The Washington Capitals continued their 2022 preseason schedule Saturday night with a 2-1 loss to the Blue Jackets in Columbus. The Capitals started seven veteran forwards and three veteran defensemen, as the team continues to move closer to their actual opening night lineup.
Capitals head coach Peter Laviolette indicated that the final two preseason games will be more or less dress rehearsals for opening night. If that’s the case, tonight’s tilt was most likely the final game for prospects to present their case. Here’s a breakdown of how each of the prospects fared in the fourth preseason game.
LINES AND PAIRS
Charlie Lindgren started in goal for the Capitals. Here are the lines and pairs for the 4th preseason game:
Marcus Johansson – Connor McMichael – Garrett Pilon
Anthony Mantha – Aliaksei Protas – Garnet Hathaway
Connor Sheary – Hendrix Lapierre – Connor Brown
Beck Malenstyn – Nic Dowd – Brett Leason
Dmitry Orlov – Vincent Iorio
Erik Gustafsson – Trevor van Riemsdyk
Gabriel Carlsson – Matt Irwin
Henrik Bergstrom and and Dylan McIlrath were the healthy scratches. Elvis Merzlikins got the start between the pipes for the Jackets.
Connor McMichael – McMichael had a very good first shift, but other than that a relatively quiet first period. He didn’t see an open Pilon on a rush early in the second period and was on the ice for the Jackets second goal. Otherwise a relatively quiet game for McMichael. He had 2 shots and was a -1 in 14:30 of time on ice. The top line combination appeared to be a good one on paper, but never really seemed to generate any solid push, as McMichael ended up with the lowest xGF% of all Capitals forwards. Because McMichael is waivers-exempt, he is moving towards the odd-man out in the battle for the highly-coveted forwards roster battle. Hopefully he will see action in the final two preseason games, as he still needs that standout game.
Hendrix Lapierre – Recorded a shot in the first frame but other than that he was relatively quiet in the opening period. Early in the second period he started a nice two-pass scoring chance that was denied by Merzlikins. He also made a nice move to generate a scoring chance around the goal late in the second frame. He was also solid on the Caps second power play unit and generated chances on the man advantage. His game picked up in the third period. He generated two bombs from just inside the blue line early in the third period but missed the net on the first and the second was saved by the Jackets’ netminder. He also had a nice chance late in the third period. He is still getting pushed off pucks on occasion, but that will improve with time, particularly with a year of puck-battling in the AHL. He remains behind Aliaksei Protas on the center depth chart. He had one shot on goal in 13:33 of ice time.
Garrett Pilon – Pilon was aggressive on both ends from the start, and generated two chances early in the first period. He continued to battle for the puck at both ends in the middle frame and generated good puck movement and a few chances on the power play. Again, the line combination didn’t seem to work very well. Pilon had two shots on goal in 17:31 of ice time.
Beck Malenstyn – Malenstyn continued demonstrating his physical checking game, but more notably, he was solid on the penalty kills again tonight. He was excellent at pressuring the puck and caused more than one turnover. To no surprise, Malenstyn led all Caps in hits with 4. He had no shots on goal in 12:48 of ice time.
Bret Leason – Another relatively quiet showing for Leason, at the start of this one. His game picked up as the game progressed, ultimately recording 4 shots on goal (tied for team high) in just 12:15 of ice time. Otherwise nothing much to report one way or the other for Leason. The 4th line of Malenstyn, Dowd and Leason was an interesting one by Laviolette, but I’m not sure it worked, although they all had xGF% well above 65%.
Aliaksei Protas – Protas was solid from the start, and scored just seven minutes into the contest on a Capitals 6-on-5 delayed penalty, slamming home a rebound. He also had a solid short-handed opportunity late in the first frame. He was solid on the backcheck and forecheck at the center position, for the entire game. He had three shots in 15:03 of total time on ice. Protas is NHL-ready, it’s just a question of how the Capitals would fit him on the roster, even as a 14th forward. His best attribute may be that he is waivers-exempt, which could mean another yo-yo season for The Viper. He will see NHL games.
Vincent Iorio – No initial nerves for Iorio in this one. He got off to a good start, was solid in the d-zone, throughout. He continues to be aggressive in the offensive zone, but did turn the puck over on one early possession in the Blue Jackets zone. He was credited by the NHL site for a -1 on the Jackets first goal but he wasn’t on the ice. Made two nice stops on Jackets rushes early in the middle frame, but was beat by his man around the goal for a scoring chance that was denied by Lindgren. He continues to get better each game. He will most likely be heading to Hershey, but it would be nice to see him play in one of the dress rehearsal games next week.
Gabriel Carlsson – Carlsson was beat around the goal for the Blue Jackets first goal. Carlsson seemed to play fairly well with Irwin, although he was out of position on occasion. That may still a result of a new system for him. He does still show occasional offensive flash, and had the team’s best expected goals for percentage.
SUMMARY AND STANDOUTS
Prospect standouts included: Aliaksei Protas, Vincent Iorio, Garett Pilon.
The Capitals are now done with the road portion of their preseason schedule. They will wrap the preseason next week hosting the Red Wings on Wednesday and the Blue Jackets on Saturday.
By Jon Sorensen
I think Snively and Protas have already made the roster. McMichael is waivers-exempt and will spend time in Hershey and DC
Leason and Pilot will need to clear waivers and I don’t think they will. Gonna be interesting.
