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'The kind of kid you win championships with'

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'The kind of kid you win championships with'

When the Capitals took Thomas Di Pauli with the 100th pick overall of the NHL draft on Saturday in Pittsburgh, they knew they were getting a two-way center with a tireless work ethic.

What they may not have known was the long, difficult path Di Pauli took to get to Consol Energy Center, a journey that began in Italy, near the Austrian border.

Thats where Di Pauli and his older brother, Theo, were born and raised. They began playing hockey when Thomas was 3 and Theo was 4 and as their love for the game grew, so did the need to go somewhere their hockey skills could be nurtured.

So when Thomas was in seventh grade, he and Theo moved to Woodbridge, Illinois along with their mother, while their father, a financial consultant, remained in Italy.

My parents sacrificed a lot, Di Pauli said Saturday, moments after being taken by the Capitals with the 10th pick of the fourth round. My dad still has to travel back and forth because of his job. Im really appreciative of what theyve done.

Thomas and Theo were teammates on the Chicago Mission, a youth team in Illinois, until two years ago, when Thomas recorded 33 points in 38 games for the Mission and was invited to Ann Arbor, Mich., to try out for the USA Hockeys Under-17 team.

Di Pauli still recalls the day he was called into the coachs office and told he would be representing his new country.

It was incredible, he said. Even getting selected to the tryout camp was a huge honor. I remember driving in the car with my mom after I got picked. It was the first step toward accomplishing my dream.

The next step in fulfilling that dream came with the U.S. Development Program, where he carved a niche as a shut-down center who could contribute key goals. In 51 games last season, Di Pauli recorded 10 goals and 10 assists and emerged as one of his teams leaders.

Tommys just a warrior, said Team USA U-18 coach Danton Cole. He plays extremely hard. Hes a talented kid. Hes probably one of the best faceoff guys weve had come through and he can play the wing a little bit.

Hes just very tenacious. Hes the kind of kid you win championships with, thats probably the best thing you can say about him. He was very popular in our locker room because of how good a kid he is and how hard he works. You always say you want guys who care about their teammates success more than they do about themselves and thats the kind of kid Tommy is.

Ironically, one of Di Paulis teammates, Austin Wuthridge, was taken by the Capitals with the 107th pick of the draft and the two will remain teammates at the University of Notre Dame, where they are attending summer school together.

Di Pauli said he understands he is just one of 211 players selected by NHL teams over the weekend and that a very small percentage of those players will realize their dream of playing in the NHL. Still, he believes the road he took to get to Pittsburgh might give him a slight advantage.

At this point I think everybody has been working all their lives to get to this, he said. But I think Ive worked extremely hard and sacrificed a lot of my high school life, being at the rink all day, finishing home and going right to the rink.

It all paid off on Saturday and Di Pauli says he owes it all to the selflessness of his parents.

It means the world to me, he said. Im absolutely a hundred percent grateful to them for giving me the opportunity to pursue my dreams that Ive always had. Without them I wouldnt be sitting here. I wouldnt be close to being where I am.

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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.

RELATED: RANKING THE CAPITALS' TOP PROSPECTS

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

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USA TODAY Sports

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."

RELATED: WHERE MICHAL KEMKPNY FITS IN THE CAPS' LINEUP

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 on the air.

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

MORE CAPITALS: MEET MICHAL KEMPNY