The Washington Capitals downed the Columbus Blue Jackets, 4-3 (OT) Saturday night at Capital One Arena in their 6th and final preseason game. Here are the notes for each of the Capitals prospects and how they performed in the final preseason game.
Forwards: Alex Ovechkin, Henrik Borgstrom, Dylan Strome, Lars Eller, Garnet Hathaway, Connor McMichael, Nic Dowd, Connor Brown, Anthony Mantha, Aliaksei Protas, Conor Sheary, Marcus Johansson, Joe Snively and Evgeny Kuznetsov.
Defensemen: Nick Jensen, Martin Fehervary, Lucas Johansen, Erik Gustafssson, Matt Irwin, 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 sixth and final preseason game.
Alex Ovechkin – Evgeny Kuznetsov – Connor Brown
Aliaksei Protas – Dylan Strome – Anthony Mantha
Marcus Johansson, Connor McMichael – Conor Sheary
Joe Snively – Nic Dowd – Garnet Hathaway
Martin Fehervary – John Carlson
Lucas Johansen – Nick Jensen
Erik Gustafsson – Trevor van Riemsdyk
Darcy Kuemper got the start in goal for the Capitals and went the distance. Elvis Merzlikins got the start between the pipes for the Blue Jackets.
Capitals scratches: T.J. Oshie (upper body), Dmitry Orlov (lower body), Matt Irwin and Lars Eller (illness).
Connor McMichael – Another game, another line combination for McMichael, this time centering the third line with Marcus Johansson and Conor Sheary. McMichael was the last line of defense on the Jackets first goal, but he really had little chance stopping Patrik Laine. He did make a careless pass that led to a turnover in the offensive zone later in the first frame. In the end, the game was in no way a deal sealer for McMichael, either way. He played just 8:51 of ice time, had one shot and was a -1.
McMichael is very much on the fence as far as making the opening night roster, but again, he is waivers-exempt, so whatever decision is made by Laviolette and company on Sunday, McMichael will see plenty of NHL action this season. His finish to the preseason flatlined somewhat.
Aliaksei Protas – Protas made it a perfect 6 for 6 in starts for the preseason. Tonight’s line was imposing, with Protas, 6’-6” and Mantha, 6’-5”, bookending Dylan Strome, 6’-3”. Protas once again was up to the task, and worked well with the line. Protas’ backchecking was once again very noticeable in tonight’s tilt, as he broke up multiple passes with his long reach. Protas had a nice chance on a rebound in the middle frame, but Merzlikins made an excellent stop. Protas played 12:14, had three shots and was a +1.
Protas should make the final 23-man roster on Monday. His waivers-exempt status will also be a benefit during the season, particularly when Tom Wilson returns to the lineup.
Joe Snively – Snively saw time on the second power play and first penalty kill, and did ok. He had one fumbled puck that led to a turnover on the Capitals first man advantage. Snively on the 4th line has been a mixed bag, and in the end, it may not be the best spot for him, as it’s mostly a defensive role on the team. The line worked well together in this game, but it’s not maximizing Snively’s skills. Snively played 9:58, including time on both the power play and the penalty kill. He had no shots.
Snively had a rather quiet finish to his training camp, and didn’t really make any major statements in his last two preseason games. However, it’s likely his fate was determined before the final two preseason games. It’s gonna be close. If the Capitals go with 14 forwards and seven defensemen, I think he makes it and Lucas Johansen is waived.
Lucas Johansen – Johansen allowed an early back-door chance for the Jackets, but Kuemper shut the door. He also had a rather careless play in front of the Capitals goal early in the second period, but was bailed out by backchecking forwards. Johansen had 14:17 of time on ice and played a decent game. Nothing that really stood out either way.
Johansen has been given every chance this preseason. Whether he made enough of an impression to earn a depth position remains to be seen. It’s been fairly clear that Gustafsson has earned the 6th defenseman spot. It will likely get down to the decision regarding 14-7 or 13-8. If the Capitals go with 13 forwards and eight defensemen, I think Snively could be the odd man out, and Johansen makes the opening night roster.
SUMMARY AND STANDOUTS
Prospect standouts included: Aliaksei Protas
Expected Goals For Percentage (xGF%) 5v5 – Game 6
Preseason Cumulative xGF% 5v5 – 6 Games
Laviolette said on Saturday that the coaches will get together on Sunday morning to finalize the Capitals 23-man roster, so we could hear about final cuts as soon as some time Sunday afternoon. Final rosters need to be set by 5:00 PM on Monday.
“They’ll be decisions that we have to get together with on Sunday morning,” said Laviolette. “…the training camp factors into it, how they did in the games, what kind of camp they had overall—all of it’s going to factor in—what we need, our needs up here, roles, needs, and so all of that factors into the decision-making.”
