Capitals Player Performance Grades For The 2020-21 Regular Season

Photo: NHL via Getty Images

Every NHL player has their ups and downs during the regular season, especially during a shortened 56-game season that is preceded by a 10-day training camp and no exhibition games. In this post, NoVa Caps provides their annual grades for each of the Washington Capitals‘ player’s for the 2020-21 season.


Nicklas Backstrom ($9.2 million cap hit) – The 33-year-old lived up to expectations after signing a five-year contract extension in January 2020, leading the Capitals in assists (38) and points (53) despite having his linemates miss time and a mid-season trade involving forward Jakub Vrana for forward Anthony Mantha. Grade: A

Evgeny Kuznetsov ($7.8 million cap hit) – The 29-year-old had an inconsistent season where he played in only 41 games, finished with just nine goals and 29 points. He had stretches where he was invisible, but others where he showed some of his offensive magic. Kuznetsov was placed on the COVID-19-related absences list twice and was suspended for being late to a team function on May 3. Grade: D+

Lars Eller ($3.5 million cap hit) – The 32-year-old also missed time due to injury this season and finished with eight goals and 23 points in 44 games. Grade: B-

Nic Dowd ($750,000 cap hit) – The 31-year-old was tasked to center the Capitals’ shut-down line and succeeded against some of the opposition’s top players. Meanwhile, he set a career-high 11 goals. Grade: A


Alex Ovechkin ($9.54 million cap hit) – In a season plagued by time missed due to the COVID-19 and a lower-body injury, the 35-year-old finished the season with 24 goals and 42 points in 45 games. Ovechkin was on pace to hit 44 goals in a full 82-game season. Grade: B+

Carl Hagelin ($2.75 million cap hit) – The 32-year-old was part of the team’s shut-down line and played a critical role on a penalty kill that ranked fifth in the NHL with an 84% efficiency, where he averaged 2:34 per game (most among Capitals’ forwards). He recorded six goals, 16 points, and a +7 rating in 56 games. Grade: B+

Michael Raffl ($1.2 million cap hit paid by Capitals) – After the Capitals acquired the 32-year-old from the Philadelphia Flyers on April 12, Raffl recorded one goal, three points, and a +1 rating in 10 games with the team. He missed four games due to an upper-body injury at the beginning of his Capitals’ tenure but played well in a bottom-six role. Grade: B-

Conor Sheary ($735,000 cap hit) – The 28-year-old was one of the Capitals’ most consistent producers this season where he finished with 14 goals (fourth on the team) and 22 points in 53 games. Sheary signed a two-year contract extension that carries a $1.5 million cap hit on April 14. Grade: A+


T.J. Oshie ($5.75 million cap hit) – The 34-year-old’s 22 goals in 53 games this season, ranked second on the team behind Ovechkin, while his 43 points were third. 13 of his goals came on the power play. Oshie played well on both sides of the ice. Grade: A-

Anthony Mantha ($5.7 million cap hit) – After getting acquired at the trade deadline, the 26-year-old scored a goal in each of his first four games as a Capital and recorded five points over that time. Mantha’s production dipped after that with just three assists in 10 games at the end of the season but not because of his play or a lack of opportunities. Grade: B-

Tom Wilson ($5.17 million cap hit) – The 27-year-old finished the season with 13 goals, 33 points, and a +1 rating in 47 games but his production dipped from an average of 0.81 points per game in his first 21 games. After a suspension for seven games, he averaged to 0.62 points per game. It appeared that the NHL’s message that he needed to change his game is still taking some time for Wilson to adjust to. Grade: B

Garnet Hathaway ($1.5 million cap hit) – The 29-year-old recorded six goals, 18 points, and a +7 rating in 56 games while being a part of the Capitals’ fourth line. Hathaway came one point shy of his career-high set in 76 games with the Calgary Flames in 2018-19 and made a big impact defensively. Grade: A

Daniel Sprong ($700,000 cap hit) – The 24-year-old’s 13 goals tied Wilson for fifth on the team. He also came close to averaging half a point-per-game (20 in 42) despite being in and out of the lineup. His 20 points set a career-high while his 13 goals were one short of his career-best set in 47 games in 2018-19 with the Anaheim Ducks. Sprong’s 1.59 goals-per-60 minutes this season was tied for 13th best in the NHL. Unfortunately Sprong was unable to replicate his regular season offensive success in the postseason, was benched for two games and saw greatly reduced shifts/minutes in the other three games in favor of better defensive players. Grade: B+


John Carlson ($8 million cap hit) – The 31-year-old’s production fell after finishing second in Norris Trophy voting as the league’s top defensemen last season. He posted 10 goals, 44 points, and a -5 rating in 52 games while averaging a team-high 23:47, including 3:16 on the power play and 1:55 on the penalty kill this season. Though, Carlson improved defensively under first-year head coach Peter Laviolette as he recorded a 50.87% Corsi-for percentage, a 51.24% expected goals-for percentage, and a 50.55% scoring chances-for percentage at five-on-five. Grade: B

