Eric Duhatschek has a great post up over at the Globe and Mail posing the question "What was the single most effective draft choice in NHL history?" He asserts that "it was the Atlanta Flames’ decision to select Kent Nilsson in the fourth round, 64th overall, in the 1976 entry draft." Why? Basically because Nilsson was a highly-effective player (in the regular season) who was eventually traded for the picks that became Joe Nieuwendyk and Stephane Matteau! Matteau! Matteau!. Nieuwendyk, in turn, was later traded for a young Jarome Iginla. Now that's getting some mileage out of a single pick.
The question got me to thinking about who was the single most effective pick in Capitals history. Off the top of my head, I'd have to say it was Scott Stevens, selected in the first round, fifth overall in 1982. Stevens' arrival in D.C. helped to usher in the greatest era of Capitals hockey to date (zip it), as the Caps didn't miss the playoffs once in Stevens' time in D.C. and three times topped 100 points in the standings. Stevens averaged .71 points per game for the Caps and is still second on the team in career points by a defenseman (Calle Johansson is first).
Whether or not St. Louis's offer to then-restricted free agent Stevens should have been matched is open to debate, but it was not matched and the Caps received five picks as compensation in return. Two of those picks - Sergei Gonchar and Brendan Witt - became mainstays on the Caps' blueline for nearly a decade, and were instrumental in the team's Stanley Cup Finals appearance in 1998. Another - Miika Elomo - was traded along with a fourth round pick to Calgary for the second round pick that became 20-goal-scoring winger Matt Pettinger.
Gonchar was traded to Boston in the great player dump of '03 and in return the Caps received Shaone Morrisonn (who is arguably their steadiest defenseman right now) and first and second round picks in 2004 that have turned into prospects Jeff Schultz and Michael Yunkov.
Witt was traded to Nashville at last year's trade deadline for the Caps' current second-line center, Kris Beech, and the first round pick last summer that became top goaltending prospect Semen Varlamov.
There's still a lot of upside to be had from that initial pick, and there is no doubt that Scott Stevens is the gift that keeps on giving for the Caps.