Capitals 2021-22 Season Player Grades Through NHL All-Star Break

With the 2022 NHL All-Star Game in the books, the 2021-22 regular season is about to enter its peak level when games resume on Monday. With 47 games of the Washington Capitals’ season in the books, NoVa Caps grades each player’s (who has appeared in at least three games) season so far.

Centers

Nicklas Backstrom ($9.2 million cap hit) — Since returning from a hip injury that kept him out for the first 28 games of the season, the 34-year-old has been solid with three goals and 13 points in 14 games. He has missed two additional games due to COVID-19 and three because of the flu. Grade: A-

Evgeny Kuznetsov ($7.8 million cap hit) — The 29-year-old has bounced back from a rough 2020-21 campaign on and off the ice and is back to averaging more than a point-per-game with 31 assists (tied for 15th in NHL) and 45 points (tied for 20th) in 44. Grade: A

Lars Eller ($3.5 million cap hit) — The 32-year-old has had a season full of ebbs and flows with eight goals (equaling his total from last season in four fewer games) and 21 points (two behind 2020-21’s total) in 40 games. Eller ranks third among Capitals forwards with an average of 1:45 shorthanded ice time per game. Grade: B-

Hendrix Lapierre ($894,167 cap hit) — The 20-year-old scored in his NHL debut, a 5-1 win over the New York Rangers on October 13, but rotated in and out with Connor McMichael before getting sent back to the QMJHL. Grade: C+

Connor McMichael ($863,333 cap hit) — The 21-year-old has six goals and 14 points in 42 games but could have more as he has failed to convert on some great opportunities in limited ice time (10:32 per game, 26th among 32 skaters to suit up for the Capitals this season). Grade: B+

Aliaksei Protas ($789,167 cap hit) — The 21-year-old has earned a full-time role in the NHL, earning three goals and nine points in 33 games. Grade: B+

Nic Dowd ($750,ooo cap hit) — After coming in and out of the lineup earlier in the season due to COVID-19 and injuries, the 31-year-old has tallied six goals and 11 points in 34 games in addition to approving on draws (52.4%, second on team behind Michael Sgarbossa: 56.9%). Grade: B+

Michael Sgarbossa ($750,ooo cap hit) — The 29-year-old stepped in seamlessly when injuries plagued the team has he earned two goals and four points in 10 games, where he was responsible defensively with a team-leading 62.56% expected goals-for percentage. Grade: A-

Left-Wing

Alex Ovechkin ($9.5 million cap hit) — The 36-year-old has had arguably the best season of his 17-year NHL career with 29 goals (tied for third in NHL) and 58 points (fifth) in 46 games with three top-six forwards missing huge chunks of the season. Ovechkin will likely be a Hart Trophy candidate as MVP of the league. Grade: A+

Carl Hagelin ($2.75 million cap hit) — The 33-year-old has taken a step back this season but has also had some horrible puck luck with two goals and eight points in 45 games. Hagelin has also seen his penalty kill usage go down from 2:48 last season (which led Capitals forwards) to 1:48 (eight seconds behind Dowd for the lead among Washington forwards). Grade: C-

Conor Sheary ($1.5 million cap hit) — After a slow start, the 29-year-old has turned it on with 11 goals and 21 points in 37 games. Grade: A-

Beck Malenstyn ($750,000 cap hit) — The 24-year-old scored his first career NHL goal in a 5-4 loss to the Florida Panthers on November 30 and has played well, earning a 53.99% Corsi-for percentage and a 58.02% expected goals-for percentage at five-on-five in 12 games. He averaged 44 seconds on the penalty kill during his NHL time this season. Grade: A-

Axel Jonsson-Fjallby ($750,000 cap hit) — The 23-year-old tallied an assist in nine NHL games and has averaged 16 seconds per game on the Capitals’ penalty kill. Jonsson-Fjallby Has earned a 50.65% Corsi-for percentage and a 54.43% expected goals-for percentage. Grade: B+

Joe Snively ($750,000 cap hit) — The 26-year-old has earned two assists in his first four career NHL games. Grade: B

Right-Wing

T.J. Oshie ($5.75 million cap hit) — The 34-year-old has been in and out of the lineup due to injuries and COVID-19 but has five goals and 13 points in 18 games. Grade: B

Anthony Mantha ($5.7 million cap hit) — The 27-year-old has not played since November 4 as he underwent shoulder surgery the following day. Mantha earned two goals and six points in 10 games, not bad but not the type of production the Capitals gave up Jakub Vrana and a first-round pick for last season. Luckily, Mantha will have a chance to prove himself once he returns. Grade: C

Tom Wilson ($5.167 million cap hit) — The 27-year-old has had a season full of cold and hot streaks and currently has 13 goals and 31 points in 43 games. Wilson averages 1:31 of shorthanded ice-time per game, fourth among Capitals forwards. He made his first All-Star game appearance as a late substitute for Ovechkin.  Grade: B+

Garnet Hathaway ($1.5 million cap hit) — The 30-year-old has seen an uptick in his offensive production with seven goals and 14 points in 42 games. Hathaway has averaged 1:01 per game on the penalty kill (fifth) and has been solid defensively with a 52.16% Corsi-for percentage and a 50.63% expected goals-for percentage at five-on-five. Grade: A

Daniel Sprong ($725,000 cap hit) — The 24-year-old has tallied eight goals and 13 points in 38 games but has struggled at times, especially on the defensive side. Head coach Peter Laviolette regularly scratches Sprong because of his poor two-way game. Grade: B-

Brett Leason ($842,500 cap hit) — The 21-year-old’s NHL career got off to a nice start with three points (including two goals) in his first four games but he has equaled that output with one fewer goal and has been in-and-out of the lineup in 29 games since. Grade: C

