- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 27, 2009

MONTREAL | The Washington Capitals have been pretty happy with the Swedish centers they have drafted recently, so they weren’t afraid to add another Friday night at Bell Centre.

With the 24th pick in the NHL draft, the Caps tapped Marcus Johansson, a 5-foot-11, 189-pound center from Farjestad, Sweden. He is the third Swede at that position that Washington has selected in the first round of the past four drafts, joining Nicklas Backstrom in 2006 and Anton Gustafsson last summer.

“This was more than I expected, and I am really excited to get to know the team and the players,” Johansson said. “Anton I know, but not Backstrom. [Gustafsson and I] played on the national team a couple of times together, and sometimes he is up in Farjestad where I play and he is from there, so that’s how I know him pretty well.”

Johansson had 10 points in 45 games for Farjestad, which captured the Swedish Elite League title in April. He was also a member of his country’s world junior championship entry, which won a silver medal. International Scouting Services rated Johansson as the 95th-best player in this draft, but The Hockey News had him at No. 30 and Canadian sports network TSN pegged him at No. 33.

Capitals general manager George McPhee said a couple of concussions in his past did not deter the team from nabbing him. Neither did the two years remaining on Johansson’s contract in Sweden. Both Johansson and McPhee expect him to play in the Swedish league next year before deciding if he is ready to come to North America.

“Very well-rounded player,” McPhee said, who said there are a lot of similarities between Johansson and Gustafsson. “Very good in almost every area of his game — quick, smart, competitive, good hands. I loved the way he played against Canada in the world junior final. In the final in a real hostile environment with 20,000 Canadian fans going crazy, some of the Swedish kids didn’t show up, but this kid showed up and played hard.”

Johansson was one of seven Swedes drafted in the first round. He mentioned fellow countrymen Peter Forsberg and Mats Sundin as the players he admired growing up but also mentioned Backstrom as someone he tries to pattern his play after.

The evening’s most surprising move came early in the proceedings. Anaheim traded rugged defenseman Chris Pronger to Philadelphia along with Ryan Dingle for forward Joffrey Lupul, defenseman Luca Sbisa, two first-round picks and a conditional third-round selection.

At the trade deadline, Washington pursued Pronger, who won the Hart and Norris trophies in 2000 as MVP and top defenseman, but McPhee did not like Anaheim’s asking price. McPhee said Anaheim asked for “either one of the young goalies [Simeon Varlamov or Michal Neuvirth], John Carlson, a player out of our lineup and something else.”

“We had talked briefly about it, but it really wasn’t what we were looking to do,” McPhee said. “I just said, ‘That’s not the direction we want to go in.’ ”

Notes — The salary cap for next season will be $56.8 million, an increase of $100,000 from last year, according to a TSN report. …

For the third consecutive season, the Caps collected the Dillman Award for having the top media relations staff in the Eastern Conference. Boston and Philadelphia were the other finalists.



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