Washington Capitals captain Alexander Ovechkin is not only one of the most recognizable athletes in the sport of hockey, he has long since transcended the sport and now has become one of the most recognizable professional athletes around the world. When you think of Ovechkin you think of three things, his native country of Russia, the sport of hockey of course, and the team he has spent his entire career with and the team he currently captains the Washington Capitals. But what if Ovechkin had never been drafted by the Capitals? It's a crazy thing to think about but it becomes even crazier when you realize it could very well have happened if one NHL general manager had gotten his way.
For this story we have to take you all the way back to the 2003 National Hockey League Entry Draft, on full year before Ovechkin would eventually be drafted by the Washington Capitals. You see by chance Ovechkin was born a mere 2 days too late to be eligible for the 2003 NHL Entry Draft but there was one general manager who tried his darndest to find a way to work around the inconvenient rule. At the time the general manager of the Florida Panthers organization was none other than veteran NHL executive Rick Dudley and Dudley was convinced that he could draft Ovechkin due to the fact that there had been a number of leap years during the course of his lifespan. Dudley argued that the leap years made up the difference in days and in fact outright attempted to draft Ovechkin in 4 different rounds at the NHL draft. The National Hockey League of course shut him down each time, but you have to credit Dudley for giving it a shot, even if it was as he admits a very long one.
"It's a long shot," said Dudley at the time. "But, if it's a viable long shot, we would be a very happy crew because he's a special player."
It would have been a very different world for both the Washington Capitals and the Florida Panthers had this come to pass, but frankly I can't imagine things being any other way than they are now.