By Ian Oland
The Washington Capitals did something incredible this summer during free agency. They acquired a bunch of guys that were already dudes with each other.
“It’s kind of funny,” Dylan Strome said in his introductory press conference with Capitals media. “It seems like everyone Washington signed or traded for, I had played with already.”
Capitals GM Brian MacLellan added, “Some of our players already know some of these guys. I think it should be pretty easy for us to incorporate them into the lineup.”
There’s also one player that seems to be the Kevin Bacon of the group: Tom Wilson.
Connor Brown and Dylan Strome played on the same junior hockey team
The most notable connection is between Connor Brown and Dylan Strome who played for the the Erie Otters during the 2013-14 season. Strome was a 16-year-old can’t-miss-prospect playing his first season in the OHL while Brown was a second-year captain playing his third and final season with the team. Superstar Connor McDavid and former Capital Andre Burakovsky were also members of the electrifying club.
“I remember playing with Stromer,” Connor Brown said. “He was just 16. Just a highly-skilled player, good hands, could score. I think he’s still just coming into his own in the league. He’s a smart player. Usually, the smart players get better and better as they get older and start to figure out how to be successful. I’m excited to play with him again. He’s a great kid.”
Brown scored 128 points (45g, 83a) in 68 games, leading the CHL in scoring and earning OHL MVP honors, while Strome had 39 (10g, 29a) in 60 games as a rookie that year.
“He’s a very big competitor,” Strome said of Brown. “He likes to win. I remember my first game in junior. I didn’t know what to expect. I was really young, just finding my way. We lost our first game of the season in overtime and he came off the ice and was upset, frustrated we lost. That was my first experience. I think he’s a great leader. He was the captain of the team then. He’s a great hockey player. He was fun to watch that year. We had a very good first line that I got to watch a little. They scored a lot of points and a lot of goals. Looking forward to being back on his team. I was talking to him a little bit this past week. It’s been a long time (nine years) since we’ve been on the same team but we’re excited.”
The two are also longtime pals on Instagram who chirp each other in the same vein as Tom Wilson and Michael Latta. For instance, Brown posted a photo from his Toronto Marlboros AAA team where his dad was the head coach.
Connor Brown and Dylan Strome are longtime friends with… Tom Wilson!
Brown and Strome have four things in common with Capitals forward Tom Wilson. They grew up in Ontario, they are good at the hockey, they played in the OHL, and they are all about the same age (28, 28, 25). Naturally, they have come into contact with each other throughout the years and followed each other on Instagram well before this year’s offseason.
“Tom Wilson reached out to me,” Dylan Strome said. “I worked out with him for a couple years. Obviously, happy to be on his side of the ice this time instead of playing against him. Looking forward to that.”
Strome participated in BioSteel Camp with Wilson, an annual gathering named after the league’s new sports drink that gives players one last big push before Training Camp.
“I know Tommy Wilson,” Connor Brown said during his press conference. “We grew up playing against each other our whole lives in the Toronto area since we were really young. We’ve always been rivals in a friendly way and we know each other from throughout the years.”
The two frequently played against each other in the OHL as Wilson was the alternate captain for the Plymouth Whalers in 2012-13 while Brown was in his first year of captaincy with the Otters. I checked and neither player has fought each other before.
A cursory look on Instagram reveals Wilson has liked Brown’s posts on Instagram all the way back to 2013.
Dylan Strome played with Darcy Kuemper in Arizona
The Washington Capitals jettisoned both of their young goalies over the offseason, Ilya Samsonov and Vitek Vanecek, in favor of a more veteran crew. The Capitals’ biggest goaltending acquisition was 32-year-old Darcy Kuemper, who had recently led the Colorado Avalanche to the 2022 Stanley Cup.
Before his time in Denver, Keumper played parts of four seasons with the Arizona Coyotes. One of his teammates there? Dylan Strome!
“Darcy Kuemper I played with in Arizona a little bit,” Strome said.
The two Canadiens played parts of two seasons together (2017-18, 2018-19) in the desert. Strome played 41 games for Arizona during those two years while Kuemper made 65 appearances. Kuemper’s breakout season in the NHL was the 2018-19 campaign where he made a then-career high 55 starts, going 27-20-8 with a .925 save percentage.
Connor Brown played with Darcy Kuemper on Canada’s national team
Connor Brown and Darcy Kuemper became friends and teammates as a member of Canada’s 2021 IIHF World Championship team, which played in Riga, Latvia.
“Darcy Kuemper, I played with him in the World Championships,” Connor Brown said. “I think he’s such a really clutch goalie. I loved playing with him and liked him as a guy.”
Canada went on to win the tourney. Kuemper, the team’s starter, went 5-2-1 in eight games, posting a 2.17 goals against average and .916 save percentage. Brown chipped in 16 points (2g, 14a) in 10 games.
Goaltenders Darcy Kuemper and Charlie Lindgren have the same agent
Darcy Kuemper and Charlie Lindgren will the Capitals’ new battery in goal. They signed one right after another during free agency, but they aren’t BFFs. Somewhat ironically though, they have the same agent: Ben Hankinson.
“I’ve never actually met [Lindgren] before,” Kuemper said. “I’ve heard he’s an awesome guy. Great in the locker room, everybody loves him. Super excited to get to know him and start our partnership there.”
Lindgren spent part of last season with the St. Louis Blues after being a member of the Montreal Canadiens organization from 2015-2020.
Dylan Strome played with Henrik Borgstrom and Erik Gustafsson in Chicago
Dylan Strome was one of three players from the Chicago Blackhawks that the Capitals signed as a free agent over the summer. The other two were forward Henrik Bogstrom and Erik Gustafsson. Borgstrom played 52 games for Chicago, chipping in seven points, while Gustafsson was in his second stint with the team. The defenseman played with the team from 2015-2020 before returning last season.
Erik Gustafsson and Trevor van Riemsdyk used to play together on Chicago
Gustafsson and TVR were teammates in the Windy City during the 2015-16 season. They played 23:22 minutes together at five-on-five together that year.
Was acquiring so many players that knew each other some master plan by Caps general manager Brian MacLellan or just an incredible coincidence? This familiarity should hopefully breed chemistry early in the season where the Capitals will be scrambling to figure out a new lineup without injured top-six forwards Nicklas Backstrom and Tom Wilson.
“I’m really really excited about the additions that [the Capitals] made,” Connor Brown said. “I’m excited to be a part of it and I’m excited to see what I can bring and what I can help the team that’s looking to get over the edge.”
Photoshop created via stock photo by Zachary Nelson on Unsplash
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