In a season filled with many firsts for the Capitals, both individually and as a team, one of the biggest storylines heading into the season and subsequently a common discussion point, was the development of former top defensive prospect Christian Djoos, who saw substantial action in his first season in the NHL. Despite some periodical struggles at times during the season as he adapted to the NHL game, Djoos played fairly well. In this piece, NoVa Caps takes a look at what to expect from the former seventh-round draft pick next season.In 63 games played in his first full season in the NHL, Djoos scored three goals and added 11 assists for 14 pointsm with a plus/minus rating of plus-13, playing on a third defensive-pairing with veteran (and former Capital) Brooks Orpik. Under the mentoring of Orpik and then-Associate (and now Head Coach) Todd Reirden, Djoos’ defensive and offensive game improved over the course of the season. Like all young players in their first season in the big league, Djoos experienced some growing pains at times throughout the season, but played in all but two of the Capitals’ 24 playoff games en route to the franchise’s first Stanley Cup championship.
The soon-to-be 24-year old (August 6) blueliner showed flashes of the offensive skill that helped him record 58 points in 66 games played with the American Hockey League’s Hershey Bears in 2016-17, particularly his ability to handle the puck in close situations and a quick shot that created scoring chances for his teammates. Djoos averaged 14:02 of ice time a night for former Head Coach Barry Trotz, and finished his rookie campaign with a Corsi rating of 52.2%; in addition, Capitals netminders had a .922 save percentage when Djoos was on the ice. Djoos was also on the ice for 46 goals scored by the Capitals compared to 33 goals against the team. In the aforementioned 22 playoff games, Djoos recorded one assist while averaging 10:51 of ice time a game.
So what should the Caps and fans expect from Djoos in 2018-19? With Reirden, who is renowned for his ability to help defensemen grow their game, now the team’s Head Coach, it is likely that Djoos’ game will continue to improve. With the Capitals returning all of their Top 4 defensemen from last season, Djoos will likely be relegated to a third-pairing role again next season, and with Orpik now gone, he will likely be asked to take on more defensive responsibility. That said, Reirden’s ability to develop defensemen could bode well for Djoos in that he may be given opportunities in special situations or potentially increased ice time. With veterans such as John Carlson, Matt Niskanen, Dmitry Orlov, and Michal Kempny in the lineup, Djoos will also have the support and guidance of his teammates to aid him in his development.
By Michael Fleetwood