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Mid-Day Memories: Better Late Than Never, Part II

Part II of our look back at Caps drafted 100th overall and later who appeared in at least 100 games for the club.

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Peter Bondra celebrates

Over the past few months of this quiet time on the NHL calendar, we have been looking back across the history of the Washington Capitals for the unusual moments and events. We have looked at the Caps’ experience with overtime in the playoffs, rookies making a splash in their first game in what was a Capitals season opener, and the two goalies who have dominated the historical landscape for the Caps, among other topics.

We turned to the draft in our most recent installment of this series, looking at Capitals drafted 100th overall or later and who played at least 100 games for the club. In Part I, we looked at players in this group who appeared in at least 100, but fewer than 200 games for the Caps. In this second part, we take a look at a smaller, but special subset of this group, players drafted 100th overall or later who appeared in at least 200 games for the team. Here they are, from fewest to most games played with the Capitals:

Keith Jones, RW (141st overall pick in 1988 Entry Draft)
Record with Capitals: 258 games, 62-65-127, plus-26, 454 PIMs

Keith Jones had an odd developmental path that is far more commonplace today. After he was drafted by the Caps in 1988, he spent four years at Western Michigan University in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association. He then spent the 1991-1992 season with the Baltimore Skipjacks in the AHL before making the jump to the Caps in the 1992-1993 season. In his four-plus seasons with the Caps, Jones might not have been an elite “power forward,” but he did combine a certain offensive effectiveness, averaging 0.49 points per game, with an enthusiasm for annoying opponents (454 penalty minutes, fourth among Capitals in that span of time). He was also something of a clutch player in that ten of the 62 goals he scored with the Caps were game-winners. Jones would be traded to the Colorado Avalanche in November 1996 for, among other assets, Chris Simon, a player who would end up posting numbers very similar to Jones’ on a per game basis (320 games, 72-79-151, minus-18, 666 penalty minutes).

Noteworthy Game: March 9, 1993. Keith Jones was in the midst of a solid, if unspectacular rookie season (52 games, 8-10-18, plus-13, 63 PIMs) when the Caps hosted the Toronto Maple Leafs in early March. The Caps were probably feeling a bit ornery, having gone winless in five straight games (0-4-1), the last four of them on home ice. They, which is to say Jones, took it out on the Leafs. He became the 11th player in Caps history to post a goal and log at least 20 penalty minutes in a single game as the Caps defeated Toronto, 3-1. Jones was the fourth rookie in Caps’ history to achieve that double and is the last rookie in team history to do so.

Richard Zednik, RW (249th overall pick in 1994 Entry Draft)
Record with Capitals: 289 games, 69-65, 134, minus-13, 213 PIMs

Richard Zednik has the distinction of being the lowest drafted Capital – 249th overall – to appear in an NHL game for the Caps (Andrew Joudrey, who was also a 249th overall pick (2003), played in one NHL game for Columbus, and Travis Morin, who was taken 263rd by the Caps in 2004, played in 13 NHL games, all with Dallas). His path to a regular spot in the NHL involved a lot of travel miles – from Slovakia, where he was playing when drafted, to the Portland Winter Hawks of the Western Hockey league in Canadian juniors, to a couple of seasons in which he had a cup of coffee with the Caps (12 games in the 1995-1996 and 1996-1997 seasons combined).

He stuck with the team in 1997-1998, posting 17 goals and 26 points in 65 games, good for a seventh-place finish in Calder Trophy voting for outstanding rookie. He just never seemed to progress much from that fine rookie year, though. In almost four full seasons with the Caps, he never hit the 20-goal mark, finishing with a career high 19 goals in 1999-2000. He was traded to Montreal in March 2001, in one of the bigger (and more controversial) trades in team history, but after spending five years with the Canadiens, he was traded back to the Caps, for whom he played 32 games in 2006-2007 before moving on again, this time to the New York Islanders. He wrapped up his career in 2008-2009 with the Florida Panthers.

Noteworthy Game: October 31, 2000. When you are the guest of honor for a promotion in your name, the time is ripe for you to have your biggest game with the Caps. That was the case for Richard Zednik on Hallowe’en 2001, when a local radio station sponsored a promotion win which fans received free tickets and a player jersey if they bleached their hair in the same blond fashion that Zednik was sporting at the time. Zednik did his fans proud in recording a hat trick in a 6-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings.

Dmitri Khristich, LW (120th overall pick in 1988 Entry Draft)
Record with Capitals: 419 games, 140-160, 300, plus-44, 218 PIMs

Dmitri Khristich has, if not a unique history, then a rare one in the NHL. He began and ended his NHL career with the Caps. His first tour began when he was drafted in 1988 and lasted until 1995 after having played five seasons with the Caps (121-129-250, plus 50, in 315 games). At that point, he was involved in what would become one of the most pointless, most ghastly trades in Capitals history. He was sent with goalie Byron Dafoe to the Los Angeles Kings for the Kings’ first round choice and a fourth round pick that was obtained by the Kings from the Dallas Stars in the 1996 Entry Draft.

