Attention centers on Konowalchuk Jacks standout gets call from Caps

October 30, 1992|By Doug Brown | Doug Brown,Staff Writer

Skipjacks coach Barry Trotz knows what hockey folks will say one of these days about Steve Konowalchuk. They're going to say he was one of the steals of the 1991 draft.

"Steve is going to play in the NHL," Trotz said Wednesday -- one day before the Washington Capitals called up Konowalchuk. He joins the team for tonight's game in Calgary, Alberta.

"Guys around the league will be saying, 'Boy, you lucked out on Konowalchuk,' " Trotz said.

Still a few weeks shy of his 20th birthday, Konowalchuk was the third-leading scorer on the Skipjacks with 11 points (three goals, eight assists). Trotz said that what sets Konowalchuk apart from most centers is his defensive ability. It has helped that in the past two years he has grown from 5 feet 11 to 6-0 1/2 and gained 20 pounds, to 190.

"Scouts are calling him one of the most dominant two-way centers in the AHL," Trotz said. "Most teams have centers who are good only on offense."

Last season, before joining the Skipjacks for a few games at year's end, Konowalchuk scored 104 points for Portland and was the MVP of the Western Hockey League.

"Portland used him against the opponent's top offensive center and he won most of those confrontations as well as scoring 104 points," Trotzsaid.

Konowalchuk was born in Salt Lake City, and at 14 moved with his family to Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. He and his older brother, Brian, played youth hockey there.

"We had been there about three months and the locals complained that it wasn't right that we were there just for hockey," Konowalchuk said.

It was in Prince Albert that Konowalchuk met Jeff Nelson, a fellow Skipjacks center. When they were in their mid-teens, Nelson was considered more advanced.

When Konowalchuk was in bantam hockey, Nelson was a level above in midget. When Nelson moved up to junior, Konowalchuk was in midget.

In the 1991 entry draft, Nelson was the Caps' fourth choice and 36th overall. Konowalchuk was the Caps' fifth choice, 58th overall.

"While Jeff was protected and assigned to Prince Albert, Steve wasn't," Trotz said.

Behind Nelson in the developmental sense for most of his teen years, Konowalchuk edged ahead with yesterday's promotion to the parent club.

"The Washington Caps knew when they drafted him they were getting a competitor," Trotz said, "a hound dog on defense with a big heart."

Skipjacks tonight


Opponent: Adirondack Red Wings

Site: Baltimore Arena

Time: 7:35

Outlook: The defending Calder Cup champion Red Wings are 6-5, not bad considering eight of their first 11 games were on the road. Red Wings leading scorer Chris Tancill had 10 goals in the first 10 games. Skipjacks points leaders are John Byce and Martin Jiranek (12 apiece).

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