The Washington Capitals 2017-18 campaign is a unique one. After being one of the most dominant teams in the NHL and a perennial Stanley Cup contender, the team sees themselves battling to remain the league’s top dog.
Following free agency and the expansion draft, Washington found themselves losing a number of key players. With Marcus Johansson, Justin Williams and Daniel Winnik departing on the forward lines, the team lost a combined 60 goals between the three of them. On the blue line, they lost one of their best defensemen and top-four prospects in Nate Schmidt, as well as Karl Alzner and Kevin Shattenkirk.
Throughout training camp, a number of Capitals prospects have gotten to fight for a roster spot, and are now preparing to make the transition to become full-time NHLers. And despite the fact that the team is younger coming into this year, Alex Ovechkin did give his take on how the team will fare this season at the start of training camp:
“We are not going to be suck this year,” Ovechkin declared.
Looking at the Current Roster
A number of Washington’s up-and-comers have proven their worth this season, so much to the point where the team was still “struggling” to make a decision in regards to their opening night roster prior to the deadline Tuesday. In fact, when it came to making their final cuts, the team waited until the last possible day to finalize their roster.
At the end of the day, the team trimmed down to 23 players, sending Madison Bowey to the Hershey Bears. Their submitted roster didn’t include Alex Chiasson, who signed a one-year, $650,000 deal with the team Wednesday. Tyler Graovac practiced on the team’s fourth line at Tuesday’s practice, and Nathan Walker and Chandler Stephenson were the extra forwards. On the blue line, Aaron Ness and Taylor Chorney are on the bottom pairing, and Christian Djoos sits at the team’s extra defender.
Stephenson was absent from Capitals’ practice Wednesday and will be placed on waivers, and if he clears, he will go down to Hershey so that the team can keep the roster at 23. So to start the year, Walker will remain with the team, going for a spot in the lineup with Devante Smtih-Pelly, and Chiasson will officially draw in, likely on the third line in place of Tom Wilson, who is suspended for four games to start the season.
Chiasson had a goal and two points in four games with the Capitals this preseason and also created a number of scoring chances. The 27-year-old scored 12 goals and 24 points with Calgary in 2016-17.
Though the team has a younger look to them as they enter the year, John Carlson believes the team still has a lot of potential to contend as a winning team this season.
“I think we got a good balance going,” Carlson said. “Our whole team’s got a lot of work to do and be whoever we need to be, but there’s fighters and good people.”
Though the Capitals went 2-5 through the preseason, he also mentioned that it takes the time for the prospects and the team to mesh coming into the year and that it will all click eventually.
“We’ve been working real hard at it,” Carlson said. “It’s just a progression. You can’t just turn on a switch. I think we’ve been practicing pretty well for a while now and it just hasn’t translated. We’re really looking forward to working at it and getting our game in the right shape.”
Washington will kick off their season Thursday, when they square off against the Senators in Ottawa.
Sammi Silber covers the Capitals beat for The Hockey Writers and is an NHL contributor with Sporting News. She has also contributed to USA TODAY College, Huffington Post, FanSided and the Nation Network. Silber has written four books and recently worked on graphics for the film, The California Golden Seals Movie.