The first round pick was turned into Alexandre Volchkov, a legendary bust of a draft pick (three career NHL games, no points), while the fourth rounder was converted into Justin Davis, who never played in the NHL. Khristich made his way back to the Caps, after other stops in Boston and Toronto, in December 2000 when he was obtained from the Leafs for a third round pick in the 2001 draft. The return was not what player of club might have hoped for, however. Khristich posted 19 goals and 50 points in 104 games over two seasons to round out his NHL career.

Noteworthy Game: February 11, 1993. Mid-February games in the NHL are not generally exciting or memorable, but both might describe the meeting of the Capitals and the Blues in St. Louis on February 11, 1993. Khristich scored 40 seconds into the contest, and by the time the first period was over, the Caps had a 4-0 lead. Less than four minutes into the second period, it was 5-0. And then, things took a turn. The Blues scored three goals in a span of less than five minutes to make a game of it. Washington bounced back with a pair of goals, but the Blues scored just before the end of the middle frame to make it a 7-4 game.

Peter Bondra and Khristich scored in the first half of the final period to put the Caps back in a comfortable position, and after Brett Hull and Kevin Miller scored for the Blues to make it a 9-6 game, Khristich scored once more to complete his hat trick (his first as a Cap), score what would be his 20th goal of the season, and put the cherry on top of the 10-6 win for the Caps, the first of consecutive games in which the Caps would post ten goals (they beat Los Angeles, 10-3, two nights later). Khristich scored his three goals on three shots, the first, but not the last time he would accomplish that feat. When he recorded his other hat trick as a Capital, in a 5-2 win over the Hartford Whalers in March 1993, he also scored three times on three shots.

Gaetan Duchesne, LW (152 overall pick in 1981 Entry Draft)
Record with Capitals: 451 games, 87, 138, 225, plus-69, 251 PIMs

The 1981 Entry Draft produced seven players who dressed for more than 1,000 NHL games. The Capitals are the only team on that list to have drafted two of them – Bobby Carpenter with the third overall pick (1,178 games) and Gaetan Duchesne with the 152 overall pick (1,028 games). Duchesne’s volume of games played is especially noteworthy because the other six were all taken among the top 40 picks, five of them in the top 15 selections. Duchesne played 451 of those games with the Caps over six seasons, where he earned a reputation as a strong player on the defensive side of the puck (five times earning votes for the Selke Trophy as top defensive forward). If anything, Duchesne was an underrated player at the other end of the ice.

Over his six seasons in Washington, he averaged 16 goals and 41 points per 82 games, respectable numbers for a checking line forward, even given the offense-emphasis of the period in which he played. It was in his sixth season with the club that he posted a career best 52 points and a career high plus-18 rating. It was the fifth straight season in which he posted double digits in goals, at least 35 points, and double digits in positive plus-minus rating. After that sixth season, he was included in one of the biggest trades in team history, packaged with Alan Haworth and a first round pick and sent to the Quebec Nordiques for goalie Clint Malarchuk and center Dale Hunter. He played eight more seasons in the NHL with Quebec, the Minnesota North Stars, San Joe Sharks, and Florida Panthers before wrapping up his NHL career in 1995 at the age of 32. He passed away in 2007 at the age of 44 and would be honored by the team with the “Gaetan Duchesne Cup,” awarded to the team winning a three-team tournament in training camp.

Noteworthy Game: December 18, 1982. Twenty eight games into his sophomore season with the Caps, Gaetan Duchesne displayed a surprising goal scoring touch with six goals. And, half of them were game-winners. In his 29th game of the season, he picked good time to post his first career two-goal game. It did not look as if that would be the outcome for Duchesne in the matchup with the Penguins in Pittsburgh. It had more the look of a tight, low-scoring affair with a Bobby Carpenter goal for the Caps and a Doug Shedden goal for the Pens being the only scoring over the first 58 minutes. Duchesne broke the tie at the 18:31 mark of the period to score what would be the game-winning goal and then added an empty net goal 62 seconds later to cement the 3-1 win. It was part of a stretch of games from November 26th through January 5th over which the Caps went 12-2-5 with Duchesne contributing seven goals (two of them game-winners) and 11 points.

