- The Washington Times - Monday, June 26, 2000

CALGARY, Alberta The Washington Capitals' last pick in the 2000 entry draft, which ground to a halt yesterday in the Saddledome, was a 28-year-old defenseman from Sweden. And that pretty much sums up the disappearance of the talent pool in an event normally reserved for teen-agers.

The Draft of the Bizarre ended late yesterday afternoon with more than a dozen Europeans 25 or older selected, one of whom is already slated to be the backup goalie for the Philadelphia Flyers.

To ensure this gathering of the NHL will be remembered, the New York Rangers also announced they are talking to the Flyers about trading for concussion-prone (four since January) Eric Lindros, joining Toronto and the Los Angeles Kings in the hunt for the center who made $8.5 million last season. Philadelphia has to make Lindros a qualifying offer of that amount by Friday or he becomes a restricted free agent.

Washington drafted three more players yesterday to bring to six the number they selected during the two-day session. Even general manager George McPhee admitted the bottom of the talent barrel may have been scraped.

"It was really thin at the end," McPhee said. "It may have been one of the weakest drafts in 20 years and therefore one of the toughest. As I understand it a lot of teams were running out of names to select so that's why we did some things to double up and move up in the draft and get what we really wanted."

The Caps made a series of deals involving several picks yesterday in order to take 20-year-old Ryan Van Buskirk in the fourth round, an average defenseman who played for Sarnia in the Ontario Hockey League last season and re-entered the draft after failing to reach agreement with Phoenix.

Coyotes general manager Bobby Smith admitted Van Buskirk was an excellent prospect but they could not agree on finances.

"If we didn't think he could play, we wouldn't have offered a contract," Smith said.

Washington concluded its draft by taking center Ivan Nepriayev from Russia and then Bjorn Nord, the Swedish defenseman, in the ninth round.

"Van Buskirk is big, strong and aggressive, a kid with a good character who can play in the NHL," Dale Hunter said of the defenseman.

Van Buskirk played for Mark Hunter, the youngest brother in the clan, who coached at Sarnia.

"He hits like Ken Klee or Brendan Witt," Dale Hunter said. "He hits everything that moves, really thunders into people. I'll guarantee he can play," which the retired Caps captain did to McPhee before the youngster was taken.

Nord played for Djurgardens, the defending Swedish Elite league champion, and was also on Team Sweden in the World Championships. He was born on April 5, 1972, but wasn't the oldest player taken in the draft. That honor went to Lubomir Sekeras, born Nov. 18, 1968, a defenseman for the Czech Republic. The Czechs won this season's World Championship.

In between was Roman Cechmanek, a spry 29, the goalie of the Czech Republic team. The Flyers drafted him to back up Brian Boucher, enabling Philadelphia to trade expensive veteran John Vanbiesbrouck to the New York Islanders, where he will serve as backup to Rick DiPietro, the No. 1 pick overall.

"Some teams have been thinned out by expansion so they can take an older player and have him step right in at 28, 29 and have him play for a few years," McPhee said.

He pointed out that the Caps got a good performance from Sweden's Ulf Dahlen last season at age 32 and saw no reason why the same wouldn't hold true for Nord.

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