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The 25 Most Important Players for the Caps: No. 15 Jay Beagle

The 25 Most Important Players for the Caps: No. 15 Jay Beagle

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.

RELATED: CAPITALS FACEOFF PODCAST: A SLIM OVECHKIN RETURNS TO WASHINGTON

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

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Caps work on team building by fighting each other in FBI training

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Caps work on team building by fighting each other in FBI training

How much better would your work environment be if you had a chance to pin a coworker or get them in a chokehold? Probably a lot. That's what the Caps are banking on.

The team visited the FBI Academy on Wednesday in a team building exercise that included raming doors and, of course, hand to hand combat.

Let's break down some of these wrestling matchups.

Braden Holtby appears to be thanking John Carlson for playing 27:33 on Tuesday.

It seems dangerous to pit a goalie against a defenseman. Carlson spends all of his time on the ice trying to protect Holtby. Just how hard was Carlson really trying to take down Holtby?

It's no surprise seeing Tom Wilson enjoying himself with the hand to hand combat. Whoever went up against him (it looks like Jay Beagle) certainly drew the short straw.

And then there's this.

Nicklas Backstrom is having way, way too much fun. Maybe Andre Burakovsky was getting a bit chesty in the locker room after his first NHL fight. Well, it seems Backstrom certainly put him in his place.

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There are no moral victories, but Caps see a defensive effort they can build on in Tuesday's loss

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USA TODAY Sports

There are no moral victories, but Caps see a defensive effort they can build on in Tuesday's loss

The Capitals probably deserved a better result on Tuesday than a 2-0 loss at the hands of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Coming into that game, the Leafs were averaging 5.20 goals per game and had scored no fewer than three in any of their five games to start the season. Yet, a Capitals team fresh off an 8-2 loss against the Philadelphia Flyers managed to hold Toronto’s offense to only one goal, the second coming only after Braden Holtby had been pulled for the extra attacker.

“There's a lot of improvements from our game in Philadelphia, that's for sure,” Barry Trotz said following the game.

Aside from a flurry of chances from Toronto early in the first, the game was largely even between the two sides until Connor Brown put the Leafs up 1-0 in the third period.

RELATED: EVGENY KUZNETSOV COULD HAVE CHANGED TUESDAY'S GAME, HERE'S HOW

Despite their effort, however, do not take this game as proof that Washington has solved all of its blue line issues. Tuesday was just merely a step in the right direction.

“We did some things better [Tuesday],” Braden Holtby said. “The outcome could have been a little worse if luck wasn't on our side today on a few plays. We've got to keep a realistic mindset on that too.  But we did a lot of good things [Tuesday]. Our defense did a really good job at handling their speed and their size.”

Surprisingly, it was not the defense that cost Washington the game, but the offense. When the Caps needed a goal, they simply could not generate one against goalie Frederik Andersen.

Yes, the team needs to find more of a balance and get a full 60-minute effort on both ends of the ice, but there was also hope in the locker room on Tuesday that if they continue to improve in their own zone, it will ultimately lead to more offense in the other end.

“Everything is developed from the defensive zone,” Holtby said. “That's the way we've always had success scoring goals. If you're taking risks offensively, that's not a consistent way to play. You might win some games, but you're not going to win games consistently. That's what our foundation of our team is built around, our breakout, especially on our goal line and that what creates a lot of our offense.”

MORE CAPITALS: WHO STOOD OUT IN TUESDAY'S DEFENSIVE BATTLE?

What the first seven games of the season has shown is that the Capitals’ fate rests on its blue line. Yes, they need more depth scoring from their third and fourth line, but this team’s weakness is its defense. How they respond to their early struggles will determine the fate of the season.

“We'd be kidding ourselves if we're not going to have some growing pains along the way,” Holtby said of the team. “It's just how we handle them and what we do with them. How do we fight through them and get better?”

Tuesday’s game may have ended in a loss, but it was an effort the defense can build around. That is the silver lining. If they do build on this game, the Capitals still have a playoff caliber roster. If they do not, well, there is no telling how far Washington can sink.