We’ve previously discussed the wide array of options facing the Capitals decision-makers (here.) With Darcy Kuemper and Charlie Lindgren assured two of the 23 spots, the Capitals could go with 14 forwards and seven defensemen or 13 forwards and eight defensemen for their final roster openings.
By Jon Sorensen
I did not believe Lavi was that impressed with McM last year and same this preseason. Especially since he is exempt, off he goes to Hershey. Protas will make the team and be their #1 sub during the year. All lines are not created equal and each line has a role. That role requires players with certain size and skills. Maybe Lavi is trying to see how the square prospects would fit in a round hole but it just doesn’t seem to me that he is maximizing their potential. That was Snively’s case. I think Lavi prefers him to McM but that isn’t saying much. Since he’s not exempt, I think he will stay. Where is Axel? Bears have still not published their roster and I have lost track of him.
What are your thoughts on LuJo?
Casper the Friendly Ghost? Seriously, I draw a blank when I think about him. Can’t think of anything good or anything bad. Not exempt so we could lose him. But I think forwards are more fragile on this team and Lavi will go with 14 forwards. So I guess that would make LuJo odd man out in any case.
I’m in a similar neighborhood with him. It will be interesting to see what happens tomorrow.
I am pleased with LuJo but he needs to continue to grow. That means getting a bunch of minutes in Hershey. Needs to work on his positioning, especially in the offensive zone. Definitely made a number of mistakes in preseason games and that is on film for everyone to see, so i think he is likely to pass waivers.
I’d play CMac at 3C. He’s going to have some growing pains. Hershey won’t help him and it might hurt his development. Lavi doesn’t trust him for some reason. I think Lavi is wrong on this one.
Protas looks good. He’s ready.
Snively hasn’t added much in pre-season, unfortunately. I’d put him on waivers if necessary.
Lujo might be able to play in the NHL but I haven’t seen anything in his game that couldn’t be found in a waiver pickup.
I just don’t want Lavi keeping McM around sitting on the bench or, worse yet, in the press box. I think that and playing wing last year hindered his development and doing it again this year would be worse than going to the Bears and getting ice time with them.
Good points, Nova. I’ve seen a lot of blue chip prospects get messed up in development. CMac has to be given a regular NHL shift.
I think our cuts might go like this:
CMM – let him go play some minutes – He will have many call-up opportunities
AJF – I think they have been purposely hiding him so get gets through to AHL
Borgstrom – looks good but definitely going to Hershey. Wing or center in Hershey?
Johansson – Like LuJo and he continues to progress as late bloomer, but he needs to play more minutes. I think he is likely to pass through.
Keeping 14 forwards and 7 defense. Snively, Protas, Mojo, and Leason stay in WSH. So does Erwin.
I really don’t see Leason clearing waivers. And if keeping 14 forwards good to have a righty in the extras. Protas and Mojo can play center if needed.
Interesting take on AJF. I can see that being the case – I’m with you on 14-7 as well.
Thanks again Jon for another great writeup.
McM played a better wing then he did center imo. This game is an example of that; his line just didn’t play that well. To play center, you need to play well defensively, and handle FO’s; McM just isn’t ready yet. Perhaps he makes the team as a wing, but definitely not as a center. He’s not in the top 4 centers on this team; and Lavi wants to win now. Not sometime next year. An example in contrast to McM is Strome; despite Strome playing with many players, many of them have played better by being on his line. That is what should be happening with McM, but it’s not.
So a more apt comparison to me would be Snively and McM. Who’s better at the wing? Are the Caps willing to put Snively through waivers IF they consider McM the better wing fit? McM did score and have an assist as a winger. That’s something.
Likely McM goes down and works on his game. We all want him to succeed; sometime you have to grind it out to get there.
CMac has had a great attitude since we drafted him from what I can tell. But I think sending him to Hershey sends the wrong message and risks messing up his confidence. He’s done everything expected of him and he’s ready for a regular role in the NHL. Lavi refuses to give CMac a regular shift. He always has irregular linemates. I get why Lavi didn’t care for Vrana’s game. Same goes for Spronger. I liked both those guys but understood the trades. Vrana, especially, got every chance.
Maybe Lavi just wants CMac to get stronger. That’s the only sense I can make of it but Lavi clearly restricted CMac’s ice time/benched him against CBJ. Going to lift weights in Hershey doesn’t seem like a good development plan for McMichael. He can play.
I think the last Caps first round prospect to stick is Tom Wilson. Burakovsky is gone. Vrana is gone. Sammy is gone. LuJo? I expect Alexeev to make it but his development hasn’t been all that smooth. Lapierre didn’t get much done in pre-season. And now if McMichael can’t get a regular shift maybe something is wrong in Capsland.
To be fair, Protas, Fehervary and Iorio look solid.
CMC and AP play big minutes in Hershey to start.. gain confidence!
Not sure what to do with Eller…
Hate to say it but maybe the best place for CMC is Hershey to get him away from this disaster of a coach. Play Eller and Mojo big time minutes. That’s a recipe for success.