The Washington Capitals downed the Detroit Red Wings 4-2 Wednesday night at Capital One Arena in their 5th preseason tilt. Here’s your breakdown of how each of the Capitals prospects performed in the penultimate preseason game.
Forwards: Alex Ovechkin, Henrik Borgstrom, Dylan Strome, Lars Eller, Garnet Hathaway, Connor McMichael, Connor Brown, Anthony Mantha, Aliaksei Protas, Conor Sheary, T.J. Oshie, Marcus Johansson, Joe Snively and Evgeny Kuznetsov.
Defensemen: Nick Jensen, Dmitry Orlov, Martin Fehervary, Lucas Johansen, Erik Gustafssson, Trevor van Riemsdyk and John Carlson.
Goaltenders: Darcy Kuemper, Charlie Lindgren
OFFENSIVE LINES AND DEFENSIVE PAIRS
The Capitals forward lines and defensive pairs for the fifth preseason game.
Alex Ovechkin – Evgeny Kuznetsov – Connor Brown
Joe Snively – Dylan Strome – T.J. Oshie
Connor McMichael – Lars Eller – Conor Sheary
Aliaksei Protas – Henrik Borgstrom – Garnet Hathaway
Martin Fehervary – John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov – Nick Jensen
Lucas Johansen – Trevor van Riemsdyk
Darcy Kuemper got the start in goal for the Capitals and went the distance. Ville Husso got the start between the pipes for the Red Wings.
Anthony Mantha was a healthy scratch due to the birth of his daughter. Erik Gustafsson was the other healthy scratch.
Connor McMichael – McMichael got off to a good start, and he needed it. Playing the wing, he looked strong in his early board battles, and worked the puck well in the offensive zone. He was called for interference midway through the first frame, but there were no damages done to the scoreboard. McMichael spent time on the second power play unit, but he is still not drawing net front (bumper spot) responsibility, which is where he thrives. He would finally dent the twine, (working the front of the goal) late in the first frame. McMichael had a goal and an assist and was a +2 on 3 shots in just 11:16 of ice time.
Because he is versatile, and is solid on the wing, I think he’s likely to make the opening night roster. However, McMichael is waivers-exempt, so it’s not impossible he begins the season in Hershey, just so the Capitals don’t have to run the risk of the waiver-wire with another player.
Aliaksei Protas – If you were wondering if the Capitals are looking long and hard at adding Protas to the opening night roster, consider he has played in all six preseason games. He’s the only Capitals player to do so. As far as the 5th preseason game, it was possibly his least impressive, but still a solid showing for him. He was on a line with Borgstrom and Hathaway, which didn’t seem to fit as well as some of the other line combinations he’s been a part of this preseason. He was called for an untimely penalty in the third period, but there was no damages done. Protas recorded 3 shots in 14:32 of ice time.
Protas should be on the opening night roster. However, because waivers-exempt players are few and far between, and Protas is one of those few that are waivers-exempt, he could help the Capitals out if they want to get a longer look at another player, or are concerned about waiving another player, by sending Protas to Hershey to start the season. Regardless, he will get plenty of NHL games this season.
Joe Snively – Snively looked solid, once again. He worked well with Oshie and Strome, as the line worked the offensive zone fairly well. Snively worked well on the first penalty kill unit as well, which could be a deciding factor for him later down the line. Snively had no shots in 15:43 of ice time.
Snively is not waivers-exempt, and it’s highly unlikely he would clear waivers. Whatever the Capitals decide, this could be the final decision with regards to his Capitals career. We’ve mentioned before how his game has been on another level since the start of last season, and it appears he’s picking up right where he left off before his season-ending hand/wrist injury last season. I think they find room for him. He’s earned it.
Henrik Borgstrom – a relatively quiet game for Borgstrom and the 4th line. Nothing really negative to report. He has always been slated for Hershey and it looks like that will be the case coming in the next few days. Borgstrom recorded one shot in 11:12 of ice time.
*Note: Of course, a preseason injury could change all of the dynamics regarding position battles, who gets cut, sent down or waived.
Lucas Johansen – Johansen got off to a decent start in the first frame, was aggressive in the offensive zone, and seemed fairly solid with his defensive assignments. However, he was slow to retreat on the backcheck for the Wings second goal. He was a -1 one with one shot in 16:31 of ice time.
Knowing Laviolette and the importance of comfort and familiarity to him, Matt Irwin will get a spot on the roster. That leaves Johansen and Erik Gustafsson battling for the final spot (assuming Capitals go with 14 forwards and seven defensemen on the final roster). Gustafsson has had the better camp. If the Capitals go with 13 forwards and eight defensemen, Johansen could be in the discussions for the opening night roster.
I gotta think the team goes 14-7, just because there are a number forwards they do not want to place on waivers (Snively, Leason, Jonason-Fjallby, etc.). One way to think about it, Caps could go 13-8 and keep Johansen or go 14-7 and keep Joe Snively. I think Snively wins that choice going away. I also think Johansen has a much better shot of clearing waivers.
SUMMARY AND STANDOUTS
Prospect standouts included: Connor McMichael
The Capitals will wrap their preseason on Saturday when they host Columbus Blue Jackets at Capital One Arena. They will need to reduce their roster to 23 by 5:00 PM the day before the season begins.
By Jon Sorensen