The Can’t Miss Kid Didn’t

Bobby Carpenter - Sports Illustrated Cover - 23 February, 1981Today former Cap Bobby Carpenter got the Hall Call: he’ll be enshrined in the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame later this year. Younger Caps’ and hockey fans may not remember the peak years of Carpenter’s career in the NHL, with the Caps. But he was the first American-born 50-goal scorer in league history, and he was a dynamic scorer in hockey’s high-flying ’80s. He was also the first-ever high school hockey player to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
We remember well the excitement associated with Carpenter’s arrival in D.C. Then Caps’ GM Max McNab swung a stunner of a trade with the Hartford Whalers in June of 1981 to acquire the third overall pick in the draft and land Carpenter. The night of the draft WRC’s George Michael led his evening sportscast with the news. Remember, this was a mere year or so after the American triumph at Lake Placid, and Carpenter was regarded as the finest talent American hockey had ever produced. There was, most assuredly, hockey buzz in D.C. then.
As you might expect, the Caps’ Mike Vogel has a superb reminiscence of Carpenter up on the team’s site. Vogel notes:

“A Massachusetts native, Carpenter and his family were hoping he’d go to Hartford. Carpenter’s father and the Whalers’ brass were both angry when Washington general manager Max McNab made the deal and the subsequent pick, but both parties were assuaged in the end. Hartford wound up “settling” for center Ron Francis with the fourth overall choice, and Carpenter abandoned a letter of intent to play at Providence College when the Caps signed him and made him the first ever U.S. high school hockey player to go directly from school to the NHL.”

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