The Washington Capitals are 2 games in to the preseason, and they are 1-1. After laying an egg against the New Jersey Devils on Monday night, the Capitals responded with a big road win in Montreal on Wednesday night.
The Capitals will have a doubleheader over the weekend as they face the St. Louis Blues and Carolina Hurricanes at Capital One Arena. Through the first two games, the Capitals have received good games from some of their young prospects. The Capitals will have new faces on their roster this year, so there is plenty of competition for jobs in the preseason.
Who is ahead of the pack among the Capitals prospects? Who will likely continue to see the most icetime as the Capitals finish up preseason action?
NATHAN WALKER AND DEVANTE SMITH-PELLY
Walker and Smith-Pelly have already made their impacts during the preseason as they each recorded a goal in their respective games. Walker scored the lone Capitals goal against the Devils shorthanded on Monday night on a beautiful give-and-go play with Lars Eller. Smith-Pelly scored his goal against Montreal and recorded 3 hits in the game. Walker and Smith-Pelly will both likely get long looks from the Capitals coaching staff to fill some holes on the 4th line. Both players have shown that they can penalty kill well, so they will both get additional looks there.
Coming into the season, it was all about building consistency for Jakub Vrana. Vrana responded well playing next to skillful linemates Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetosv as he recorded a powerplay goal. Vrana is one of the Capitals forward prospects with the most offensive upside. For Vrana to build the consistency needed, he will need to continue to show Capitals coaches that he can play well defensively.
The 25-year old Alaska native was sharp in 2 periods in the Montreal game. The Capitals were outshot by the Canadiens in both periods, but Copley was strong as he gave up just 1 goal on 22 shots. Copley is likely headed to Hershey, but he will be next in line for the Capitals if they ever decide to trade Philipp Grubauer. Copley will likely get more time in the preseason to play, as the Capitals will probably not overwork Braden Holtby since he is the main workhorse in net.
If you are like me and have watched the preseason hockey games, you are probably scratching your head with all of the penalties that are being called. The NHL referees are cracking down on slashes and the linesmen are being very watchful in the faceoff circle.
The NHL is trying to find a way to generate more offense in the league, and they are trying to protect players more by calling more slashing minors. While the NHL is likely still experimenting with these calls, all the penalties being called are not receiving a popular reaction around the league:
Slashes/faceoff violation penalties by my quick count
Monday: 49/9 in 8 games
Tuesday: 38/10 in 9 games
Wednesday: 46/11 in 10 games
— Michael Russo (@RussoHockey) September 21, 2017
#RedWings Zetterberg on faceoff violation crackdown: “Brutal. Makes no sense … It’s slowing down the game, it’s almost mocking the game.”
— Ansar Khan (@AnsarKhanMLive) September 21, 2017
“This faceoff rule is an absolute joke.”
Brad Marchand isn’t a fan of the NHL’s new faceoff violation rule. pic.twitter.com/q4zp3ZDxvd
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) September 19, 2017
The NHL is slowing the game down with these penalties being called. While I am for player safety, calling every single slash or faceoff violation will extend the length of games. If the NHL wants to generate more offense around the league, they need to find better and more efficient ways to do so. Cutting down on 5-on-5 play will not entertain the traditional fans and will not draw new fans to watch the sport.
By: George Foussekis