-Hopkins with the first overall pick, but that both sides decided to not announce the trade until fewer than nine selections remained in the first round.

“It was a little risky making a trade before the draft,” McPhee said. “Sort of had to sweat through the next two hours hoping that a player we were talking about doesn’t slide down, but it didn’t happen. Right around 20, 21 all the guys we were interested in were gone so it played out beautifully for us, actually.”

The Capitals will have four picks remaining (117, 147, 177 and 207) when the draft resumes for rounds two through seven on Saturday, but they will not make a selection until the fourth round. Washington’s recent success at the draft, combined with the team’s belief that most players it was interested in wouldn’t fall far enough in the draft order made it easier for McPhee to give up the first-rounder.

Until news of Washington’s trade started to filter out, there was little to liven up the opening round in St. Paul.

Nugent-Hopkins, a strong-skating center, was the consensus to go first overall, while left wing Gabriel Landeskog, who is seen as most physically ready to play in the NHL immediately, wasn’t a surprise to Colorado at No. 2.

The acquisition of Brouwer was quickly overshadowed by bigger trades that occurred later in the evening, however. San Jose made a blockbuster move by sending forwards Devin Setoguchi and Charlie Coyle and the 28th overall pick to Minnesota for defenseman Brent Burns and a second-rounder in 2012.

As the first round wrapped up, there were also numerous reports that high-profile Chicago defenseman Brian Campbell had waived his no-trade clause to be sent to the Florida Panthers. Also, Calgary veteran defenseman Robyn Regehr has agreed to waive his no-trade clause to be sent to Buffalo.

Earlier in the day, Toronto picked up defenseman John-Michael Liles from Colorado in exchange for a second-round pick in 2012. Ottawa moved up to 24th overall by sending two second-rounders to Detroit, and Anaheim picked up a pair of second-rounders as well by trading its No. 22 pick to the Maple Leafs.