Photo: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
2016-2017 SEASON RECAP
After being acquired from the Montreal Canadiens last summer, Lars Eller was excited to start a new chapter with the Washington Capitals. Never really trusted in Montreal, Eller knew his place in Washington. The Caps were desperate for a 3rd line center and they seem to find one in Eller.
The first couple months were a little rough for the Denmark native as he was trying to find his way in a new system. He went back and forth between the 3rd and 4th line and even healthy scratched once. When he finally settled at the 3rd line center position he still had a revolving door of wingers, ranging from TJ Oshie to Tom Wilson. It was hard for him to find any type of consistency.
But in late December he was paired with Brett Connolly and Andre Burakovsky and that line went on a tear for 21 games. In that time span that line combined for 23 goals and 19 assists! Eller contributed 7 goals and 7 assists himself. Unfortunately, Burakovsky broke his hand and that line was disbanded after that.
By expectations, Eller didn’t really hit the offensive numbers that everyone was expecting, he only had 12 goals and 13 assists. His career high is 30 points, but with the Caps, everyone, including himself, probably thought he’d hit a 30+ point season.
2017-2018 SEASON PREVIEW
As stated, Eller was kind of all over the lineup and mixed with different wingers in the first and last couple months of the season. This season, it seems more than likely that Connolly and Eller will be paired on the 3rd line, which is a great thing as they seem to be a great fit. When together they have over a 56CF% rating, which is very impressive. The consistent time and steadiness of being on the 3rd line will be really good for both, now that they know their position and system.
The question is who will be the 3rd part of that line. It will most likely be Tom Wilson or Jakub Vrana. One a physical force with great defensive qualities while the other is a more run and gun type that can put pucks in the net. Either way, Trotz needs to find the bet 3rd player there to make the 3rd line a potential threat.
With the loss of left handed Marcus Johansson it will be interesting to see if Eller will get any power play time being left handed himself. It will more than likely go to the skilled winger Vrana, but Trotz does love his veterans so maybe Eller can get some 2nd unit opportunities. He will certainly get a look if God forbid Nicklas Backstrom, Evgeny Kuznetsov, or Burakovsky get hurt. Maybe PP time is what Eller needs to find that offensive ability.
More of this:
Points, points, points. Eller was drafted 13th overall in the 2007 for a reason. He has a lot skill that he should be utilizing more. He is possibly the Caps best boards guy and has high hockey IQ, but he needs to use those to put up points. There’s no reason he shouldn’t be around a 35 point player, maybe more with the Caps. Getting used to a new system and not finding consistent line mates can certainly explain 25 points last season, but he won’t have that excuse this upcoming season. Caps need him producing more, especially with the loss of Johansson and Justin Williams.
Less of this:
As noted above, Eller is a really good 2 way center. There isn’t anything he does that we should want “less of”. He just needs to step up and add more to the score sheet than what he usually does. If Eller needs to do less of something it’s being “inconsistent” points wise, but that’s kind of a double negative.
Key Goals for 2017-2018 Season:
Eller needs to keep up his strong defensive and possession driving play style, but he needs to find a way to put up more points, especially with the loss of some offensive talents over the summer. The keys for Eller are:
- continue great 2 way play and penalty killing
- score 15+ goals
- register close to 35 points if not more
- be a leader to any young players on his line
- teach Chandler Stephenson and/or Travis Boyd how to play center at the NHL level
By Luke Adomanis
SUMMER ON SOCIAL MEDIA