Assume we will have another round of cuts tomorrow since Hershey will announce their training camp roster tomorrow and start camp on Monday.
Prospect Players I would like to see get games in the final two games:
F: Protas, CMM, Snively, Beck, AJF
D: Gus, Nardella, Johansson
Camp is going to wind up the same way it started. Battles for 4LW and 3LD.
“…He didn’t see an open Pilon on a rush early in the second period…”
It seems like McM isn’t used to relying on his wings. A scoring center, does he even see them? Or is he so used to being the one who scores, that he ignores them? I may be exaggerating, but he doesn’t get as many assists as you would think. He doesn’t make as many great primary assists as I expect. Is it a vision problem, or a mental problem? He’s got the speed to open things up for his linemates. Deke, pass, score. Should be a standard move for him. He does need a wing with speed.
Wonder if it has anything to do with the players on the wings and how long he has played with them and the trust he has in them. Having not played much with either player and probably thinking that he has to score to make the team out of training camp can explain his actions. A center is only as good as his wings and the chemistry that they have together.
I think linemates and familiarity certainly has something to do with it. McMichael had a much better game in the preseason opener against Buffalo (with Mantha and Suzdalev on the wings)
The Caps stayed in the game with a fairly weak lineup. We’ve been spoiled with so much talent since Ovie got here.
I expect McMichael to be with the Caps all year. He graduated from Hershey. It’s time for him to step up.
I expect Protas to stick in DC, as well. He just looks like a solid middle 6 forward who does everything well.
I’ve always liked Pilon. He belongs in the NHL but where does he play in Washington? We have too many bottom 6 options.
Malenstyn has looked good.
If Leason has to go through waivers then I guess that’s just how it is. I’m not sure what he brings. He’s tall and is around the play a lot of times but he’s not getting much done at this point. Hopefully he clears waivers but I don’t see a consistent NHLer 3rd liner in him yet.
Lapierre is a fantastic skater and has terrific vision on the ice. He just hasn’t figured out the pro game yet. He probably needs to get stronger. He makes plays at high speed but for some reason they don’t go in. Hopefully he can avoid injury in Hershey and develop his potential there.
My current lines:
Ovie Kuzy Brown
Oshie Strome Mantha
Snively CMac Eller
Protas Dowd Hathaway
Extras: Sheary, Gustafsson
I’d move mountains to acquire a top 4 bruiser right Dman.
Lance, I’m with ya. Players are spot on. Your lines are very close to what I’d like to see. Sheary had 19 goals last season, tough to have him sit but a good problem to have.
I too would “move mountains” for a seasons/sold d-man. 🙏
Jon, I’m with you on Sheary. He’s an important player. I expect he’ll play 60 games or so. Guys will get dinged up here and there.
I love your lines and from your lips to the HC and GM’s ears!! As they an carry 23 players I”m thinking it comes down to Malenstyn or Irwin but would like to see Leason.
With the numbers crunch i don’t see how we can keep more than one of our waiver exempt guys (Protas, CMM, Lappy). But one thing for sure… future at Center looks good!
Still a lot to sort out over the next week and unsure if 2 extra forwards or Dee. Looking at both talent and business side, I see forward lines something like this but it can change:
OV-Kuzy-Protas (he played well here last year)
Snively-Eller-Oshie (I think switching snively and Mantha a real possibility as well)
7 dee (Gus/Nardella as 6-7)
The cuts are going to be really difficult this year. I kept Leason because with 30 NHL games, and big RW he is more likely to get claimed than Beck but he is at risk. No place in the depth for AJF. I suspect he’ll get claimed and do well which will be good for him because i don’t see an NHL path through Washington. Johnanson and Carlson to Hershey to grow and I don’t think they’ll get claimed but at risk. Lappy down immediately to do Bears camp. CMM maybe to get one more game but likely down as well.
Interesting stuff. The “unknowns” at forward are Snively, CMac, Protas, Leason, AJF and Pilon.
Snively looked like Martin St. Louis at times last year. I would definitely give him a chance to play. Protas has performed at every level and just looks ready. He’s not expected to score a ton but maybe 15g, 15a, good defense and being difficult to handle. CMac has to score to be effective. 20g, 20a at least this year. And he has to be solid defensively. Leason is really unknown. He showed flashes of scoring in junior and a little in Hershey. But hasn’t shown that in the NHL. AJF competes and skates. He needs to bring a little offense. 10 to 15 goals shouldn’t be too much to ask. But 3g won’t cut it. Pilon totally deserves a chance. I think he’ll be an NHLer at some point.
Maybe there is a trade to be made?
Good thoughts Lance. Agree on Snively. He has a spot. Don’t even think it is a question. Protas… he has nothing more to prove in the AHL so I just think it is his time even if it means eating popcorn occasionally… get him around the guys like CMM last year.
Trade… just not sure AJF has shown enough for other to give something up for him. If CMM had also shown out in training camp, I think the Caps might be more aggressive trying to move Eller, but now I think that will need to wait a couple of months.
Does Protas stay at wing or does he replace Eller at some point this year or next at 3rd line center?
Late this year or next year when and if Nick’s returns (even with Eller traded) where do you fit CMM? Kuzy, Backy, Protas and Dowd are a strong down the middle lineup.
Does my 2nd line intrigue you or am I vaping too much of the State approved stuff?
I love that second line. I was kinda saying the same. Swap Snively and Mantha. I like Snively on a play moving line. Then third line becomes a responsible veteran line with Mantha-Eller-Oshie.