NHL preseason games are now underway, and there are plenty of new and fresh faces for fans to be excited about. As the preseason continues, clubs must make tough choices on who stays and goes from their respective rosters.
With the Capitals having a new look this year, there are plenty of spots up for grabs. Capitals fans saw some young players take the ice against New Jersey and perform very well. The Capitals will have several holes to fill with their roster and there is plenty of competition in training camp for those positions.
With a competitive preseason camp, Barry Trotz will be looking to fill holes in certain areas of his lineup to replace several losses over the summer. What areas will Trotz need to focus on most as he fills out the rest of his roster? Where are the biggest remaining holes in the Capitals lineup?
CHEMISTRY IN THE TOP-SIX FORWARDS GROUP
During the preseason, the Capitals will have a couple of holes to fill in their top six forward group. Both of those holes are on the 2nd line, since Marcus Johansson and Justin Williams are no longer with the organization. Trotz must be able to find the right chemistry with the newcomers on that line. Nicklas Backstrom and Evgeny Kuznetsov will be interchanging at the center position, and Trotz will need to find the proper linemates for his top 2 centers. Andre Burakovsky is likely going to begin the season with Nicklas Backstrom. Barry Trotz is likely going to experiment with newcomer Jakub Vrana to see where he will be the best fit. Also in the mix will be Tom Wilson, as he is expected to take on more of an offensive role this year. Chemistry between lines is very important, and it is a huge reason why the Capitals have had so much success in their recent seasons. With elite center pivots like Backstrom and Kuznetsov, it will make Trotz’s job that much easier when he is experimenting with line combinations.
NEW LOOK 4TH LINE
The Capitals 4th line will have a new look this year with the departure of Daniel Winnik, and the promotions of Brett Connolly and Tom Wilson in the lineup. In the past, Trotz has usually carried a 4th line that has a lot of size and physicality. With the game trending more in a speed direction, Trotz may opt to have players like Nathan Walker and Riley Barber in his lineup. If he wants to keep a 4th line that has more size, he may opt to keep a player like Tyler Graovac in his lineup.
FINDING THE RIGHT BLUELINE MIX
There will be spots up for grabs on the Capitals blueline this year. Like the forwards, Trotz must experiment with various combinations on the blueline. John Carlson and Brooks Orpik will likely have new defensive partners this year, and their new partners will likely be younger players with little to no NHL experience. Christian Djoos is likely the Capitals best skating young blueliner, but he is very small by NHL standards. Madison Bowey and Tyler Lewington are 2 young defensemen in the organization that could bring more size and physicality to the Capitals defensive mix. Lucas Johansen is another young Capitals defenseman that is trying to make his mark, although he will most likely head to the AHL to begin his professional career. If Trotz prefers more of a veteran presence on his blueline, Taylor Chorney and Aaron Ness are his best options to fill out the remaining spots. With Karl Alzner out of the mix, Trotz will likely want one of his new blueliners to take a role on the penalty killing unit. With Kevin Shattenkirk out of the mix, Trotz will likely look for a young defenseman that can possibly step in on the powerplay unit. Finding replacements for quality defenseman is difficult, but the Capitals have built up enough defensive depth in order to remain competitive.
ADDRESSING ALL AREAS OF THE ROSTER
When Barry Trotz and his coaching staff finally flesh out the Capitals roster for opening night, he will need to make sure he has all areas addressed. Trotz will need to make some tough moves to finalize his roster. From special teams to 5-on-5, Trotz will need to think through all areas of the Capitals game. He will need to evaluate his players individually, and he will need to see what each player does well (and does not do well) during the preseason.
By: George Foussekis