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Steve Eminger makes impression in Washington

Rangers appear to be on the cusp of losing their top defender

An excited Steve Eminger meets with Washington
Capitals owner and AOL kingpin: Ted Leonsis at
the ACC in Toronto, June 2002.

Steve Eminger's trip to the Washington Capitals rookie and regular camp was thought to be a formality by most.  Eminger would go into camp at Washington, meet up with stars like Peter Bondra and 10 days later General Manager: George McPhee would insist that Steve Eminger had a great future in Washington but needed another season of junior seasoning.  Somewhere the plans for one of the most respected two-way defenders in the OHL went awry, 10 days passed, then two weeks.  It is now a full month later with both the OHL and NHL regular season's under way and in the OHL Steve Eminger is no where to be found, instead, Eminger is playing along side NHL veteran Swedish defender: Calle Johansson wearing an unfamiliar #44 on his jersey.  Steve Eminger went to the Capitals 12th overall, the first of three Washington first round draft picks, Alexander Syemin (shown to the right of Eminger) went 13th overall, while Boyd Gordon of the Red Deer Rebels (shown on the right of Eminger) went 17th overall.  Steve Eminger is the highest NHL draft pick from the Kitchener Rangers since Boyd Deveraux went 5th overall to the Edmonton Oilers in 1996 (unfortunately in that draft the Capitals picking 4th overall made the mistake of selecting Alexandre Volchkov), the highest drafted Rangers defender prior to the Washington Capitals selecting Eminger was Craig Wolanin, who was taken 3rd overall by the New Jersey Devils.  Unfortunately, the lumbering Wolanin only spent one season in junior and never really developed offensively prior to joining the NHL.  Steve Eminger fortunately for the Capitals is more of the mold of former Rangers defender: Darren Rumble who went to the Flyers 20th overall in 1987, two-way, solid as a rock defensively and extremely strong offensively as well.  With the Washington Capitals losing: Rob Zettler to retirement, Frantisek Kucera and Sylvain Cote appears to be in the twilight of his NHL career, having sat out all of the first 5 games of the Washington Capital's new season as a healthy scratch; Eminger appears to be in a prime position to make a big slash in the US capital.

Coach: Bruce (Butch) Cassidy along with GM: George McPhee are both very excited about Eminger's quick development but have already hinted that they will make the 19 year old rearguard available for the World Junior Championships over the Christmas holidays.  Though they play completely different styles: Steve Eminger is being compared to former Kitchener Rangers defender: Scott Stevens whom was drafted 5th overall by the Capitals in 1982, the comparison is there primarily because of Scott Stevens being the last 18 year old defender to play for the Capitals prior to Eminger's arrival.  The Washington Capitals and their broadcasters are most impressed with Eminger's poise with the puck in his own zone and general unwillingness to simply bang the puck up the boards, instead he finds outlet passes or waits for plays to develop.  Steve even has recorded 10 penalty minutes while in the NHL.  The Rangers and their fans all wish Steve Eminger the best of luck but if things don't work out he'll be more than welcome to return to an already potent Rangers squad.

OHL News interviews: Steve Eminger

(Middle picture from Canadian Hockey Magazine)