In our series on previewing each team in the East, we started out in the Atlantic Division. We now move to the Metro and take a look at our projected top team, the Washington Capitals. The Capitals looked like the typical Capitals of the past few seasons. As the defending Stanley Cup champs, the Capitals went into the playoffs with high expectations once again. An unexpected first round loss to the up-and-coming Carolina Hurricanes led to a few offseason changes to the roster. Overall, the Capitals return for the 2019-2020 season with more Stanley Cup expectations and aspirations. Here is their depth chart for the season.
- Braden Holtby
- Phoenix Copley
- Ilya Samsonov
- Victor Vanecek
- Mitchell Gibson
Holtby returns as the undisputed starter on this roster. Holtby is usually in conversations as one of the best goalies in the NHL, even if he is inconsistent at times over the course of a season. This is a contract year, so Holtby will be extra motivated to perform. Phoenix Copley returns as a very capable backup. He may see a few more reps if the Capitals decide to give Holtby more rest.
If there is an injury, the Capitals will rely on youth to fill the void. Samsonov, a 2015 first-rounder, struggled in his transition to the North American game coming from the KHL in Russia. He improved over the last month of the season, and expectations are high for him to continue to hone his game in the AHL. Vanecek has more AHL experience, and he may be the first to get the call if an injury occurs. Both youngsters are unproven, so the Capitals are hoping they will not be needed to fill an injury void in the near future.
- John Carlson
- Dmitri Orlov
- Michael Kempny
- Nic Jensen
- Radko Gudas
- Christian Djoos
- Jonas Siegenthaler
- Lucas Johansen
- Connor Hobbs
- Tobias Geisser
- Colby Williams
- Taylor Lewington
The Capitals added to their blue-line and are deeper then they were last season. Getting Matt Niskanen off the books salary wise and adding a higher impact player in Radko Gudas helps. John Carlson, who at this point in his career seems to be a perennial Norris Trophy finalist, returns as the top minute muncher. He plays in all situations and puts up excellent offensive numbers. Expect nothing different this season.
Dmitri Orlov struggled at times last season, but he is definitely the second best of the bunch. Orlov plays a strong two-way game and will likely anchor the second power play unit. He is in his prime so expect much of the same from him next year. Michael Kempny is a strong defensive presence and has been an excellent compliment to John Carlson. He will return in a top four role.
Nic Jensen, acquired and then signed by the Caps at last year’s trade deadline, offers a strong two-way game. He will likely function as a four-five defender, which matches his skill set well. Jensen is an excellent skater and contributes to puck possession for his team. He may not put up big numbers, but he is a strong addition to the blue-line. Radko Gudas is notorious for his physical play throughout the NHL, but the newly acquired former Flyer has more to offer than just his grit and toughness. Gudas seems to always be a positive possession player, no matter what type of minutes he plays. He will play exactly where his skill set fits best, as a four-five defender.
To round out this group, the Caps have Christian Djoos, Jonas Siegenthaler, and rookie Lucas Johansen in competition for minutes. Djoos has the upper hand, as he was a regular for much of last season. Siegenthaler played some NHL games but struggled overall. Hopefully that experience will help him fill in when needed. Overall, this blue-line is a solid, strong group overall.
|1. Alex Ovechkin||1. Nicklas Backstrom||1. TJ Oshie|
|2. Jacob Vrana||2. Evgeny Kuznetsov||2. Tom Wilson|
|3. Carl Hagelin||3. Lars Eller||3. Richard Panik|
|4. Charlie Stephenson||4. Nic Down||4. Garrat Hathaway|
|5. Brendan Leipsic||5. Travis Boyd||5. Brian Pinho|
|6. Shane Gersich||6. Michael Sgarbossa||6. Brett Leason|
|7. Jacob Snively||7. Garret Pilon||7. Kody Clark|
The Capitals boast a strong offensive group, and they spent much of the summer retooling their bottom six. Ovechkin is still the NHL’s top goal scorer. He claims to have lost weight this offseason and has worked on his quickness. Look for him to score around 50 goals once again. Nicklas Backstrom returns as his consistent self, a bonafide number one center. Expect him to hover around the 70 point mark. Kuznetsov will miss the first three games of the season due to a suspension for testing positive for cocaine. Once in the lineup, he is reliable for about 70 points. However, with some adversity and through missing some games early on, he may have a slow start. It’s something to keep an eye on.
TJ Oshie is getting older, but he should return as a top six forward. He will be relied upon for secondary scoring. Tom Wilson should be his old self. The Caps hope his recent, more disciplined play will continue, as they can ill-afford a lengthy suspension from the forward once again. The Caps are also hoping Vrana continues in his progression. The former first rounder has showed steady progress and had a great offensive season last year. Washington is banking on continued offensive progression from him.
Lars Eller returns as a reliable third line center. Carl Hagelin, Richard Panik, Garret Hathaway, and Brendan Leipsic are the new third-fourth liners for the Caps this year. Hagelin is a speedy winger who won two Cups on the famed Hagelin-Bonino-Kessel line with the Penguins. Hagelin’s offense has stepped back a bit. However, his speed still remains weapon and he is a solid bottom six option. Panik has been excellent in a middle six role over the past few seasons for Arizona and was the Capitals’ key free agent signing this offseason. Panik could fill in as a second line winger or a third line depth picece. Either way, he is a solid addition.
Hathaway was the most questionable acquisition of the Caps new forwards. He has struggled to maintain a full-time NHL role as a fourth-liner, but the Caps saw enough to offer him a four year contract. Leipsic has bounced around quite a bit, but due to his speed and tenacity is always an intriguing option for NHL teams. The Caps decided to give him a chance. Stephenson, Boyd, and Dowd will all compete for fourth line spots, rounding out a deep core. Overall, the Caps’ offense should be deeper this year, making them a continued threat in the East.
The Capitals are poised for another successful season. With returning cast members and new depth additions, the Caps are again a favorite in the East. Come playoff time, anything outside of a Conference Finals appearance will be considered a failure.