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George McPhee 'blessed' to see son drafted

George McPhee 'blessed' to see son drafted

Former Capitals general manager George McPhee said the realization that his son, Graham, was drafted by an NHL team over the weekend sank in this morning when he walked past his bedroom.

“There’s an Edmonton Oilers jersey hanging on the door of his room,” McPhee said Tuesday afternoon. “It’s hard to believe that he’s been drafted by and is property of the Edmonton Oilers of the National Hockey League.”

You would think that after attending more than 20 NHL drafts and calling out the names of hundreds of players, McPhee might  have felt an emotional detachment from having his son taken in the fifth round of Saturday’s NHL draft with the 159th pick overall.

And for a few hours, he did. As a special assistant to Islanders general manager Garth Snow, McPhee sat at the Islanders’ draft table at First Niagara Center on Saturday for the second and third rounds of the draft, saying he had seen more players from this draft class than in any other he had directed in 17 years as the Capitals’ GM. But as the third round quickly transitioned to the fourth, McPhee heeded the advice of Oilers executive Kevin Lowe, who five years ago saw his son, Keegan, drafted by the Carolina Hurricanes.

“He thought it was really important to be with your son at the draft,” McPhee said. “My wife also felt it was the right thing to do.

“I wanted to help the Islanders and thought I maybe should be at the table, but after a couple rounds I thought, ‘You know what? It’s time to move up with my family.'”

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Last summer, Graham McPhee asked his father where he thought he might be drafted when he was eligible in 2016. McPhee told him that if he played a lot and had a good season with the U.S. National U18 team, he might go in the third round. Anything less and he might go in the fifth round. Graham McPhee, a 5-foot-11, 172-pound left wing who grew up in Rockville, saw limited ice time last season and netted 10 goals and eight assists in 58 games with the U.S. U18 team. 

As the fifth round neared its end, McPhee noticed that his former team, the Capitals, had picks at No. 145 and No. 147. He and Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan, roommates when they played together at Bowling Green, had not discussed the possibility of the Caps drafting Graham, but McPhee hoped they wouldn’t.

“While Graham would have probably enjoyed that, it’s best he wasn’t drafted by Washington,” McPhee said. “I did have that conversation with the Islanders, that it probably wouldn’t look right if they drafted him. Garth (Snow) said, ‘When we get there, let’s draft him anyway.’ He was next (on their draft list), evidently.”

The Capitals took left wings Beck Malenstyn and Aex Jonsson-Fjallby with their 145th and 147th picks and the Oilers took Graham McPhee at No. 149.

“I just think in the long run he’s better off being drafted by a club that’s a little more independent, one that I hadn’t worked for or currently work for, and make his own way," McPhee said. "It’s his life, it’s his day, it’s his time. And he’ll make his own strides with his own team.”

Graham McPhee began those strides more than a decade ago, when he shared his house with a Russian teenager named Alex Ovechkin, who lived with the McPhees shortly after coming to America as an NHL rookie in 2005. Ovechkin was 19 at the time and Graham was 7.

“With any kid, if you bring an NHL player into the house it’s a big deal,” George McPhee said. “But having Ovi here for a little while was great for the kids because Ovi was so great with the kids. He’d go down and play knee hockey with the kids in the basement; he’d shoot hoops out in the driveway with the kids. He wasn’t just this highly regarded player, he was an incredible guy and they liked him for him and not necessarily his status as a hockey player.”

Graham McPhee spent many afternoons skating at Kettler Capitals Iceplex after Caps practices. He attended games at Verizon Center and hung out in the team’s locker room after games. That exposure, his father said, has helped prepare him for what lies ahead as a freshman at Boston College and, perhaps, in his career as a professional.

“What I’ve enjoyed about watching Graham play is that he’s a real good teammate,” McPhee said. “He genuinely wants his teammates to do well and he wants to be very coachable. Whether he’s playing a little or playing a lot he wants to win every shift and be a good player when the coach calls his name. I think those are things he picked up from being around NHL players. They work hard, they carry themselves as professionals and if you ever want to have success, it’s all about team and not about individuals. I think those are things Graham learned well from being around the fellas.”