Ken Klee, D (177th overall pick in 1990 Entry Draft)
Record with Capitals: 570 games, 43-68-111, plus-13, 608 PIMs

The Capitals had rather good luck with late picks in the 1990 draft, and we will get to more of that in a bit. One of those picks in the 1990 draft, and one of the most successful picks in team history was Ken Klee taken in the ninth round of that draft. He played 934 games in the NHL, and no player taken lower overall played in more NHL games in his career than did Klee. He played 570 of those games for the Caps, 11th among defensemen all time for the franchise. What makes Klee special among defensemen in Caps history, in addition to his longevity as a late draft pick, is that “defense” was not the only position he played. For a time, as a result of injuries elsewhere on the roster, he and Sergei Gonchar were pressed into service as “rovers” during the 2001-2002 season, occupying what amounted to a quasi-forward role to clog the middle of the ice. And earlier in his career, he spent some time at right wing.

It spoke to Klee’s versatility that contributed to his playing nine seasons for the Caps, during which time he was third among Caps defensemen in games played (570), third in goals (43), fourth in points (111), third in penalty minutes (608), and second in game-winning goals (11). After the 2002-2003 season, however, Klee signed as a free agent with the Toronto Maple Leafs. He thrived there in his first season, posting a career high in points (29) and in power play assists (14, more than half of his career total of 24). But it started a back half of his career that saw him play for six different teams (Toronto, New Jersey, Colorado, Atlanta, Anaheim, and Phoenix) over his last five seasons in the NHL.

Noteworthy Game: November 7, 1998. On the one hand, it is difficult at times to find a game that stands out for a player with a reputation as a stay-at-home defenseman. On the other, his breakout offensive games, though they might be few, tend to stand out. Such was the case on November 7, 1998 when the Caps visited Ottawa to play the Senators. The Caps were dragging a six-game winless streak into the game (0-4-2) over which they scored a total of nine goals. They broke out of that slump in a big way, scoring early (two goals in the first six minutes), late (two goals in the last ten minutes), and in-between. Ken Klee was one of three players who had three-point nights in the Caps’ 8-5 win. It might not have been as rare an occasion for Peter Bondra (hat trick) or Joe Juneau (two goals and an assist) as it was for Klee (three assists) who posted his first and only three-point game as a Capital in the win.

Peter Bondra, RW (156th overall pick in 1990 Entry Draft)
Record with Capitals: 961 games, 472-353-825, plus-74, 679 PIMs

The 1990 Entry Draft produced 15 players who dressed for at least 1,000 NHL games. None were selected later than Peter Bondra, tenth in the 1990 draft cohort in games played (1,081), selected with the 156th overall pick. Bondra also happens to be third in that draft cohort in NHL goals scored (503) and fourth in points (892). He is the only eighth-round draft pick in NHL history with at least 500 career goals, he has more power play goals (149) than any eighth-round pick in NHL history, and he has more game-winning goals (78) than any eighth-round pick in NHL history.

That resume was built almost entirely as a member of the Caps, where Bondra occupies third place in career games (961), second place in goals (472), and third place in points (825). He is one of two Capitals in team history to record at least 100 power play goals (137, second to Alex Ovechkin’s 260), and he has almost twice as many career shorthanded goals (32) as the second place players on the franchise list (Bengt-Ake Gustafsson and Mike Ridley with 17 apiece). He is one of three Capitals to record multiple 50-goal seasons, posting 52 goals in each of the 1995-1996 and 1997-1998 seasons (Alex Ovechkin and Dennis Maruk are the others). No player in Caps history, not even Alex Ovechkin has more four-or-more goal games than does Bondra (six). Bondra was a victim of the Caps’ need to rebuild in the early 2000’s, traded to the Ottawa Senators for forward Brooks Laich and a second-round draft pick. He wrapped up his career playing 120 games for the Senators, the Atlanta Thrasher, and Chicago Blackhawks over his last three seasons, but he was and remains one of the true icons in Capitals history.

Noteworthy Game: February 5, 1994. For a goal scorer, it is only natural to look to a big goal scoring game as a noteworthy contest. For Peter Bondra, that took place in early February 1994 at Capital Centre where the Caps hosted the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Caps were coming off a disappointing 4-0 loss on home ice to the Montreal Canadiens, but Bondra single-handedly dragged the Caps out of that mini-scoring slump. Tampa Bay opened the scoring on a Shawn Chambers goal, but that would end the visitors’ fun for the evening. Bondra tied the game at the 14:44 mark. He scored again at 14:59…again at 16:50…and again at 18:56 to put the Caps in front, 4-1 after one period. As if four goals in 4:12 wasn’t enough, a team record for fastest four goals by a Capital in a single game (a record that still stands), Bondra added a fifth goal with 30 seconds left in the second period to become the second player in team history to record five goals in a single game (Bengt-Ake Gustafsson is the other), propelling the Caps to a 6-3 win.

And there we have it, 14 skaters and a goaltender taken with the 100th overall pick or later who appeared in 100 or more games for the Caps. There is something for everyone here, from two-way players to defensive specialists, to high-end goal scorers, to one of the best backup netminders in recent NHL history. Not a bad group, it turns out.