3 Capitals Who Can Contend for NHL Awards in 2022-23

The regular season is just around the corner and the Washington Capitals inch toward it with aspirations of rebounding from an early playoff exit. This offseason was relatively quiet in D.C., with general manager Brian MacLellan retaining the bulk of his roster from 2021-22.

However, Washington reconvenes with a new-look tandem in goal. Vitek Vanecek and Ilya Samsonov are out. Darcy Kuemper and Charlie Lindgren are in. The Capitals need both to thrive to enjoy success as a team and as individuals.

Related: Capitals’ Kuemper & Lindgren Must Make Immediate Impact

While the franchise doesn’t have many players on the roster who will end up as finalists in the NHL’s end-of-season awards, there are a few Capitals who have a credible shot at acquiring some silverware. Let’s take a look at three members of the organization who could battle for personal accolades, remembering that the team’s fortunes ultimately depend on the quality of play from their netminders.

Peter Laviolette: Jack Adams Award

Typically, the Coach of the Year award is handed to the person in charge of the league’s biggest overachievers. Darryl Sutter (CAL), Rod Brind’Amour (CAR), and Bruce Cassidy (BOS) are recent recipients of the honour, all of whom were helped along the way by standout goaltending.

That’s where Peter Laviolette enters the conversation. While the Capitals are tipped to make the playoffs, they aren’t regarded as one of the league’s strongest teams, as they find themselves in a brutal conference with injuries and age curves to deal with.

Head coach Peter Laviolette, Washington Capitals
Head coach Peter Laviolette, Washington Capitals (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

With that in mind, Laviolette could jump into the Jack Adams sweepstakes if his Capitals surpass expectations. They finished in a wildcard spot last season with a record of 44-26-12, three points back from the Pittsburgh Penguins. If they can clinch a division-based ticket to the postseason, Washington could propel their coach into the limelight. It feels like a longshot – but it’s the kind of take that the preseason is made for.

Alex Ovechkin: Hart Trophy, Rocket Richard Trophy

Alex Ovechkin finished last season with 90 points (50 goals, 40 assists) in 77 appearances and returns ahead of his age-37 season with Wayne Gretzky’s scoring record on the horizon. He is more determined than ever to lead the Capitals to success, telling reporters that he has reached a point in his career where “personal goals are nice” but fighting for the Stanley Cup is most important.

Alex Ovechkin Washington Capitals
Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Regardless, the Russian could fire his way into contention for the Hart Trophy, not least because voters will find the narrative around his record chase hard to resist. If he scores at the same rate as last season, he will overtake Gordie Howe to become the league’s second most-prolific scorer by Christmas Day.

It won’t be easy for Ovechkin – injuries to key teammates and Father Time are working against him – but we shouldn’t discount the possibility that he could add a couple more individual awards to his tally this season.

John Carlson: Norris Trophy

John Carlson closed last season with 71 points (17 goals, 54 assists) in 78 appearances. He also finished tenth in Norris Trophy voting and cemented an impressive partnership with rookie defenceman Martin Fehérváry.

John Carlson Washington Capitals
John Carlson, Washington Capitals (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

But the 32-year-old still managed to slip under the radar in the national media. He was excellent for the Capitals, leading the team in minutes played and on-ice expected goals. While it would take a big swing for Carlson to vault over the likes of Cale Makar and Adam Fox in the Norris Trophy race, he could make a title charge if his team outperforms expectations and he plays an important role.

Looking Ahead for the Washington Capitals

It’s almost time for the start of the season, with the Capitals set to play one more exhibition before they take on the Boston Bruins in their first game. There will be plenty of twists and turns ahead, including a few potential chances for awards. They could pull off a surprise or two with expectations lowered. It’s time to deliver.

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