The future of any National Hockey League team is the young talent it has in its organization.
The Washington Capitals have many talented players they have drafted in the past four years who are performing in the Canadian junior leagues and on U.S. collegiate teams. Jack Button, Washington director of player personnel and recruitment, smiles when he talks about the young players.
"We have a lot fine young talent who are doing well at the level they are playing at now," said Button. "We'll just have to wait and see how they develop. It's just like anything else, it takes time. Some make it and a lot more don't."
Three of last year's draft choices, defensemen John Slaney (No. 1), right wing Steve Martell (No. 8) and right wing Chris Longo (No. 3), have been chosen to the Ontario Hockey League's All-Star team. Slaney, who is out of action with a charley horse, plays for Cornwall. Martell plays for London, and Longo is with Peterborough.
Left wing Brian Sakic (No. 5), brother of Quebec Nordiques center Joe Sakic, is over 100 points with Tri-Cities in the Western Hockey League and leads the league in scoring. Goalie Byron Dafoe (No. 2 in 1989) has been traded from Portland in the WHL to Prince Albert for center Scott Allison, the Edmonton Oilers' No. 1 choice last year.
In another trade, defenseman Rod Pasma (No. 2) was dealt by Cornwall to Kingston in the OHL. The trades are only intra-league, and Washington retains the rights to its players.
Left wing Randy Pearce (No. 4), who was with the Skipjacks but broke his ankle in the final exhibition game of the season, was in town last week to get the cast off his leg and will begin rehabilitation and therapy in a week or two.
Center Mark Ouimet (No. 6) is playing well for the University of Michigan, and defenseman Ken Klee (No. 9) is playing for Bowling Green. Klee played for Team USA in the recent World Junior Championships and had two assists, as the U.S. team finished fourth behind Canada, the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia.
Goalie Duane Dirksen (No. 4 in 1988) is playing for the University of Wisconsin. He was the most valuable player in the Badger Christmas Tournament and is the top goalie in his league with a 2.57 goals against average.
Jason Wooley (No. 4, 1989) is playing for Michigan State and is one of the highest-scoring defensemen in the league. "They have something in East Lansing called the Wooley Watch," said Button. "Everyone is watching to see if Wooley continues to score a point a game."
The Wooley Watch ended Saturday at 18 games, when the Spartans lost to Lake Superior State, 4-0. Wooley had scored eight goals and 19 assists in 18 consecutive games.
Keith Jones (No. 7, 1988), a right wing for Western Michigan, and Ron Pascucci (No. 13, 1988), a defenseman for Boston College, are described as "sleepers" by Button.
Eight NHL players are making $1 million a year or more, according to figures released by the players association.
Wayne Gretzky, who this season became the league's first 2,000-point scorer, is No. 1 in earnings, at $3.3 million. Mario Lemieux of the Pittsburgh Penguins is second with $2.33 million and is the only other player above $2 million.
Brett Hull of the St. Louis Blues is third at $1.36 million, followed by Steve Yzerman of the Detroit Red Wings at $1.3 million. Denis Savard of the Montreal Canadiens is fifth in the NHL at $1.25 million, followed by teammate Patrick Roy, Montreal's goaltender, who is making $1.2 million. Ray Bourque of the Boston Bruins makes $1.19 million, and defenseman Scott Stevens of the St. Louis Blues makes $1,058,000.
In contrast, 161 baseball players made $1 million or more last season and 29 made $2 million or more. In the NBA, the average salary is approximately $1 million.