The Washington Capitals’ Opening Night roster is official set.
Wednesday morning, the organization announced they recalled Connor McMichael and Aliaksei Protas from the Hershey Bears. To make room for the forwards on the 23-man roster, Ivan Miroshnichenko and Riley Sutter were loaned to the Bears.
The transactions come after series of paper moves on Monday that ensured the Capitals were salary cap compliant for the league’s day one rosters.
Roster Update: #Caps loan Ivan Miroshnichenko and Riley Sutter to Hershey (AHL) and recall Connor McMichael and Aliaksei Protas from Hershey (AHL).
— CapitalsPR (@CapitalsPR) October 11, 2023
The Capitals’ Opening Night roster includes 14 forwards, 8 defensemen, and 2 goaltenders.
**Long Term Injured Reserve
The Capitals will be led into the new season on the bench by first-time head coach Spencer Carbery and captain Alex Ovechkin on the ice. Long-time teammates Nicklas Backstrom, Tom Wilson, TJ Oshie, John Carlson are also all back and healthy to start the year.
Both Evgeny Kuznetsov and Anthony Mantha join the group to start the season after both were reportedly shopped by general manager Brian MacLellan during the summer. Kuznetsov has locked down the team’s second-line center role as he looks for another shot at redemption on a line with McMichael and Wilson. The trio had major success in the preseason. Mantha on the other hand remains on the outs of the team as he is currently penciled in as the team’s 13th forward despite his large salary ($5.7 million).
The player that beat Mantha out for a spot in the starting lineup is Matthew Phillips. Phillips, who comes at a much smaller height and cost ($775,000), made an NHL team out of Training Camp for the first time in his career. The 25-year-old winger was the surprise of the preseason, getting the most time on ice of any forward (80:55) and highlighting his five appearances with an overtime game-winning goal in Boston.
“I’m really excited about it,” Phillips said Monday. “It feels really good. It’s something that I was working all summer for and, frankly, kinda been working my whole life for. It feels really good.”
Joining Phillips in the lineup includes young forwards Aliaksei Protas and Beck Malenstyn.
On the backend, Lucas Johansen secured a full-time spot with the Caps after making sporadic appearances over the past two seasons.
“It felt good,” Johansen told NHL.com’s Tom Gulitti. “I’ve been wanting this for a long time.”
He’ll join a left side of the team’s defense that is made up of four players with only 347 games of NHL experience. By comparison, the three right-sided blueliners have played in 1,942 career games.
The team’s goaltending tandem remains the same. Darcy Kuemper will be the number one starter and Charlie Lindgren will back him up.
Joel Edmundson will start the season on the shelf after his fractured hand and subsequent procedure to address it. Edmundson is on regular injured reserve while fellow free-agent acquisition Max Pacioretty will start on long-term injured reserve as his return from a torn Achilles isn’t expected until closer to winter.
The Capitals full press release is below:
Capitals Announce 2023-24 Opening Night Roster
Caps host the Pittsburgh Penguins in season opener at Capital One Arena on Friday at 7:30 p.m.
ARLINGTON, Va. – The Washington Capitals have announced the 24 players who will make up the team’s roster for the season opener versus the Pittsburgh Penguins at Capital One Arena on Friday, October 13 at 7:30 p.m., president of hockey operations and general manager Brian MacLellan announced today.
Fourteen forwards, eight defensemen and two goaltenders make up the Capitals’ season-opening roster, led by captain Alex Ovechkin, alternate captains Nicklas Backstrom and John Carlson, and forwards T.J. Oshie, Tom Wilson and Evgeny Kuznetsov. Washington’s roster also features eight players 25-years-old or younger: Alex Alexeyev (23), Martin Fehervary (24), Lucas Johansen (25), Beck Malenstyn (25), Connor McMichael (22), Matthew Phillips (25), Aliaksei Protas (22) and Rasmus Sandin (23). The eight players aged 25 or younger are the most on a Capitals’ opening night roster since 2017-18 (Evgeny Kuznetsov, Andre Burakovsky, Jakub Vrana, Brett Connolly, Devante Smith-Pelly, Christian Djoos, Nathan Walker and Philipp Grubauer). Eleven of the 24 players on this year’s opening roster were drafted by the Capitals.