Defense

John Carlson ($8 million cap hit) — After a slow start, the 32-year-old has improved as he has nine goals, 34 points, a +10 rating, a 51.75% five-on-five Corsi-for percentage, and a 52.87% five-on-five expected goals-for percentage in 43 games where he has averaged a team-leading 23:43 per game (including 3:56 on the power play and 1:45 on the penalty kill – fourth among Capitals defenseman). Grade: B

Dmitry Orlov ($5.1 million cap hit) — While averaging 21:01 per game (including 1:06 on the power-play – third, 49 seconds on the penalty kill – sixth), the 30-year-old ranks second on the team with a +17 rating. He has equaled his point total from last season (22) and is one behind his goal mark (eight) in 43 games. Orlov has also earned a 52.74% Corsi-for percentage and a 51.29% expected goals-for percentage at five-on-five this season. Grade: A

Justin Schultz ($4 million cap hit) — The 31-year-old has shown improvement in his defensive game (52.66% Corsi-for percentage, 53.78% expected goals-for percentage at five-on-five) but at the expense of his offense as Schultz has two goals, 11 points, and an even rating in 42 games. Schultz has averaged 17:29 per game, including 1:20 on the power play. Grade: C-

Nick Jensen ($2.5 million cap hit) — The 32-year-old has built on a breakout season last year with three goals, 11 points, a team-leading +20 rating, a 50.51% five-on-five Corsi-for percentage, and a 49.91% expected goals-for percentage in 41 games this season. Though, his play has dropped off since returning from COVID-19. He has averaged 19:16 per game (fourth among Capitals defensemen), including 2:18 on the penalty kill (second). Grade: A-

Michal Kempny ($2.5 million cap hit) — While averaging 19:15 per game (fifth), including 2:05 on the penalty kill (third), the 31-year-old has one assist, a -1 rating, a 47.44% five-on-five Corsi-for percentage, and a 46.64% five-on-five expected goals-for percentage in seven NHL games this season. Grade: B-

Trevor Van Riemsdyk ($950,000 cap hit) — The 30-year-old has collected a goal, 12 points, a +2 rating, a 50.34% five-on-five Corsi-for percentage, and a 50.92% expected goals-for percentage in 42 games. He has averaged 18:09 per game, including a team-leading 2:30 shorthanded among Capitals defensemen. Grade: B+

Dennis Cholowski ($950,000 cap hit) — Since the team claimed the 23-year-old off of waivers from the Seattle Kraken on October 13, Cholowski has earned an assist, a -4 rating, a team-worst 40.83% five-on-five Corsi-for percentage, and a team-low 41.26% five-on-five expected goals-for percentage in seven games. Cholowski, who has averaged 13:35 per game (including 41 seconds on the power play) has not gotten much opportunity but has not taken advantage of it either. Grade: D

Martin Fehervary ($791,667 cap hit) — In his rookie season, the 21-year-old has thrived with three goals, seven points, a +16 rating (third on Capitals), a 51.02% five-on-five Corsi-for percentage, and a 50.84% five-on-five expected goals-for percentage while averaging 19:28 per game (third among team defensemen), including 1:44 on the penalty kill (fifth). Fehervary could very well get Calder Trophy votes for the NHL’s rookie of the year. Grade: A-

Matt Irwin ($750,000 cap hit) — In just 13 games, the 34-year-old has put up two assists, a -1 rating, a team-leading 55.81% Corsi-for percentage (among players who have played more than a game), and a 59.96% expected goals-for percentage (best among Capitals defensemen who have played at least two games). Irwin has averaged 13:18 per game (ninth), 45 of which has come with a man down (seventh). Grade: B+

Goaltenders

Ilya Samsonov ($2 million cap hit) — Since an 11-1-1 start to the season where he ranked 25th in save percentage (.916), was tied for 17th in goals-against average (2.42), and was tied for second in shutouts (three), the 24-year-old is 3-4-2 with an .882 save percentage and a 3.58 goals-against average and yielded the No. 1 job. Overall, he has a .902 save percentage and a 2.88 goals-against average this season. Samsonov also has a .912 save percentage, a 2.58 goals-against average, a .806 high-danger save percentage, and a -7.46 goals-saved above average at five-on-five in addition to a .848 save percentage on the penalty kill. Grade: C

Zach Fucale ($750,000 cap hit) — Just when it appeared that the 26-year-old could grab the No. 1 job after he posted a .980 save percentage and a 0.42 goals-against average in his first three NHL games, Fucale was pulled just 27:53 into a 7-3 loss to the Boston Bruins on January 10 after allowing four goals on just 16 shots and has not played since. He has a .924 save percentage (including .962 at five-on-five and .778 on the penalty kill), a 1.75 goals-against average (0.94 at five-on-five), and a shutout in four games with the Capitals this season. Fucale has earned a 1.92 goals-saved above average at five-on-five this season. Grade: B

Vitek Vanecek ($716,667 cap hit) — Since grabbing the No. 1 job back once returning from COVID-19 protocol, the 26-year-old has gone 3-2-0 with a .926 save percentage, a 2.16 goals-against average, and a shutout. Vanecek started the season 2-0-1 with a .946 save percentage and a 1.30 goals-against average and is currently tied for 22nd in the NHL with a .915 save percentage and ranks 14th with a 2.39 goals-against average. He currently has a .935 save percentage, a 1.75 goals-against average, and a 4.06 goals-saved above average at five-on-five this season on top of a team-best .867 shorthanded save percentage. 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
This entry was posted in News and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Capitals 2021-22 Season Player Grades Through NHL All-Star Break

  1. Anonymous says:

    I much appreciate these. A suggestion, please add coaches and management in future assessments.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.