When Washington Capitals training camp kicked-off back in mid-September, there were several unanswered questions related to the teams roster. How will the Caps get under the salary cap? Who will replace Evgeny Kuznetsov during his three-game suspension? Will the organization extend Nicklas Backstrom or Braden Holtby? When will Michael Kempny return from injury? With these plotlines dominating the main-stream coverage, it was easy for a feel-good story to fly under the radar. That story is defenseman Tyler Lewington making the roster out of training camp.
Flying under the radar is nothing new for Lewington, a 2013 seventh round draft pick of the Capitals. He came to the Hershey Bears in 2015-16 season as the least heralded of a trio of rookie defensemen. Madison Bowey and Christian Djoos garnered a majority o the press and both played regularly for the Bears. Lewington appeared in only 32 regular season games and spent time with South Carolina in the ECHL. However, when the Calder Cup playoffs rolled around, the Edmonton, Alberta native was a mainstay in the lineup. He played steadily defensively and surprised with four goals, the most of any Hershey defensemen in the playoffs, and helped lead the Bears to the Calder Cup finals.
Lewington was firmly entrenched on the Hershey blue line during the 2016-17 season. He set career highs in goals with four and points with 17. His +16 was the best among Hershey defensemen. However, his strong season was overshadowed by Djoos’ 58-point breakout season.
Both Djoos and Bowey were in Washington for the 2017-18 season. Meanwhile, Lewington was back in Chocolate Town for another season in the AHL. The Capitals would go on to win the Stanley Cup, but it was a different story in Hershey. The Bears suffered through their worst season in 25 years, finishing in last place. Lewington posted 11 points and was a -2. A minus two rating might not seem impressive, but on a team full of minus players, it was the best rating among Hershey defensemen who played in most of the games. Maybe more I,portamtly, he also established himself as a team leader. He was the player who was always there to stand up for his teammates.
The steady, stay-at-home defenseman returned to the Bears for the 2018-19 campaign. New Hershey head coach Spencer Carbery made Lewington a part of his leadership corps as one of the players to serve as an alternate captain (the Bears did not have a captain). Lewington established himself as a shut down defenseman. He teamed with Aaron Ness to form on of the AHL’s most formidable defense pairings. The duo was a key part of Hershey’s turnaround from last place to a playoff team. Lewington was one of the team’s top penalty killers and simply played to his strengths. He finished the season with 15 points. His +7 was second to only Ness on the team.
During the 2018-19 season, Lewington finally got the long overdue call to the NHL. He played his first career NHL game for the Capitals on December 22, 2018 against the Ottawa Senators. A week later, Lewington made an impact in another game against the Senators. He recorded a Gordie Howe hat trick. He tallied his first career goal, his first career assist and his first career fight in the game.
Heading into this season, Lewington did not receive much attention. The focus was on other highly-touted defensive prospects. In training camp, the Edmonton native did what he does best: play a steady defensive game and contribute by doing the little things. He does not try to be what he is not. He just focuses on what he does best.
When the dust settled after all the roster moves, Lewington was still in the show. He was a healthy scratch for the first three Washington games of the season but, slotted into the lineup in the Capitals last two games. He has averaged 10:50 of ice time playing on the third defense pairing in his two appearances.
Lewington is likely to remain in Washington even after Kempny returns from injury. The amount of playing time he will get is uncertain. However, one thing is certain, Lewington will continue to work and play to his strengths.
By Eric Lord