I think we can all say that the Capital’s 2015-16 Roster is shaping up to be an impressive one. With a nice blend of youth, veteran players, playoff experience and leadership, the sky is the limit for the Capitals next season. With the Metropolitan division shaping up to be one of the toughest ones in the NHL, the new lines and defensive pairing will hopefully build their chemistry quick. The signing of Justin Williams and the trade for TJ Oshie, plus losing Ward and probably Fehr, will no doubt shake up some lines.
Alexander Ovechkin – Nicklas Backstrom – TJ Oshie
Although it’s hard to tell if Oshie or Williams will be slotted in next to 8 and 19, I have a feeling Oshie will get the first crack at the job. He should be a nice compliment to their game and if he plays here for the majority of the season, I think Oshie has a good chance to put up career numbers next season. He also plays a pretty good two-way game which should help to boost the lines overall +/-. We may see some tic-tac-toe passing scare some goalies next season.
Burakovsky – Kuznetsov – Williams
Although Johansson may still be resigned and could slot in at left wing here, I think Trotz is high on Burakovsky and he may want to put him next to skilled players to help his development early and see what he has in the young player. It should suit the Caps well to have a blend of youth and experience on this line and what better way is there to achieve that then to put Kuzy and Burry with 3 time Cup Champion Williams? I like this line a lot.
Line 3 and Line 4
Johansson – Beagle – Wilson and Chimera, Laich and Latta
This is where things get more difficult. Johansson’s status is currently unknown but most players that file for arbitration usually end up back with their team. Burakovsky and Johansson could be sharing time at 2nd line LW depending on Burry’s performance. The rest of the two lines combined are kind of a toss-up. Trotz loves Beagle (Beagle time All the time) and he could take 3rd line center duties from someone like Brooks Laich. And Maclellan and Trotz both said after the season ended that they wanted to get Wilson more ice time and get him into a top 6 forward role permanently in the next two years or so. So that makes me think he’ll start on the 3rd line. Laich is a good two-way forward and has shown scoring ability in the past so he could challenge for 3rd line duties as well.
At this point of the off-season, this is nothing more than a guess at what the lines will look like game one of the season. Players can still be traded, signed, injured etc. But Maclellan added some exciting pieces to the Capitals and much anticipation surrounds them.
With last year’s trade deadline acquisition Tim Gleason on the open market and Mike Green departing for Detroit, the Capitals have some holes to fill. Having a player of Green’s caliber on the 3rd pairing last season was truly a luxury for the Capitals. From the first game of the season, no one in the Capitals system or on the open market will be able to match the experience and offensive capabilities Green provided. So far in free agency, Maclellan has signed Taylor Chorney, who is expected to be the team’s 7th defenseman, and he’s signed Nate Schmidt to his 1st one-way NHL contract (2 years.)
Orpik – Carlson
Alzner – Niskanen
Barring injury, I don’t think Trotz will change anything about the top two defensive pairings for the Caps. They played well last season so at this point, there’s no need to change what works. I firmly believe this is what it’ll be opening night.
Shmidt – Orlov
I don’t think Maclellan would’ve signed Schmidt to a one-way deal if he didn’t have him in mind for this line. But he’s going to have to perform well in training camp, pre-season and when it counts to keep his spot because Trotz makes the decisions on game days. That goes for Orlov as well. He rehabbed a wrist injury for almost the entire 2014-15 season but by the time he was cleared for contact, Trotz wasn’t comfortable putting him in with the playoffs approaching and the team had just traded Jack Hillen and a 4th round draft pick to Carolina for veteran Tim Gleason. When training camp starts, the job will most likely be Orlov’s to lose but if he has any lingering issues from his wrist injury, he’d better watch out because two players named Madison Bowey and Connor Carrick have their eyes on the spot and they’re hungry. It should be a fun battle to watch.
By: Zach Hart