Every player on an NHL team plays a role.Some, of course, play bigger roles than others.
In the coming weeks, Tarik El-Bashir and JJ Regan will rank the 25 most important players in the Caps’ organization, from least to most important, weighing factors such as past production, future potential and intangibles.
Today's player: No. 15 Jay Beagle
The Capitals have holes on their roster on defense and for bottom six wingers, but if there is one position in which there are no questions, it’s center. Washington returns all four centers from last season including today’s player, Jay Beagle.
Beagle set career highs last season in goals (13), assists (17) and points (30) after 81 games played, another personal best. That production evaporated in the playoffs where he was held without a point in 13 games, but Beagle’s true value does not stem from his offensive production.
The first step towards establishing possession is winning the faceoff. Overall, the Caps are a middle of the pack faceoff team, finishing 16th in the NHL last year. That number would plummet without Beagle.
Beagle led the team last season with a faceoff win percentage of 56.4-percent, tied for the 12th best in the NHL among players who took 100 faceoffs or more. More importantly, he was the only center on the team with a positive faceoff percentage in the defensive zone (56.8-percent) and shorthanded (55.7-percent). Winning a shorthanded draw is the difference between instant power play pressure from the opposition and an easy zone clear. His skill in the faceoff circle was so pronounced, it led to head coach Barry Trotz utilizing him in situations you don’t normally see him, such as to start overtime.
Outside of the faceoff circle, Beagle is one of the team’s key penalty killers. His 223:51 of shorthanded ice time last season was good for third among all forwards in the NHL.
Beagle can expect more of the same in terms of his on the ice role for the upcoming season. He will be the fourth line center, a key piece of the penalty kill and he can expect to take the majority of the key faceoffs in a game.
But now you can also add mentor to that role.
Gone are last season’s linemates Daniel Winnik and Tom Wilson. Winnik has not been resigned by the team and Wilson seems likely headed up the depth chart after an impressive playoff performance. That means the 31-year-old Beagle will likely find himself playing alongside at least one prospect every given night, sometimes two, in what could very well be a revolving door on the fourth line.
Beagle will not only have to adapt to new linemates in October, he may have to adapt to new linemates frequently throughout the season which is a tricky proposition for a line that sees the majority of its minutes in the defensive zone. The Caps cannot afford too many growing pains from the bottom three and Beagle will be tasked with keeping the fourth line honest. That also makes it critical that he remains healthy.
Beagle’s 81 games last season shattered his previous career high of 62. The Capitals are no longer dealing with the same kind of depth they have enjoyed in previous seasons and there are no easy solutions for just how the team would replace him in the lineup
He may be a fourth line player, but if the Caps lose Beagle for 20 games due to injury you will quickly see just how important he really is.
Check out the full list of the Caps most important players as it comes out here and check out previous player profiles below.
— No. 25 Aaron Ness
— No. 24 Chandler Stephenson
— No. 23 Riley Barber
— No. 22 Pheonix Copley
— No. 21 Devante Smith-Pelly
— No. 20 Taylor Chorney
— No. 19 Nathan Walker
— No. 18 Philipp Grubauer
— No. 17 Christian Djoos
— No. 16 Madison Bowey