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. 17 Christian Djoos
Heading into the season, the Caps have an open spot in their top four on the blue line. Someone will have to fill that spot and the Caps will need one of their young prospects to emerge. One of the prospects the Caps will be relying on the most this season will be Christian Djoos.
Djoos made his case for an NHL spot this season with a spectacular 2016-17 campaign with the Hershey Bears. With 13 goals and 45 assists in 66 games, Djoos was tied for the most assists among AHL defensemen and ranked third in points.
Not bad for a 22-year-old. Now 23, the Caps are hoping that skillset and production will follow him to the NHL.
Djoos’ skillset is undeniable. He is a tremendous puck-moving defenseman with a great breakout pass and smooth skating ability. As a left-handed shot and sound defensive player, he seems like an ideal fit to play alongside John Carlson on the team’s second pairing.
But every prospect comes into the NHL with question marks and Djoos has one big one: his size.
The young Swede is listed as 6-foot, 164 pounds. That is by far the smallest among the team’s defensemen. The next two smallest are Aaron Ness who is 5-foot-10, 184 pounds and Taylor Chorney at 6-foot, 191 pounds.
Hockey is a physical game and defensemen are tasked with finding a way to separate the puck from some very big forwards. How Djoos will be able to handle power forwards like Milan Lucic barreling into the offensive zone remains to be seen. What’s also unknown is how he will handle the wear and tear of an NHL season where the players are bigger and hit harder.
The good news is that he has thus far shown enough hockey IQ to adjust his game accordingly, at least in the AHl. While no doubt the Caps would like to see him put on some weight, he is never going to be Shea Weber and he knows it. Bears head coach Troy Mann praised Djoos’ ability to avoid big hits and unnecessary collisions on a recent episode of CSN’s Capitals Faceoff Podcast.
If staying smart is the key to staying healthy, the Capitals will have to hope he continues to play smart because they need him to make an impact this season.
Djoos has top-four NHL skill and is no longer waiver exempt. While the Caps are expected to play many different prospects this season Djoos will likely be in Washington for the long haul because the team cannot afford to expose him to waivers. Unless he has a horrible training camp, expect to see him start the season in Washington.
For more on Djoos, you can read CSN’s prospect preview of him here.
Check out the full list of the Caps most important players as it comes out here and check out previous player profiles below.