On this day 16 years ago, the Washington Capitals selected Alex Ovechkin with the first overall pick in the 2004 NHL Draft
The trajectory of the Washington Capitals’ franchise and the popularity of hockey locally changed forever 16 years ago to the day. On June 26, 2004, a Capitals delegation, led by general manager George McPhee, selected 18-year-old Russian Alex Ovechkin with the first overall pick in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft.
The Caps won the right to select Ovi after a dreadful, rebuilding season which saw the team trade away all of its stars including Peter Bondra, Jaromir Jagr, Robert Lang, Sergei Gonchar, and Michal Nylander. Washington won only 23 of 82 games during the 2003-04 season — their worst campaign in 26 years. But it’d end up being worth it. The Capitals, who were the third-worst team in the NHL that year, would leapfrog both the Chicago Blackhawks and the Pittsburgh Penguins at the 2004 NHL Draft Lottery and win the first overall pick.
The draft, held at the Carolina Hurricanes’ RBC Center, was the NHL’s last event held before a long lockout, which canceled all games of the 2004-05 season. A raucous group of Capitals fans, including the Caps Road Crew and Sam “The Horn Guy” Wolk, traveled down to Raleigh, North Carolina, to cheer on the historic pick.