The Washington Capitals took the ice at MedStar Capitals Iceplex on Saturday for their third day of on-ice work at Training Camp. On Friday, we received the first glimpse of a potential lineup from head coach Peter Laviolette this season.
One day later, that group has been tweaked and a handful of new faces have been added.
As Coach Laviolette said yesterday, there are some changes today. New faces, too:
— Tarik El-Bashir (@Tarik_ElBashir) September 24, 2022
The first thing you may notice is that there are consistent center-winger pairings from Day One that have stuck together on Day Two. Those come in the form of Alex Ovechkin with Evgeny Kuznetsov, Lars Eller with TJ Oshie, Connor McMichael with Dylan Strome, and Nic Dowd with Garnet Hathaway. It’s still very early in Training Camp but those formations could be the foundation that Laviolette uses to shape his forward lines moving forward.
Also notable: McMichael and Strome have flipped positions on their line with Strome now taking center ice. That is something that Laviolette acknowledged previously would be part of the plan in camp.
“You’ll see [McMichael] at both (positions) in Training Camp,” Laviolette said. “There’s a couple other players that are in the same situation where they can play wing or center. We’re going to put players into games and we’re going to evaluate from there.
“I really like that even with Nick off to the side for now it could put five centermen in our lineup and I always like that because when a centerman goes down now you have someone that can naturally move around,” he continued. “It’s a little bit easier to replace a wing.”
Both Laviolette and Caps general manager Brian MacLellan have remarked in the past that McMichael has played a more consistent game when lined up at his natural center position. McMichael himself stated last season that he is much keener on playing through the middle.
“My whole life I’ve played center,” McMichael said in March. “I’m a lot more comfortable up the middle for sure. I kind of like just being everywhere on the ice wherever the puck is. I feel like I’m playing my best when I have a little more responsibility out there. It’s been fun.”
The only other change in position among the forwards is Anthony Mantha flipping to the right side and jumping up to the top line after Connor Brown took the rushes there Friday. That trio (Ovechkin-Kuznetsov-Mantha) is almost completely untested over the past two seasons with Mantha in town. They’ve seen just a little over six minutes of ice time together five-on-five which likely only occurred due to things like broken line changes.
Outside of those positional changes, there were three new additions to the group. Aliaksei Protas, Brett Leason, and Lucas Johansen replaced Axel Jonsson-Fjallby, Joe Snively, and Gabriel Carlsson. Outside of Johansen jumping in with Matt Irwin on the de facto “fourth pairing”, the rest of the defense stayed entirely the same.
Johansen, the Caps’ 2016 first-round draft selection, received his NHL debut last season. He was the last player selected in that draft year’s first round to get into an NHL game.
Headline photo: Faith Harris/RMNB
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