Photo: Amber Searls/USA Today Sports
While much has been said about the likelihood of some of the Capitals’ most promising defensive prospects making the leap to the NHL next season, lost in the conversation is veteran blueliner Taylor Chorney, who, after playing in 55 games in his first season as a Capital, played just 18 contests last season. Now, with the departure of key defensemen Karl Alzner, Nate Schmidt, and trade deadline acquisition Kevin Shattenkirk, could Chorney see his role increase next season?
While not the most outstanding defenseman, Chorney has proven himself to be a reliable, hard-working blueliner when given the chance to play. Signed as a free agent by the Capitals before the 2015-16 season, Chorney has seen limited playing time over the last two seasons with the surplus of blueliners that the Caps possessed. Now that three of that surplus is playing elsewhere, Chorney could and should get an opportunity to earn himself more minutes in 2017-18.
While not nearly as sound defensively as Alzner and Schmidt, nor as offensively-gifted as Shattenkirk, Chorney has shown he is capable of being an everyday player. In his first season with the team, Chorney played in 55 games due to multiple injuries, recording six points (one goal, five assists), while finishing the season with a plus/minus rating of plus-8 and averaging 13:11 minutes a night. He was a decent possession player as Capitals goaltenders finished with a save percentage of .924 when he was on the ice and the Capitals started in the offensive zone 66.6% of the time when Chorney was on the ice. He also recorded 2.2 defensive point shares (amount of points a player contributes through his defense).
In his second season, with the Capitals’ blueline relatively healthy, and the addition of Shattenkirk, Chorney saw just 18 games, recording five points (one goal, four assists), while finishing with a plus-8 rating and averaging 14:16 minutes a night. He again was a relatively effective possession player as the Caps netminders finished with a .963 save percentage when he was on the ice and the Capitals had a shooting percentage of 11.7 and started in the offensive 55.4% of the time Chorney was on the ice. While he may not be as noteworthy possession wise as other defensemen, he is certainly able to hold his own.
While he has never been an everyday player throughout his NHL career, Chorney has proven himself capable of being able to handle playing on a nightly basis. While he may not be as productive offensively as some of the younger prospects vying for a spot in the Opening Night lineup, he has experience and, as mentioned above, is able to handle the rigorous pace of the NHL. zwhile not as young as the aforementioned prospects, he is still only 30-years old. Since the Caps did not look outside the organization to fill their holes on the blueline, they have to rely on within to fill their needs. As an experienced NHLer and overall solid defenseman, Chorney should get the chance to earn a spot in the everyday lineup. Only time will tell if he can make the most of it.
By Michael Fleetwood