Dmitry Orlov ($5.1 million cap hit) – The 29-year-old played much better under Laviolette and recorded eight goals, 22 points, and a team-leading +16 rating while averaging 19:49, including 42 seconds on the power play and 36 seconds on the penalty kill, in 51 games. Orlov was admirable defensively with a 52.02% Corsi-for percentage, a 51.96% expected goals-for percentage, and a 52.14% scoring chances-for percentage at five-on-five this season. This was arguably Orlov’s best season with the Capitals. Grade: A

Justin Schultz ($4 million cap hit) – The 31-year-old benefited from Laviolette’s system, posting three goals, 27 points, and a +12 rating in 46 games after a down season plagued by injuries with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2019-20. Schultz’s production went down after a fast start and injury, and was not the best defensive player, posting a 49.14% Corsi-for percentage, a 48.25% expected goals-for percentage, and a 49.25% scoring chances-for percentage at five-on-five. Grade: C+

Brenden Dillon ($3.9 million cap hit) – After signing a four-year contract extension, the 30-year-old tallied two goals, 19 points, and a +15 rating while averaging 18:57 per game (including 1:47 while shorthanded) in 56 games. Dillon recorded a 50.40% Corsi-for percentage, a 51.56% expected goals-for percentage, and a 51.97% expected goals-for percentage at five-on-five. Grade: B

Nick Jensen ($2.5 million cap hit) – The 30-year-old turned in his best season as a Capital, where he tallied two goals, 14 points, a +5 rating. He recorded a 50.24% five-on-five Corsi-for percentage, a 53.58% five-on-five expected goals-for percentage, and a 52.5% five-on-five scoring chances-for percentage while averaging 17:18 per game, including 2:38 on the penalty kill in 53 games. After sitting three games as a healthy scratch at the end of January, Jensen never gave up his spot when he earned his spot in the lineup back. Grade: A-

Trevor Van Riemsdyk ($800,000 cap hit) – The 29-year-old did not get a jersey much but notched one goal, three points, a -1 rating, a 52.49% five-on-five Corsi-for percentage, a 54.94% five-on-five expected goals-for percentage, and 53.7% five-on-five scoring chances-for percentage in 20 games. Van Riemsdyk averaged 15:15 per game, including 1:37 on the P.K. when he did come into the lineup. The Capitals signed him to a two-year contract extension that carries a $950,000 cap hit on March 21. Grade: A-

Zdeno Chara ($795,000 cap hit) – The 44-year-old was everything the Capitals wanted him to be and more this season. He recorded two goals, 10 points, a +5 rating, a 49.5% five-on-five Corsi-for percentage, a 52.33% five-on-five expected goals-for percentage, and a 51.63% five-on-five scoring chances-for percentage in 55 games. Chara averaged 18:19 per game, including a team-high 2:41 on the penalty kill. Grade: B+


Ilya Samsonov ($925,000 cap hit) – The 24-year-old had an inconsistent season plagued by time on the NHL’s COVID-19 list, as he finished 13-4-1 with a .902 save percentage, a 2.69 goals-against average, and two shutouts, but performed well in a lot of instances. At five-on-five, Samsonov recorded a .911 save percentage, a 2.36 goals-against average, a -2.23 goals-saved above average, and a .779 high-danger save percentage. Grade: C+

Vitek Vanecek ($716,667 cap hit) – The 25-year-old had an above-average rookie season that included some inconsistencies as he went 21-10-4 with a .908 save percentage, a 2.69 goals-against average, and two shutouts. At five-on-five, Vanecek posted a .918 save percentage, a 2.41 goals-against average, a 0.66 goals-saved above average, and a .798 high-danger save percentage. Grade: B

Craig Anderson ($700,000 cap hit) – The 40-year-old appeared in just four regular-season games but performed well, going 2-1-0 with a .915 save percentage and a 2.13 goals-against average. Anderson tallied a .926 save percentage, a 1.87 goals-against average, a 0.47 goals-saved above average, and a .833 high-danger save percentage at five-on-five. Grade: B+

By Harrison Brown

About Harrison Brown

Harrison is a diehard Caps fan and a hockey fanatic with a passion for sports writing. He attended his first game at age 8 and has been a season ticket holder since the 2010-2011 season. His fondest Caps memory was watching the Capitals hoist the Stanley Cup in Las Vegas. In his spare time, he enjoys travel, photography, and hanging out with his two dogs. Follow Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonB927077
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10 Responses to Capitals Player Performance Grades For The 2020-21 Regular Season

  1. Anonymous says:

    Excellent recap and grade summary.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Sorry those grade are incorrect. If everyone did that well we would be in the second round.

    • Anonymous says:

      It’s for regular season. Read title.

    • hockeydruid says:

      I say for loosing in the first round and barley being able to crawl over the finish line at the end of the season all grades need to be dropped one letter. I believe that if they had not gotten off to such a hot start they would not have even played in the playoffs. the two teams that they beat so easily in the beginning of season they had a hard time with them after the mid point and did terrible against Pitt.

  3. Dick says:

    Mantha a Big Disappointment!

  4. Anonymous says:

    Carlson and Chara are rated a little higher than expected. Firecrackers know exactly where Carlson will play the puck when under pressure and are usually waiting for it. Chara played had a lot of trouble moving the puck. Just too light on the passes

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