The Washington Capitals are coming off back-to-back President Trophies as the best team in the league during the regular season but have failed to make it past the second round of the playoffs. They haven’t been able to do that in any year that Alex Ovechkin has been apart of the team.
Washington lost some key players this season, but this should still be one of the best teams in hockey. Let’s take a look at what their season may look like.
Their forwards start with Alex Ovechkin who’s been the face of the franchise ever since he got to Washington. He has seven 50 goal seasons with the Capitals which is the most in franchise history. He’s just the third player in NHL history to have seven seasons of 50+ goals, joining Mike Bossy and Wayne Gretzky. He only had 33 last year though but look for that number to be up this season.
Nicklas Backstrom continues to be one of the most underrated players in hockey. He had a very quiet 86 points last season with 70 the year before that. He’ll be either the number one or two center for Washington, and it looks good for him potentially repeating last years success.
TJ Oshie signed a massive long-term deal to stay with the Capitals that lots of people questioned but for now, it’s fine. He’s still a very good player and shot 23.1% last year which is absurdly high for him with 33 goals. He’ll be playing in the top six again for Washington. While he’ll continue to produce for his first few seasons of the deal, he’ll fall off after that.
Evgeny Kuznetsov used some Olympic leverage in getting his big extension this summer as well. They had to pay him what he wanted, or the Capitals could’ve lost him to the KHL for this season. Kuznetsov is one of the best young players in the league and will only continue to get better for them.
Andre Burakovsky could have a breakout in their top six. Burakovsky had only 12 goals last year, but has shown lots of talent in his first couple seasons in the league.
Jakub Vrana is going to crack the lineup in the top six, and there’s a lot of buzz about him going into this season. He could have a big rookie season for the team.
Lars Eller is a good third line center, and he’ll be joined by Brett Connolly and Alex Chiasson who they signed to a one-year deal. Tom Wilson will be in the bottom six after his suspension is up. Jay Beagle brings depth and is fine as a fourth liner.
Washington lost a lot on their backend this offseason as Kevin Shattenkirk, Nate Schmidt, and Karl Alzner are all gone. On the top pairing, they’ll ice Dmitry Orlov and Matt Niskanen. Orlov is starting on his new long-term contract this season is one of their best young defensemen. Niskanen is super underrated around the league as he does everything well. He had 39 points last season, which is the second most point he’s had in the league.
On the second pairing, John Carlson and Brooks Orpik will play together. Carlson is entering the final year of his deal while Orpik is still locked up for a couple more seasons at over $5M per. If Carlson continues to produce the way he’s been producing, he’s going to get a hefty contract this offseason.
The bottom pairing is going to be a bit different for the Capitals this season as it looks like Aaron Ness and Taylor Chorney will start there. Chorney has been in the league for a couple of seasons while Ness will be trying to play his first full season. He’s only played 39 games in four years in the league.
Once again, the Capitals net will be held by Braden Holtby who’s one of the best goaltenders in the game. He had 42 wins last season with a .925 save percentage and nine shutouts, which ties his career high. He’ll look to have another Vezina caliber season. Backing him up will be Philipp Grubauer, who’s become one of the best backups in the league.
Looking ahead to trade deadline – if sellers who could be on the move, if buyers what area might they need to improve?
They’re going to be buyers, and they’ll potentially look at improving their defense a bit. If they can get Brooks Orpik out of a top four pair, that would help going into the playoffs. They could also improve their bottom six as well.
What rookies could make the team?
Jakub Vrana is that guy and will be given top minutes to start the season.
Which player could take a step forward this season?
Andre Burakovsky has a massive chance to get his first 20 goal season in the league as he’ll play in the top six this season. He’s criminally underrated.
Which players could regress?
TJ Oshie isn’t likely to have a shooting percentage of 23.1% again this season, but he should still score 20-25 goals easy. Brooks Orpik’s regression will only continue as he gets older as well.
How will the team do?
Washington will make the playoffs again this season but will they win the division? They’ll finish in the top three but with high expectations this season, and will be a popular pick among some to come out of the East.