When we recently went over the goalie situation for the Washington Capitals, it was pretty easy to envision the next three seasons, though it still had its difficulties. At first, looking over the next three seasons for the defensive unit, it looks easy, but there could be a few challenges along the way, but they are good problems to have.
Over the next three seasons the Capitals “top 4” are set with Dmitry Orlov, John Carlson, Matt Niskanen, and Michal Kempny. That is a very good core that should keep the proverbial Cup-run “window” open.
After the aforementioned top 4, the Capitals have Christian Djoos and Madison Bowey, who can immediately help. Following them are a slew of good to great defensive prospects that should be able to plug-in down the road. First, let’s take a look at the upcoming season.
The 2018-2019 season shouldn’t see too many surprises. Orlov, Carson, Niskanen, Kempny, and Djoos can be penciled in for five of the six defensive roster spots. As of now, the Capitals do not have a #7 signed.
There are several young kids in Hershey that could fill that void, like Aaron Ness or Tyler Lewington. But it’s more likely the Capitals go after a veteran defensemen to be that #7 guy, that they can trust to jump in and help the team if there is injury or if they still don’t trust Madison Bowey.
Bowey still hasn’t re-signed with the team, but he more than likely will soon. This upcoming season is huge for him so look for him to really step up.
The 2019-2020 season is where things will get really interesting. Yes, the Capitals will still have their “four” locked up, but Djoos will be looking for a new contract as a restricted free agent. And depending on if Bowey signs a multi-year deal or not, he’ll either be locked-up or looking for a new contract as well. So again that will be five to six of the six spots filled.
There are young kids in Hershey that will be looking for a spot. Lucas Johansen, Jonas Siegenthaler, and Connor Hobbs will all be ready for the NHL. It is not a definite they will make the NHL, but they will be more than likely ready to at least take their first dive into the water.
What will the Capitals do if even one of them looks like he could help out the big club? Where do they fit into the puzzle? They could be the #7 player but that’s usually a move that hinders development. They could make a trade to free up space but which one of Orlov, Carlson, Niskanen, Kempny, and Djoos do you move? Or the Capitals could let them cook one more year but with Alexander Alexeyev, Martin Fehervary, Tobias Geisser, Chase Priskie, and possibly Sebastian Walfridsson starting their professional careers there will be an overload defensemen between the NHL and AHL. Maybe Walfridsson could playing in the ECHL but the rest will probably instantly be in the AHL.
The picture below kind of sums it up; it is the defensive depth chart for players in the NHL and AHL for the 2019-2020 season. All of those players are under contract for the 2019-2020 season except Djoos and Colby Williams. Djoos is a lock to be back and Williams is well liked in Hershey, so he’ll probably be back too. That’s 17 players for 12 roster spots. Something has to give.
If the Capitals think they can maybe hide their young talent in the AHL for the 2019-2020 season, they might be able to pull it off, but it won’t work for the 2020-2021 season. If even half of those prospects pan out they’ll need NHL time and as we know there simply isn’t enough room. A good guess would be that Orlov, Carlson, Niskanen, Djoos, Kempny, Bowey, Johansen, Hobbs, and Siegenthaler will all be fighting for a full time spot. Someone will have to be moved to make room whether it’s one of the older players or one of the youngsters.
This may seem like a problem talking about not having enough room for all of these players, but it’s a very good problem. Having so much talent in a position allows the Capitals to be flexible in moving assets to fill holes they need in the future. It also means the Capitals can stay away from the unrestricted free agent pool every summer, which allows them to avoid bad signings that could hurt the team in the long run. What we know for now, is at least for the next three seasons, the Capitals will have a strong formidable defensive core that has the ability to get younger and better for years after.
By Luke Adomanis