First Look At The Capitals Opening Night Roster For The 2020-21 Season

The 2020 NHL offseason is quickly coming to a close, with training camps possibly opening in a little over two weeks. There have been quite a few moving pieces during this brief but busy offseason, leaving a number of questions regarding the Capitals roster. Here is our first take at who makes the cut and will be on the Capitals opening night roster in January.

First up, we need to consider the Capitals latest organizational depth chart for the upcoming training camp. Depth projections are based on “NHL-readiness” and the likeliness to be called up in an emergency, and not on future potential upside. For example, Aliaksei Protas, who is currently succeeding at the pro level in the KHL, is placed above Connor McMichael, who has only played junior hockey to date.

The Capitals current organizational depth chart:

Waivers Exempt: Ilya Samsonov, Hendrix Lapierre, Joe Snively, Aliaksei Protas, Brian Pinho, Riley Sutter, Garett Pilon, Beck Malenstyn, Bobby Nardella, Alex Alexeyev, Martin Fehervary and Tobias Geisser.

INCREASED ROSTER SIZES
The 2020-21 schedule will likely see a reduction in the number of regular season games but also see the potential for increased injuries and scratches related to COVID-19. In addition, minor league affiliates will be operating at a reduced capacity, if they are operating at all. As a result, it looks like NHL teams will once again be allowed to operate with an expanded roster.

According to Pierre Lebrun, the NHL is looking at expanding the allowable rosters from 23 to 26 players for the season. The league will also likely allow a four-player taxi squad. LeBrun’s report on the specific numbers is also supported by Frank Seravalli:

[You may recall the league allowed 28 skaters and unlimited goaltenders for each team that entered the playoff bubble last September].

DIVISION OF ROSTER
The first question is how will the Capitals parse the new expanded roster. How many forwards, defensemen and goaltenders will the Capitals include on the 26-man roster and on the four-man taxi squad?

We’ve previously discussed at length the pros and cons of the possibility of the Capitals going with a “three-headed monster” in goal (here). In most cases the situation is not ideal, but for this atypical season it may make sense, considering the compressed schedule, potential increase in injuries, COVID-19 scratches and uncertainty surrounding minor league affiliates.

Thus we assume Ilya Samsonov will be the primary starter, Henrik Lundqvist will secure the number two spot, with Vitek Vanecek residing in the third spot, getting a start every 5th, 6th or 7th game. This would also give Vanecek some NHL experience in hopes he can fully assume the backup position for the Capitals next season.

Therefore the Capitals will likely go with 15 forwards, 8 defensemen and 3 goaltenders (15-8-3) or they will go with 14 forwards, 9 defensemen and 3 goaltenders (14-9-3), depending on Peter Laviolette’s perception of team needs.

Here’s how it would break down:

14-9-3 Roster
Forwards: Ovechkin, Kuznetsov, Wilson, Vrana, Backstrom, Oshie, Hagelin, Eller, Panik, Dowd, Hathaway, Carr, Pinho, Sprong
Defensemen: Dillon, Carlson, Orlov, Schultz, Siegenthaler, van Riemsdyk, Fehervary, LaDue, Jensen
Goaltenders: Samsonov, Lundqvist, Vanecek
Taxi Squad: Maillet, Sgarbossa, Protas, McMichael

15-8-3 Roster
Forwards : Ovechkin, Kuznetsov, Wilson, Vrana, Backstrom, Oshie, Hagelin, Eller, Panik, Dowd, Hathaway, Carr, Pinho, Sprong, Maillet.
Defensemen: Dillon, Carlson, Orlov, Schultz, Siegenthaler, van Riemsdyk, Fehervary, LaDue.
Goaltenders: Samsonov, Lundqvist, Vanecek
Taxi Squad: Maillet, Sgarbossa, Protas, McMichael

The inclusion of Protas and McMichael on the taxi squad would be more of a developmental move, more so for McMichael, who is likely returning to the OHL if he doesn’t spend the season with the Capitals.

As previously noted, Protas now has 30+ professional games under his belt in the KHL and demonstrating he may be ready for the next step. However, it may be best to try and keep Protas in the KHL for the entire season, rather than returning to the WHL, if he doesn’t secure a spot on the Capitals.

If Laviolette sees a need for additional “NHL-ready” forwards, he could replace Protas and/or McMichael with Damien Riat, Shane Gersich and/or Axel Jonsson-Fjallby. If he wants an additional defenseman, look for Alex Alexeyev to get a potential developmental spot.

VARIABLES

  • This will be Peter Laviolette’s first good look at a majority of the Capitals’ non-roster players, so we could see a shift in the team’s perspective with regards to a few of the Capitals prospects.
  • The status of the AHL and the number of games they will play may have an impact on how the Capitals set their roster and taxi squad. If a taxi-squad player would get more playing time in Hershey (or elsewhere) and thus, a potentially better year of development, we could see the Capitals forgo including certain prospects on the roster or taxi squad.
  • The Capitals will continue scanning the trade and free agent markets looking for a third line right-winger, and will look to shed salary cap space by dealing a left-handed defenseman and a bottom six forward, so things could shift if MacLellan finds the right deal.

By Jon Sorensen

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About Jon Sorensen

Jon has been a Caps fan since day one, attending his first game at the Capital Centre in 1974. His passion for the Caps has grown over the decades, which has included time as a season ticket holder, social media and community organizer, and most recently led to the founding of NoVa Caps in 2014. Jon earned a Bachelor's of Science in Civil Engineering at Old Dominion University, and is a Systems Engineer during intermissions, which has been instrumental in supporting his Capitals habit.
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2 Responses to First Look At The Capitals Opening Night Roster For The 2020-21 Season

  1. arlingtonCapsFan says:

    Has Jensen unambiguously fallen behind LaDue and Van Reimsdyk?

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