Preseason Pregame: Capitals vs. Hurricanes

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Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The Capitals will be hosting the Carolina Hurricanes tonight at Verizon Center, for the first of seven preseason games this yearMany young future stars will be suiting up tonight for both sides, and many will be getting their first opportunities to dress in their NHL team’s colors. 

For the Capitals, first round pick Lucas Johansen will be making his Verizon Center debut dressed in number 21.  Lars Eller, who the Caps traded two second round picks to the Habs for, will also be making his Capitals debut tonight. The full rosters for tonight’s matchup:

capitals-hurricanes-pre-season-roster

Washington Capitals Players to Watch:
The Capitals will have some potential future players on their squad tonight after letting them mature in the juniors and AHL for a bit.  Jakub Vrana, the 13th overall pick in the 2014 NHL entry draft, will be on the ice tonight.  In his 36 regular season games with the Bears last year he tallied 16 goals and 18 assists.  He also got 14 points in 21 playoff games before the Bears lost to the Lake Erie Monsters in the Calder Cup Finals.  Fans should expect to see him make sporadic appearances this year for the Caps, but don’t expect to see him as a permanent member of the team for another year or so.  Vrana will be on the first line with Lars Eller and Stan Galiev.

Riley Barber, who was drafted by the Capitals back in 2012, will be playing tonight after a promising rookie season with the Bears, scoring 55 points in 74 games.  Barber had spent three years with the Miami RedHawks before signing an entry-level deal with the Caps. Despite his low draft pick, he is a promising candidate as a future Capitals Right Winger. Barber will be on the third line, centering Daniel Winnik and Brad Malone.

Nathan Walker, who created a lot of chatter with his breakout performance in the AHL last season, will also be in the lineup tonight.  The Australian native tallied 41 points in 73 games after having two relatively quiet seasons in the AHL.  Walker is working hard to make a case for himself, and is trying to land a spot in the big leagues, but he will have to have another good year in the AHL before that’s a possibility.  He will be on a line with Jay Beagle and Tom Wilson tonight.

Lucas Johansen, the 18-year-old first round pick from the 2016 draft, will be making his Verizon Center debut tonight.  Johansen’s drafting was an immediate response by the Caps to pick up a quick defenseman who can win races to the corners and can also act as Quarterback in the offensive zone, given his ability to work the point and see plays.  Johansen will quickly be sent back down to the juniors after the first couple of preseason games, but keep an eye on this kid. He will be a future Capitals defender.  He’s paired with Taylor Chorney in the top four defensemen tonight.

Madison Bowey will be in the lineup with Brooks Orpik tonight.  Bowey, who I wrote about in last night’s article, is the most viable candidate among Hershey Bears defensemen who will make their NHL debut this year.  You can expect to see him later this season if the Caps have to dip into their defensive reserves.  Christian Djoos and Tyler Lewington will also be suiting up as defensemen during this preseason game, both of whom are making cases to make their Caps debut sooner rather than later.

Vitek Vanecek will be the starting goalie tonight, backed up by Drew MacIntyre, who wil also see ice time.  Vanecek played 32 games with the Stingrays last season, and played one game for the Hershey Bears, letting in only one goal on 26 shots.

The Capitals Lineup will look like this tonight:
Forwards:
Vrana-Eller-Galiev
Walker-Beagle-Wilson
Winnik-Barber-Malone
Bourque-Stephenson-Carey

Defense:
Orpik-Bowey
Johansen-Chorney
Ness-Lewington

Carolina Hurricanes Players to Watch:
Goaltender Alex Nedelijkovic will be sharing the ice with backup Eddie Lack in the matchup tonight.  Nedelijkovic, who will spend one more year in the OHL, has built himself a reputation for being a reliable and consistent goalie.  In the last two years, he has made 116 OHL appearances, and will potentially be the starting goalie for team USA in the World Juniors. With an aging Cam Ward, the Hurricanes may turn to this young goaltender in the coming seasons.

Canadian Right Winger, Nicolas Roy, will also be making an appearance for the Hurricanes tonight.  The former QMJHL 1st overall pick hasn’t had the stunning success that he was projected to have in the juniors, but he’s still only 19 and has plenty of time to develop.  With a 6’4” frame, and a quick stick on the faceoff dot, Roy could potentially be a solid depth player for the Canes.

Jake Chelios, son of famed NHLer Chris Chelios, will also be suiting up tonight as a Hurricane defenseman.  He made a later start in his professional career than most, but that doesn’t mean you should count him out as an NHL candidate.  Chelios played his first season with the Charlotte Checkers in 2015-16, and tallied 31 points in 73 games.  The Hurricanes signed him to a one year contract last April, and he could potentially be an injury-relief depth defenseman as early as this season.

The Hurricanes have plenty of depth as far as defensemen, goaltenders, and centers go, but they lack talented wingers in their prospect pool, which could hurt them in the future.  They will be gunning hard for a spot in the post season this year, but they’ve got a tough challenge ahead of them in the overpowered Metropolitan Division.

By Justin Green

About Jon Sorensen

Jon has been a Caps fan since day one, attending his first game at the Capital Centre in 1974. His passion for the Caps has grown over the decades, which has included time as a season ticket holder, social media and community organizer, and most recently led to the founding of NoVa Caps in 2014. Jon earned a Bachelor's of Science in Engineering at Old Dominion University, and is a Systems Engineer during intermissions, which has been instrumental in supporting his Capitals habit.
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