The Washington Capitals have already suffered two injury scares to defensemen early during 2023 Training Camp. Trevor van Riemsdyk looks to have dodged any time out of the lineup after leaving Sunday’s preseason game early but the same can’t be said for Joel Edmundson.
New head coach Spencer Carbery told the media on Tuesday that Edmundson’s upper-body injury prognosis was “probably not good.” While that is rough news this early in the year — especially for a Caps team who dealt assets to acquire Edmundson — the injury also means more opportunity for younger names on the blueline depth chart.
One of those names is Vincent Iorio, the Caps’ top pick from the 2021 NHL Draft and someone the team already expected to play in 10-20 NHL games this season.
Iorio spoke with the media for the first time at Training Camp on Tuesday. After getting a taste of the NHL last season and winning the Calder Cup with the Hershey Bears in the AHL, the 20-year-old rearguard was asked what his goals were for this camp.
“To push for a spot,” Iorio said. “I’ve been working really hard this summer. Although it was short, I did put in the work. I think last year speaks for itself too — as a rookie it’s huge to have that season and go on that deep run because not many young players are able to experience that. Just very grateful and we’ll see how things turn out here but I’m going to continue to work.”
Iorio spent the vast majority of last year in the AHL with the Bears in his rookie pro season. The right-handed blueliner got into 63 games for Hershey, recording 22 points (2g, 20a). He also played in 15 playoff games en route to lifting franchise’s 12th Calder Cup.
That performance in Hershey also earned him a call-up to the Caps, where he made his NHL debut against the San Jose Sharks on March 4. Iorio skated 14:48 of ice time that night and tallied his first NHL point with an assist on Alex Ovechkin’s 815th career goal. Now that Edmundson could be out of the picture for some time, Iorio’s chances of getting back into the NHL lineup have gone up.
Normally, an injury to a left defenseman would require another lefty to step in. The Caps have plenty of left-handed depth options with the likes of Alex Alexeyev, Lucas Johansen, and Hardy Haman Aktell still in camp. But with Trevor van Riemsdyk able to play both sides on a defense pairing, Edmundson’s absence could free up a spot for Iorio despite the positional mismatch.
Carbery has already shown a liking to the right-handed Iorio, giving him the most minutes of any Caps player (24:22) in the team’s first preseason game against the Buffalo Sabres. “Being able to flip TvR is something that we would for sure consider, and Iorio’s played some games,” Carbery said Tuesday. “I thought he was solid the other night from going back through the film. So yeah, he’s in that mix too.”
Iorio is not ready to get ahead of himself though, and is fully aware of the competition in camp.
“I just want to take things day by day,” Iorio said. “I’m going to keep working no matter what and I think I’ve done a good job with that in the past coming into camp with the same mindset each year. I’m going to continue to learn from the older guys and take their experience and the experience that I have from this past season and continue to run with it.
“I think the fire is already there. We’re all competing for a spot. We’re all very good hockey players. I know [Haman Aktell], I haven’t seen him too much but he seems like a very smooth skater, very poised with the puck. I know what [Johansen] is like. Jojo is a fantastic player. Same with [Alexeyev]. For me, I’ve just got to continue to play my game and push the pace.”
Carbery put together the first set of NHL pairings with Edmundson out of his lineup on Tuesday and it was the older Alexeyev that got matched with van Riemsdyk. Iorio ended up skating on the second pairing during Group B’s practice with Johansen to his left.
The Caps still have five games left in their preseason to make more final roster decisions. Their next matchup comes against the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday.
Headline photo: Katie Adler/RMNB
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