When Lars Eller arrived in Washington two seasons ago from the Montreal Canadiens, I wasn’t sure if the solid third-line forward was worth two second-round draft picks. Now, looking back in hindsight ,that trade proved to be exactly what this Capitals team needed.
Eller’s biggest moment as a member of the Capitals came during the the Stanley Cup-clinching Game 5 of the 2018 Stanley Cup Final (“The Great Dane Robbery”).
But he has done so much more than that during his two full and currently third season in Washington.
In less than 200 games played thus far with the Capitals, Eller has had a tremendous impact, both offensively and defensively. Eller has cemented himself as a relatively consistent goal-scorer with the ability to play up and down the lineup. He has produced 25 and 38 points respectively in his first two years with the organization and has also stayed remarkably healthy over the last two seasons, missing one game in each of the two previous seasons since joining the team.
For a portion of the Capitals’ Stanley Cup run this past spring, Eller was playing on the Capitals top-line with star players like Alex Ovechkin, and filled in admirably in the absence of Nicklas Backstrom during the team’s second round matchup against the Pittsburgh Penguins. During the entirety of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Eller recorded 18 points in 24 games. But when the Caps’ coaching staff has needed to spread the scoring depth throughout the lineup, he has proved to be reliable while playing on the third-line. Eller gives Washington incredible depth through the middle of its lineup.
To put it quite simply, Eller is a gift that keeps on giving, combining the offensive style of a player like Jakub Vrana and the defensive skills of former Capital Jay Beagle. Not only does he give them consistent scoring depth, but has also created a place for himself on special teams (both the power play and penalty kill). At this point in the 2018-19 season it has mostly been the latter, but that’s only because he has made himself indispensable there.
Last night’s game against the Carolina Hurricanes was a prime example of how Eller has become a key utility player for the Capitals. He was on the ice for the penalty kill during all three of the Hurricanes’ power plays in the first period, helping to keep Washington in the game early.
After the game head coach Todd Reirden gave Lars Eller a glowing review saying,
“He’s able to play in any situation. We are really very fortunate to have [him]. When we were able to sign him long-term we were ecstatic about it.” Reirden continued to note, “He’s able to slot up and play first or second-line, kills penalties, plays on the power play, can play at the end of the games – so he’s multi-dimensional and whatever situation it is putting him in those spots he’s prepared. And the demeanor to handle any of those situations – high pressure or end of the game or an important kill that’s in the first period that you need to gain momentum back in the game so he’s such a useful player for us.”
It’s clear that the trade for Eller was a wise one for the Capitals. Washington will definitely need his presence if they are to repeat as champions, and won’t have to worry about losing him anytime soon since he’s locked up through 2023.
By Charlie DiPasquale