The Capitals enter 2023-24 looking to make the playoffs for the ninth time in the last 10 seasons and the 33rd time in franchise history. The Capitals have reached the postseason in 14 of the last 16 seasons, joining the Pittsburgh Penguins (15) and the Boston Bruins (14) as the only teams with as many appearances in the last 16 years.
With 822 career goals, Ovechkin needs 73 goals to pass Wayne Gretzky (894g) for first on the NHL’s all-time goals list. Ovechkin, who is signed with the Capitals for the next three seasons, would need to average 25 goals per season during that span to supplant Gretzky as the NHL’s all-time leading goal scorer. With a 30-goal season in 2023-24, Ovechkin would pass former Capital Mike Gartner (17) for the most 30-goal seasons in NHL history. Ovechkin also enters the season 15 points shy of 1,500 career points, 53 games shy of 1,400 career games and one power-play goal shy of 300 career power-play goals.
Carlson missed 42 games last season, including 36 consecutive games from Dec. 27 to March 21, and ranked third on the Capitals in points-per-game (9g-20a–29p in 40 GP=0.73 P/GP). The Capitals went 14-18-4 (.444 point percentage) in Carlson’s absence after a 19-13-4 (.583 point percentage) start to the season. Since the start of the 2017-18 season, the Capitals have a record of 253-150-50 (.614 point percentage), the eighth-highest point percentage in the NHL in that span. During that same span, Washington has won just 19 of the 52 games it has played without Carlson (19-26-7, .433 points percentage).
Goaltender Darcy Kuemper returns between the pipes for his second season in Washington. Kuemper appeared in 57 games for the Capitals in 2022-23, which tied his single-season career high in games played (2021-22: 57 GP). Among goaltenders with at least 50 starts in 2022-23, Kuemper ranked eighth in the NHL in goals-against average (2.87) and save percentage (.909) and his five shutouts were tied for the second most in the NHL (Ilya Sorokin, New York Islanders: 6 SO; Alexandar Georgiev, Colorado Avalanche: 5 SO; Jake Oettinger, Dallas Stars: 5 SO).
Spencer Carbery enters his first season as head coach of the Capitals. Carbery, the youngest head coach in the NHL at 41, returned to the organization after spending the last two seasons as an assistant coach with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Carbery spent five seasons as head coach and director of hockey operations for the South Carolina Stingrays from 2011 to 2016, with the Stingrays serving as the Capitals’ ECHL affiliate in Carbery’s final two seasons in South Carolina. Carbery compiled a record of 207-115-38, leading the Stingrays to the Kelly Cup Playoffs in each of his five seasons. In 2013-14, Carbery won the John Brophy Coach of The Year Award after leading the Stingrays to their first division title since 2000-01. In addition, Carbery served as head coach of Washington’s AHL affiliate the Hershey Bears for three seasons from 2018 to 2021. Under Carbery, Hershey posted a combined record of 104-50-9-8 (.658 point percentage), including an AHL-best 24-7-2-0 record (.758 point percentage) in his final season behind the Bears’ bench in 2020-21. Carbery received the Louis A.R. Pieri Memorial Award as the AHL’s outstanding coach for the 2020-21 season, becoming the fourth coach ever to win coach of the year awards at both the AHL and ECHL levels. During his three-year tenure with Hershey, Carbery coached and aided in the development of several players that appeared in games with the Capitals during the 2022-23 season, including Fehervary, Protas, McMichael, Alexeyev, Malenstyn, Johansen and Joe Snively.
Off-season acquisitions Joel Edmundson and Max Pacioretty will begin the season on injured reserve and long term injured reserve, respectively.
Headline photo: Alan Dobbins/RMNB
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