Joe Noyes/NoVa Caps
While the Washington Capitals have undergone a number of changes since their 2018 Stanley Cup championship, including the addition of their fourth head coach in that time in Spencer Carbery, one constant in the twists and turns of the NHL has been the efficient play of the team’s fourth-line.
Anchored down the middle for years by the inimitable Jay Beagle, who departed in free agency following the Stanley Cup victory, Nic Dowd has centered the fourth-line exceedingly well; and with longtime running mate Garnet Hathaway no longer on the right side, for first-year bench boss Carbery, the construction of the fourth-line is paramount to his team returning to contention after a disappointing 2022-23 season.
While the Center position is almost-certainly secured with Dowd, who recorded a career-high 13 goals and 25 Points last season, the question marks of his flanking wingers is still anyone’s guess. That being said, there are some possibilities that could see their names in the lineup come Opening Night.
Had it not been for an injury, former fifth-round pick (145th overall in 2016) Beck Malenstyn would have likely made a definitive case for himself last season. The 25-year old played in nine games with the Caps, picking up two points while showing a willingness to fight the battles in the corners, throw the body, and chip in on the rush when possible, all elements that could make him an effective fourth-line commodity. With a familiarity with Carbery from their time with the American Hockey League’s Hershey Bears, Malenstyn is likely on the coaching staff’s radar.
Another obvious choice to play alongside Dowd, Aube-Kubel played substantial time in the Capitals’ bottom-six last season under former bench boss Peter Laviolette, and when on the ice with No. 26, the former Colorado Avalanche proved to be effective; in 30 Games Played with Dowd, the line compiled a 51.4% Corsi For. The Capitals re-signed Aube-Kubel to a one-year deal at the end of last season, after the 2022 Stanley Cup champion recorded 12 Points (4G, 8A) in 47 Games Played after being acquired from the Toronto Maple Leafs. Another strong performance this season could continue line no.4’s steadiness.
Although more of a long shot than Malenstyn and Aube-Kubel, with a new coaching staff and the Caps looking to infuse more youth and speed the Hershey Bears’ lone All-Star Game [player] representative last season could have a chance make his case in spring training. An undrafted free agent, Frank led the Chocolate and White in Goals last season with 30, while finishing third on the club in Points (49). The 25-year old could provide the fourth-line with a proven offensive kick and coveted bottom-six scoring the Caps were without at times last season.
Although possessing a skill-set that could potentially elevate him to the top-six, with the depth already in place, a bottom-six role seems more plausible for the Herndon, Virginia native. Having been given limited playing time last season, Snively seems primed to secure himself a more permanent lineup spot. And given he played under Spencer Carbery in Hershey, Snively has every incentive to make a name for himself in the coming weeks. In 32 games played last season, Snively recorded 27 Points, adding 15 Points in 20 Calder Cup playoff contests en route to the Bears’ 12th championship. Like Frank, Snively offers an offensive skill-set that could serve the team well.
Whatever the line combination ultimately ends up being, there is little doubt to the effectiveness at which it has played the last several seasons. With that resume of efficiency, there is little reason to be pessimistic of that as a new chapter of Capitals’ hockey begins.
By Michael Fleetwood