The Washington Capitals and new head coach Spencer Carbery kicked off another day of Training Camp with a bit of a surprise among their forward lines. When Group A took to the ice for their practice session, it was apparent that some interchanging of the team’s regular two groups of players had gone on.
No longer was Anthony Mantha a part of the team’s top trio with Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. That honor belonged to 2022 first-round draft selection, Ivan Miroshnichenko.
The full, new NHL-leaning lines looked like this:
The shake-up of the two groups appears to be related to who played in the first preseason game and who did not. Forward names like Mantha, Nicolas Aube-Kubel, Hendrix Lapierre, Sonny Milano, Dylan Strome, Matthew Phillips, and Riley Sutter all got into that matchup with the Buffalo Sabres and are scheduled to skate with Group B.
Miroshnichenko has replaced Mantha, Connor McMichael has jumped up a line to replace Milano, Nic Dowd has moved to the third line in place of Strome, and Joe Snively has been filtered in to fill the open spot left by McMichael’s promotion.
Some shake-ups to skating groups this morning pic.twitter.com/Lwuow9B6w0
— Katie Adler (@katieEadler) September 27, 2023
“I talked to [Miroshnichenko] after practice,” Carbery said Wednesday. “I told him in my most elementary English, ‘Systems? Don’t care. Structure? Don’t care.’ I don’t want him overthinking it. I don’t want him thinking he’s in the wrong spot and, ‘Where should I be?’ and ‘What should I do?’ I want to see him go out and compete his butt off and work all over the ice. I want to see him skate, compete, play with a ton of pace, and play with a ton of urgency up and down the ice. That’s what I want to see from him.”
Carbery was then asked about Miroshnichenko’s comfortability playing on the right wing despite being a natural left-sided player. “When we looked at that it wasn’t ideal because he’s played a ton of left wing but I feel like playing him with [Ovechkin] and giving him that comfortability overrode putting him on the left side.
“We ultimately want to give him a good opportunity to play with some veteran players that could help him through a game, that are very, very intelligent, have been through this thousands of times, and set him up for success. We’re trying to make him feel as comfortable as possible and hopefully he can show what he’s capable of doing.”
Miroshnichenko is coming off a Rookie Camp showing where he really impressed Capitals brass with his ability to put the puck in the net and also do battle physically. The 19-year-old Russian is one of the few prospects in the team’s system that already has extended experience playing against men, getting into 23 KHL games for Avangard Omsk last year.
“Miro has showed us his shot,” assistant general manager Ross Mahoney said. “He can really shoot the puck and he’s physical. He’s a physical player. You’ve got to keep your head up or he’ll give you a little bit of a bump.”
The Caps also got their first real power play work in of Training Camp.
The first unit was a very familiar five-man group of Ovechkin, Backstrom, TJ Oshie, Evgeny Kuznetsov, and John Carlson. Miroshnichenko was the chosen Ovi sub on a second unit that also included McMichael, Tom Wilson, Rasmus Sandin, and Andrew Cristall.
NHL.com’s Tom Gulitti got some footage of Miroshnichenko practicing his one-timer from the Ovi spot during the first day of this month’s Rookie Camp.
Ivan Miroshnichenko working on his one-timer from a familiar spot after the first day of Capitals Rookie Camp pic.twitter.com/TG4SgtHhBm
— Tom Gulitti (@TomGulittiNHL) September 16, 2023
Assistant coach Kirk Muller will be in charge of the power play this season with Carbery helping add some of his philosophies that he used to make the Toronto Maple Leafs a power play powerhouse over the past two years.
A major emphasis will be placed on trying to keep other teams on their toes more so they can never get comfortable killing penalties against the Caps.
“We’re trying to find ways to stay ahead of penalty kills, keep them off balance, and give them different looks,” Carbery said earlier in camp. “So, when they go into their pre-scouts it isn’t necessarily, ‘This is what they’re going to show.’ [Instead], the penalty kill coach is going, ‘They might show this, this, this, this, and this.’ And, then you get the players going, ‘I don’t know what’s coming tonight.’ There’s value in that.”
The Caps will be back in game action on Thursday where we could see that power play and some of these new forward lines in action against the Detroit Red Wings. The team still has five total preseason games remaining on their slate.
Headline photo: Alan Dobbins/RMNB
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