Graham McPhee began his first day of classes at Boston College on Monday and because of NCAA rules, cannot attend the Oilers’ development camp, which begins on Friday. He will, however, begin his college playing career under the same coach, 70-year-old Jerry York, who coached George McPhee at Bowling Green from 1978-82.

“You couldn’t ask for a better coach and a better community,” McPhee said “All you want is for your kids to be hard-working and healthy and happy. Going to the draft on Saturday morning, I thought, “Holy cow, my son might be drafted today.  I don’t know. It’s the purest, simplest feeling and it’s hard to express it. You just feel lucky.”


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Capitals place Taylor Chorney on waivers, which could signal something, or nothing

Capitals place Taylor Chorney on waivers, which could signal something, or nothing

When the Capitals acquired defenseman Michal Kempny on Monday, that put the team at the maximum of 23 players on the roster including eight defenseman.

Another move seemed likely and the Caps made it on Tuesday by placing veteran blueliner Taylor Chorney on waivers.

Teams now will have 24 hours to potentially claim Chorney. Should he clear at 12 p.m. on Wednesday, it is expected that he will be sent to the Hershey Bears of the AHL. Whether he is claimed or sent to Hershey, his entire $800,000 cap hit will no longer count against the Capitals' salary.

One important thing to note, however, is that placing Chorney on waivers was not required in order for Washington to remain under the salary cap.

Having eight defensemen would mean scratching two every game — assuming the team does not dress seven and after that failed experiment in last year's playoffs, why would they — which means it would be a struggle to make sure everyone gets consistent playing time in the final weeks of the season.

Perhaps placing Chorney on waivers is the team trying to get him more playing time to keep him sharp in case the team suffers injuries on the blue line and he is called upon in the playoffs.

Or perhaps it could mean something else.


Chorney played on Feb. 15, but that was during the mentor's trip. Barry Trotz's policy for those trips is to get everyone in at least one of those two games. Before that, Chorney had not played since Jan. 2. It certainly seems like the team was comfortable with him being the designated No. 7 and was not all that concerned about getting him regular playing time before now.

When asked if the Kempny trade would mean any roster moves, Trotz said Monday that he was not sure and hinted that perhaps more moves could be coming from general manager Brian MacLellan. Moving Chorney's salary off the books does not clear much cap room, but it does clear some.

Perhaps MacLellan has another move up his sleeve before Monday's trade deadline.

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Michal Kempny excited to move from last place Chicago to first place Caps

Michal Kempny excited to move from last place Chicago to first place Caps

On Sunday, Michal Kempny was a defenseman struggling for a spot in the lineup for a team poised to miss the playoffs for the first time since 2008. On Monday, he became potentially an important piece on the roster of the first place Capitals.

The last few days have been quite the whirlwind for Kempny who tallied an assist for Chicago on Saturday in a 7-1 blowout against what is now his current team. While the Blackhawks may have gotten the better of Washington that night, Kempny is excited about the postseason opportunity that now lies in front of him.

"Nobody knows what's happening in Chicago, but I'm really happy and I'm really glad that I can be here," Kempny told reporters on Tuesday after his first skate with the team. "There is option of play a playoff and I'm very happy for it."


The 27-year-old Czech defenseman played only 31 games for the Blackhawks this season, but considering Washington's need to shore up its defense before the trade deadline and the team's willingness to give up a third-round pick to acquire him, it is likely he will have a much more significant role with the Caps.

"I thought that I [was] going to get more space on the ice and more ice time, but I didn't play more than half games," Kempny said of his decision to originally sign with Chicago. "But now I'm here and I'm really glad that I'm here. Washington is amazing city and great organization and I hope I will get a chance to access myself on the ice more than in Chicago."

Kempny will not play in Tuesday's game against the Tampa Bay Lightning, but did say he expects to play Thursday when the team visits the Florida Panthers.

When he does get into the lineup, it is unclear just how big a role he will play initially or how the team foresees utilizing him going forward. He is a left-shot defenseman and did tell reporters he prefers to play on that side. It seems unlikely the team would acquire him just to put him on his offside.

As of now, however, everything regarding his role in Washington is up in the air.

"I need everything settle down a little bit," he said. "New teammates, new people around here."