Caps beat odds to earn No. 1 pick

Updated: May 30, 2004, 5:52 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

WASHINGTON -- Something finally went right for the Washington Capitals: They won the NHL's draft lottery.

NHL draft order
June 26, at RBC Center, Raleigh, N.C.
1. Washington Capitals
2. Pittsburgh Penguins
3. Chicago Blackhawks
4. Columbus Blue Jackets
5. Phoenix Coyotes
6. New York Rangers
7. Florida Panthers
8. Carolina Hurricanes
9. Anaheim Mighty Ducks
10. Atlanta Thrashers
11. Los Angeles Kings
12. Minnesota Wild
13. Buffalo Sabres
14. Edmonton Oilers
Remainder TBD after playoffs
The Capitals, coming off their worst season in 26 years, leaped ahead of Pittsburgh and Chicago to gain this year's No. 1 overall draft pick at Tuesday's lottery in New York.

The consensus prospect for the top selection is Russian forward Alexander Ovechkin, who has evoked comparisons to Pittsburgh great Mario Lemieux.

"We just feel in some way we were rewarded for the difficult task we undertook this year," Washington general manager George McPhee said. "We hope today is the first day in a new era for the Capitals."

The Capitals, considered strong playoff contenders with a star-packed roster at the start of the season, traded away most of their impact players after a disappointing start and finished with the third worst record in the league. They had a 14.2 percent chance of winning the lottery, behind Pittsburgh (25 percent) and Chicago (18.8 percent).

Pittsburgh will chose second, Chicago third, Columbus fourth and Phoenix fifth. All 14 non-playoff teams took part. Under the lottery system, only the last five teams in the standings had the chance to earn the top selection.

The Capitals will draft first overall for the third time in franchise history. They selected defenseman Rick Green in 1976 and defenseman Greg Joly in 1974.

The draft is June 26-27 in Raleigh, N.C.

Washington's record of 23-46-10-3 was the third worst in the NHL. The Caps traded away Jaromir Jagr, Petr Bondra, Robert Lang, Sergei Gonchar, Michael Nylander, Anson Carter and Mike Grier in a six-week span.

Information from The Associated Press and SportsTicker was used in this report.