Here are the three groups and lineups for Day One of training camp, as reported by the Washington Capitals Twitter account:
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) September 15, 2017
Obviously we’re just talking about day one of training camp, so nothing is set in stone, but there’s a lot of intriguing lines and pairs in here. Let’s go position by position:
- The first thing we notice is the Ovechkin-Eller pair in Group White, as you may know this is two-thirds of the third line that helped the Caps come back from a 3-1 deficit in the second round against the Penguins. I wouldn’t put much stock into this pair being a thing on Opening Night, as Brian MacLellan has already envisioned a trio of Connolly-Eller-Wilson as the third line to start the season. Though there’s nothing wrong in the coaches looking if the Ovechkin-Eller pair was a one-hit wonder, or if there’s some real chemistry that might be exploited in the postseason.
- Then we have the line that – to me – is the most intriguing: Burakovsky-Backstrom-Vrana in group Red. Unlike the Ovechkin-Eller pair, this could be an actual line on Opening Night. As we’ve seen in the playoffs and to start the regular season, there is some serious chemistry going between Backstrom and Burakovsky; as for Vrana’s presence, it only make sense for him to play with the best two-way forward on the team, given that he’s been crticized for his defensive game in the past (even though our own Luke Adomanis disagrees). I already see Burakovsky and Vrana streaking down the wings – after a good recovery from Bacsktrom in the Defensive zone – with Burakovsky on the left dishing the puck to Vrana on the right, who would snipe the puck into the net.
- Kuznetsov and Oshie not together, the two big-money players of this summer (and two third of the amazing TKO line) are not together. It probably doesn’t mean much, it’s just curious to see. If we squeeze hard for something, we may think that the coaches want to see how they behave in a situation with less support from their teammates.
This is where things get interesting, we have the 5 most promising Defensive prospects paired with the 5 Defensemen who’ll ceratinly be with the Caps, let’s see what we have:
- Orpik-Hobbs (group white): Whether we like it or not, Orpik will be on the Opening Night Top 6 (barring injuries), so it’s interesting to see Hobbs instead of Bowey on the veteran’s right side. Hobbs had a breakout year for Regina last season, where he put up gaudy offensive numbers. There’s no doubt he’s the Caps defensive prospect with the most upside, so the coaches are probably wondering if he already can make the bug jump to the NHL.
- Djoos-Niskanen (group white): At first glance, Djoos has to go past the hurdle between NHL and AHL, so it makes sense to put him with the veteran defenseman, who also has a history of mentoring skilled young players (Maata in Pittsburgh and Orlov in Washington). Though it’s very strange that the coaches didn’t pair the Swedish defenseman with Carlson, who – one wonders – would be Djoos’ partner on Opening night. Unless we’re due for some big surprises (like Orlov and Carlson being the first pair), I don’t see this being good news for Christian, though his waivers eligibility would force the Caps to keep him up, if they don’t want to risk losing him. Orlov-Bowey (group red): Bowey not being paired with Orpik may hint to the Caps coaches not being very confident in the Kelowna alumn, who didn’t really impress last season (be it because of injuries, or because of unhealthy off-ice habits). It also should be noted that prospects-guru Corey Pronam didn’t quite express excitement towards the young blueliner in his most recent mailbag at TheAthletic.
- Siegenthaler-Chorney (group red): being paired with the Caps’ 7D isn’t making life easy for the Swiss defenseman. I personally don’t expect him to make it to the big league so soon, given that he’s never played in North America for an extended period of time.
- Johansen-Carlson (group blue): This is related to the point about Djoos. Johansen has received high praise from the Capitals General manager, who included him in the battle for the second-pair left side spot during an interview with Barry Svrugla on the Washington Post. Johansen has a clear edge over Djoos as far as NHL size goes, he’s also been renowned as a very smart defenseman, with a good first pass and who can skate, these are all crucial qualities for the modern-day defensive defenseman. I’m personally very intrigued by this pairing and I could see it work, on the other hand Djoos has that offensive ability that doesn’t come around very often.
There’s nothing of notice here. Holtby and Grubauer will be the NHL goalies, while Vanececk and Copley will cover Hershey, in fact the four goalkeepers have been paired in two couples.
pic from Isabeller Kurshudyan’s Twitter.
By Liviu Damaschin