Matthew Phillips Makes Capitals Opening Night Roster

ARLINGTON, Va. — It’s official: Matthew Phillips has made the Washington Capitals’ opening night roster, and it is well-deserved. 

Phillips is coming off an impressive preseason, racking up three points (two goals, one assist) in five preseason games. He looked hungry to prove people that he deserved a spot despite his 5-foot-8 frame.

“I don’t know about proving people wrong there’s also a lot of people that I would like to say that I proved right,” Phillips said. “I’m just really excited to be here and they gave me a great opportunity and put a lot of trust in me so I just tried to kind of do my best every day.”

The 25-year-old had only three games of NHL experience with the Calgary Flames coming into D.C. He had a breakout year with the AHL’s Calgary Wranglers last year with 76 points (36 goals, 40 assists) in 66 games. Coming into the nation’s capital he says was exciting, but also different.]

“It’s something totally different for me. I’ve kind of known the same thing for like seven years. So it’s kind of a different situation but the coaches are very thorough. They explain everything really well and everyone’s very approachable, so it’s easy to get questions answered and get comfortable as the day is going,” Phillips said.

Over the course of the preseason, Phillips has been playing on the left side with Sonny Milano and Dylan Strome. When put together, the trio has arguably been Washington’s best line of the exhibition slate. The Calgary, Alberta native fits in nicely with that combo because he is the guy that does the dirty work in the corners.

“They’re able to read off one another in executing really, really tight spaces,” Caps head coach Spencer Carbery said. “What skill players like that have a tendency to do is that they’re reading where the next play is going and where spaces he’s up at their level in terms of that and that’s why they’re able to generate in really tight five-on-five o-zone situations, little holes and little creases and little picks to be able to create offensive in really, really tight spaces.”

“It helps a lot coming into a new situation like this with two guys that are awesome players and established NHL players and they’re super smart, extremely skilled and it’s been pretty beneficial for me,” Phillips said. “I think the three of us kind of see the ice in a similar way, so it’s been really good.”

One word to describe 2016 sixth-round selection is a buzzsaw. He is noticeable every shift because he is moving his feet and is relentless on pucks, which was the type of player that the Caps desperately needed in their lineup last season.

“Even though you know he’s obviously a smaller guy, he’s smart enough to put himself in positions to win puck battles to create space for himself,” Caps winger T.J. Oshie said. “He’s been playing with some big dogs. He’s been playing some quality power play time. So very happy for him and looking forward to getting to know him a little bit more.”

‘The Capitals made several roster moves on Monday ahead of the 5PM deadline, but will announce final roster Wednesday morning.

The Capitals open up the regular season on Oct. 13 against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Capital One Arena.

By Jacob Cheris


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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16 Responses to Matthew Phillips Makes Capitals Opening Night Roster

  1. SoCalSteve says:

    His size isn’t a problem. Remember Dennis Maruk…he was small also and scored 60+ goals.. And hockey is a lot less violent these days than it was when Maruk was playing.

  2. Horn73 says:

    So once again, gmbm proves he’s not opposed to adding youth!!! They just have to EARN it, a foreign concept to many who comment here…mostly anonymously of course!!

    Congratulations to Phillips!!

    • Anonymous says:

      Last coach did not give any young guys a chance to earn it. Look how many are getting a chance this year. You don’t think any of them could have played last year except for the coach? Or did they all improve so much this summer. Keep apologizing for PL. hope is does for NY what he did here.

      • DWGie26 says:

        I don’t think there are many PL apologists left out there. But Horny’s point is that Phillips seized the opportunity and earned it. So did McMichael.

        Last year was different. McMichael didn’t not make it last year because of Lavi. he wasn’t good and didn’t earn it. Same with others. Sure, some of that is coaches decisions like sitting Mantha already.

        So glad to see these young guys earning it! But it will come with pain at some points this season.

        • Anonymous says:

          Correct DWG – also, lets not forget Milano, Strome, Ferhervary and Sandin that PL had playing major minutes, granted Sandin wasn’t really PL’s decision. Just either way, 3 major young talents made the team. CMM made the team too, but just didn’t produce. This isn’t your son’s rec baseball team, time is earned.

          • Anonymous says:

            Horseshit. You can’t tell me that any of the younger guys last year were not better than Eller or Mojo or Mantha or whoever that extra dman was etc. The coach had a bias for old veterans and we saw what that got him. You think these new guys would be on the roster under PL. Not likely.

            • DWGie26 says:

              Ahh… yes. In the NHL Eller and MoJo were both better players than anyone who sat or got sent down. Maybe not Mantha who has just been bad. Remember the NHL is a winning league and not a developmental league. You play your best players. And yes, there are some you don’t want on the roster but that is how the business side of the game works. Can’t be ignored. Could the minutes mix be different, sure. This year prospects looked much better, because guess what… they developed in the developmental league which was a good call. This year they were ready. If Alexyev could have played in AHL last year he would be further along than he is and likely be more ready to take the 3LD spot.

              • Anonymous says:

                NHL is supposed to be a winning league. Didn’t happen last year with the old veterans did it. If you want to lose with vets and waste development time with prospects you are with the right organization.

              • novafyre says:

                Last year Lavi would sit his prospects as the game wound down even if they had scored earlier and the vets had done nothing. In a video after one practice, he said that if the game were tied or the Caps were behind he planned on playing vets. This was a dumb move if the vets hadn’t performed in the game up to that point. At some points in games last year I would have preferred he sat and rested the vets and gave the prospects on the bench some game experience. Since the game was tanking, what did he have to lose? Vets could have gained some rest and prospects gained some experience. But that was not his way.

                • DWGie26 says:

                  I agree with much of this… at the end of the season. At the point they had really given up on the season (Feb) they should have switched to let more prospects play. To GMBM credit, he did move some vets at deadline versus running out the clock.

            • Horn73 says:

              If’s and but’s….none can touch MoJo and had less points than him at a level lower and lets see, did Colorado trade for CMM or LaPierre, oh wait, they wanted Eller….

              • Anonymous says:

                Dumbest comment ever from someone who has made many. You think CMM or Lapierre were even available? Colorado didn’t hang on to Eller long did they.

                • Horn73 says:

                  Oh yeah, he wasn’t an nhl player and couldn’t have helped an nhl team…

                  Yeah, Eller had to settle for the Penguins, another NHL team, wanting him. A team that many see as stronger than the Caps…

                  Some of you guys are so dumb you don’t even realize you are dumb…you should thank God for his Grace for that.

                  Btw, last year CMM, Protas and beck made the opening roster of PL…just couldn’t handle (or score).

                  Strome did, thankfully Milano did…

    • Jonathan says:


  3. Diane Doyle says:

    Congratulations to Phillips. Note: this year’s Conn Smythe was another small guy, Jonathan Marchessault who was once regarded as too small for the NHL. He had come to the NHL draft to give moral support to a friend (i.e., Alex Chiasson). But ultimately eventually signed a contract.

  4. Diane Doyle says:

    And LuJo has also officially made the team. Will his brother post something about it as he did just before LuJo’s NHL debut?

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