Capitals win NHL Draft lottery

They had a horrendous regular season, but at least the Washington Capitals have something to look forward to: the first pick in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft.

The Capitals won the draft lottery conducted Tuesday by the NHL, leapfrogging the Pittsburgh Penguins and Chicago Blackhawks for the top pick.

Pittsburgh and Chicago would have picked first and second, respectively, based on inverse order of regular-season finish, while the Capitals would have picked third.

The Penguins will now select second and the Hawks third, followed by Columbus and Phoenix.

"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."

Under the NHL lottery system, only the five bottom teams in the regular-season standings have a chance to win the first overall selection. No team can move up more than four spots and no team can move down more than one.

The Rangers will pick sixth, followed by Florida, Carolina, Anaheim, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Minnesota, Buffalo and Edmonton. The rest of the first-round positions will be determined once the post-season in done.

The draft is scheduled for June 26 at RBC Center in Raleigh, N.C.

Russian winger Alexander Ovechkin is expected to be the No. 1 pick in the draft.