Revisiting The Capitals Blueline Pipeline: An Update On The Capitals Organizational Depth On Defense

It’s beneficial to regularly conduct a “big picture” review of an organization’s depth by position in order to gain a better understanding of the positional strengths and weaknesses within the organization. We last detailed the Washington Capitals blueline pipeline last summer (here), and provided a progress report back in March (here). Since then, the Capitals have made further additions and subtractions.

The Capitals began to reshape the future of their blueline with the trading of Dmitry Orlov and acquisition of Rasmus Sandin at the 2023 trade deadline, signaling the commencement of the Capitals youth movement. The Capitals then inked Nick Jensen and Trevor van Riemsdyk to three-year deals in early March, further solidifying the future of the Capitals blueline.

The following is a cursory review at the current status of Capitals organizational depth chart at the defensive position, and where things stand at the run-up to the 2023-24 season. It is not intended to indicate projected pairings but to simply parse players by defensive sides.


Exit Dmitry Orlov and Erik Gustafsson. Enter Rasmus Sandin. As noted, in addition to those changes, the Capitals locked up Nick Jensen and Trevor van Riemsdyk to three year deals.

As we noted at the end of the 2022-23 season, the Capitals were in desperate need of veteran experience on the left side, as each of the Capitals left-side defensemen were 23-years-old and extremely light on NHL experience. As expected, Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan addressed the issue by acquiring Joel Edmundson. It’s ery likely the players listed above will be the Capitals seven defensemen on opening night.


Here is the current organizational depth chart for Capitals at the AHL level (with NHL contracts):

The farm pool had thinned in recent years, mostly due to the elevation of Martin Fehervary and Alex Alexeyev, and the departure of Tobias Geisser, but is rebounding nicely with the additions of Hardy Haman Aktell and Chase Priskie and the re-signing of Dylan McIlrath this off-season. The re-signing of McIlrath to an NHL contract gives the Capitals an emergency callup on both sides.


The Capitals depth chart at the junior level:

Dru Krebs and Martin Hugo Has exit the Capitals system this off-season while the Capitals added Cam Allen, a right defenseman, in the 2023 draft. The changes now flip the balance of the junior defensmen. Just two years ago the Capitals were extremely shallow on the right side.

In recent drafts the Capitals had shifted focus, whether intentionally or unintentionally, to prospects playing or projected to play at the college hockey level. That marked a shift in recent drafts, and could also be due to Danny Brooks excellent scouting of the college ranks.

However, the Capitals shifted that philosophy in the 2023 draft by selecting a  Canadian junior in Cam Allen. Allen’s excellent rookie season and sub-par sophomore campaign are well documented, but the selection falls in line with recent Capitals draft picks that look to take a shot on players that had issues approaching their drafts, but could potentially develop into NHL players (See Hendrix Lapierre and Ivan Miroshnichenko, who both fell in the run-up to their drafts due to health issues).


The Capitals are still relatively thin in Hershey with regards to players that have the real potential to make the Capitals roster at some point on a full-time basis. Vincent Iorio is currently the only real prospect with a solid shot at a long term role in Washington. Iorio has already risen to the top of the overall prospects lists for defensemen. One more season in the AHL could be enough development time for Iorio, but two seasons would be preferred. He will certainly get more games with the Capitals this season.

It should be noted that Hardy Haman Aktell is a wild card. I haven’t seen enough of his play to make any kind of qualitative assessment of his potential ceiling. We do know he was highly touted and labeled by some as the best European free agent and was pursued by a number of teams. A tip of the hat to Danny Brooks (again). Player agents told me Brooks made monthly trips to Sweden last season.

The Capitals always state before each and every draft that their plan is to select the best player available, regardless of position. That may be true most of the time, but we’ve seen where organizational depth issues were addressed in a single draft, so don’t be surprised if the Capitals focus on drafting defensemen in the 2024 draft.

By Jon Sorensen

About Jon Sorensen

Jon has been a Caps fan since day one, attending his first game at the Capital Centre in 1974. His interest in the Caps has grown over the decades and included time as a season ticket holder. He has been a journalist covering the team for 10+ years, primarily focusing on analysis, analytics and prospect development.
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11 Responses to Revisiting The Capitals Blueline Pipeline: An Update On The Capitals Organizational Depth On Defense

  1. Mark Eiben says:

    I can see the plan for the right side here but whether it works or not, only time will tell. I think they expect/hope for Iorio, Chesley, and Allen to be the 3 RHD to replace who’s there now in about 3 years. Next year, you are right Jon, they might go heavy on Defense early to further support the D pipeline. I just hope they have a plan at Center as it’s a bit shaky and unsure at the moment…

  2. hockeydruid says:

    I have been looking for an update on the D-men in the system and now have one! I however do not look at Dylan or Chase as prospects mainly due to age. They might be an emergency call up but I don’t see them having a future with the Big club. Wondering who is being groomed to take Carlsons’ place in 2 years when his contract is up (after the 25/26 season)? As I think that the GM may have learned his lesson on signing older players and losing younger ones and you can not afford to lose younger players in a rebuild.

    • Jon Sorensen says:

      Personally agree with your take on “prospect” ages, but because there is no formal definition I always error on the side of caution. Someone will no doubt scream “where is McIlrath and Priskie?!”

  3. Anonymous says:

    The Caps have been focusing on forwards last few drafts, and rightfully so, but I agree with you, defense needs reinforcements

  4. Anonymous says:

    Definitely feel there is an overall shallowness but good balance nonetheless

  5. Lance says:

    I like what I’ve seen from Alexeev and Iorio at the NHL level. I expect both those guys to be excellent middle pair D for the Caps. Maybe even this year. AA has to stay in the NHL this year contract-wise. Iorio could be a a year or two away. Don’t want to rush him but he looks like a guy who might benefit from the challenge of NHL speed.

    Looking forward to seeing Aktell play. Hopefully Chesley and Allen have good years.

  6. Lance says:

    The Caps did well drafting D late in the first round with Carlson and Green. I prefer drafting forwards with top 20 picks. It seems we get a better read on those guys.

    We’ve missed on a lot of early D picks. Eminger, Pokulok, Baumgartner, Slaney. Witt and Alzner were good for awhile. Good D and goalies can be found in the late first and later rounds. Just gotta swing for the fences and accept the busts.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Hello, do you have a revisit on the forwards group such as this article? I’d love to look that over as well. Great piece!

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