Della Young/NoVa Caps
The Washington Capitals kicked off the 2022-23 season with a 4-3 overtime loss to the Buffalo Sabres at Capital One Arena in their first preseason contest. While the preseason may or may not mean much to some, it offers a number of veteran and prospective players the chance to show themselves to the Caps’ coaching staff. Among those who saw ice time Sunday were 2019 first-round pick Connor McMichael and goaltender Zach Fucale.
McMichael, all of 21-years old, saw time at the second-line Center position, after playing mostly on the wing in his first full NHL campaign last year. “I’ve said this before, we brought in a lot of really good players this summer, and there’s gonna be competitions for certain spots and I know that’s kind of the position I’m in with other guys, and I’m looking to do that”, McMichael said. “I mean my whole life I’ve played center, other than a handful of times, so that’s my natural position and that’s where I’m looking to perform.
The former London Knight, however, also emphasized the value of being able to slot in at different spots on the ice. “No, for sure”, said McMichael, “I mean it’s always good when guys can be versatile and play up and down the lineup different positions, so that’s something I pride myself on, a winger goes down I can fill that role, a center goes down I can also step in, so I think that’s a big part of my game”.
Head Coach Peter Laviolette entrusted the Ajax, Canada native with special teams responsibilities in 15:55 of ice time; he played 2:20 on the power play, while seeing 1:53 on the penalty kill. “No, that was awesome”, McMichael said, expressing his appreciation for the responsibility handed to him, “Last year I didn’t get many opportunities, so just to get to show what I can do on the power play, that meant a lot, and obviously I was on the PK tonight too so I like both of those roles and I like how the coaches are trusting me out there so hopefully I can stick to it”, he finished.
Fucale, meanwhile, stopped 15 of 17 shots faced in 30:04 of game time, being pulled in the second period. The former Montreal Canadiens farmhand and one of the feel-good stories last season for the Caps made a number of key saves, including 14 of 15 at even-strength.
“I felt pretty good, hitting my spots”, Fucale reflected, “Couple things I can definitely work on on those goals, but overall a pretty good start to the season and training camp.”
Fucale, who is 27 and made his NHL debut last season, is entering the 2022-23 looking to be the Caps’ number three netminder, with the starter and backup positions at the NHL club filled by default. “The more the seasons roll by, the spot I’m in right now, is important”, he admitted, “Because you need a lot of depth throughout the season, so I take that as a challenge, and it’s important for me to show that I can play and that’s what I work for every day.”
Postgame media availability featuring Connor McMichael and Zach Fucale. #CapsSabres
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) September 25, 2022
By Michael Fleetwood