T. J. Oshie: Capitals’ Unsung Hero

Alex Ovechkin, and to a lesser extent, Nicklas Backstrom, are the usual faces of the Washington Capitals. However, in Washington’s more recent games, T. J. Oshie has been the one getting more of the fan attention.

For the last three games, he’s been a huge asset to the Capitals. During the Caps’ last game against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Oshie’s lone goal during the shootout made all the difference for Washington. In the Capitals’ 5-3 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning, his third career hat trick helped to snap the team’s four-game losing streak and bring Washington back to its winning ways.

As surprising as it may be, Oshie has surpassed Alex Ovechkin as the team’s scoring leader this season. He now has 30 goals and 21 assists and is having his most productive season to date while the six-time Maurice ‘Rocket’ Richard Trophy winner Ovechkin has been struggling lately, with just 29 goals and 31 assists. More remarkably, Oshie has managed to record his best season despite having suffered a few injuries this year.

Early Successes

Oshie’s success as a hockey player came at a fairly early age. A native of Mount Vernon, Seattle, he began playing junior hockey as young as five. During his high school years his talent became apparent when he moved to Minnesota. In his three years with Warroad High School, he was an all-star every year — during his final year he had 100 points to lead all high school players in his state.

After a successful high school career, he went on to play for the University of North Dakota, where he continued his reign of successes. During his freshman season, Oshie led the team with 24 goals and 21 assists and also set a school record for most game-winning goals in a single season with nine. That impressive performance earned him a spot on the All-Rookie Team.

Oshie’s successes didn’t end there. In his next two college years he again became one of the team’s scoring leaders and his scoring prowess quickly caught the attention of the St. Louis Blues, who drafted him before his senior season.

(Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports)

Proving His Prowess

Not long after joining the Blues in 2008, Oshie was able to prove to the fans why St. Louis chose to draft him. Over time, he gained attention for his speed and energy on the ice and his ability to score during critical moments.

During his rookie season, Oshie received the Fan’s Choice Award for goal of the year — a beauty on Mar. 26, 2009 against the Vancouver Canucks. A little over three minutes into the second frame, Oshie picked up the puck from the wall and skated past Vancouver defenseman Dan Hamhuis. He then found the wide open net as Roberto Luongo dove in attempts to stop the shot.

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His best season with the Blues was in 2013-14 when he recorded 21 goals and 39 assists for a total of 60 points. Still, that was only the beginning of what was to come.

Trade to Capitals, Setting Career Highs

After seven seasons with St. Louis, Oshie made the move to Washington before the 2015-16 season. The Blues sent him to the Caps in exchange for Trow Brouwer, Phoenix Copley and a third-round pick. It is here with the Capitals that Oshie set career highs in goals yet again.

Luck struck early after his trade to Washington. With Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom as his linemates, he was able to produce his most successful season to date. That season, Oshie recorded 26 goals and 25 assists to help the Caps to a Presidents’ Trophy finish. In Washington’s first game in the second playoff round, he had a hat trick to lift the Caps to a 4-3 overtime win over the Pittsburgh Penguins. Although Washington did end up losing the series, for Oshie, it was a season to remember.

With Oshie’s contract set to expire by the end of this season, the Capitals will need to decide whether to sign him to a new one. Sure enough, he’s been doing everything to prove that Washington should keep him.