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The 25 Most Important Players for the Caps: No. 17 Christian Djoos

The 25 Most Important Players for the Caps: No. 17 Christian Djoos

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.

RELATED: Capitals Faceoff Podcast: Storytime with Mike Vogel

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.

— 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

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Evgeny Kuznetsov considered day-to-day, will miss Sunday's game in Philadelphia

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Evgeny Kuznetsov considered day-to-day, will miss Sunday's game in Philadelphia

Evgeny Kuznetsov has been declared day-to-day with an undisclosed upper body injury, the Caps announced Saturday afternoon.

He will not play Sunday against the Flyers, marking the first time in four seasons that the durable 25-year-old center will have missed a game.

Kuznetsov, the Caps’ assists leader and first line pivot over the past week, was injured in the second period of Friday’s 6-3 win over the Islanders. On the play, he slashed on the arm by New York defenseman Thomas Hickey before he tumbled awkwardly into the end boards.


Kuznetsov did not return to the contest.

The Caps did not practice on Saturday as they made their way to Philadelphia, where they'll look to extend their winning streak to five games.  

The team, per usual, did not elaborate about the extent or nature of Kuznetsov’s injury. But it does seem to be a good sign that he was not listed as week-to-week—the designation the Caps typically reserve for more severe injuries. And with a two point lead on Pittsburgh in the Metro Division standings—and a game in hand—they can actually afford to be cautious with one of their most important players.


The injury does, however, come at a time when Kuznetsov appeared to be hitting his stride. Including the two assists he had racked up prior to leaving Friday’s game, Kuzy has amassed five goals and 11 assists in 10 games.    

Without Kuznetsov on Sunday, Nicklas Backstrom, Lars Eller and Jay Beagle will be the team’s most experienced centers. Travis Boyd and/or Chandler Stephenson figure to be deployed as the fourth pivot.

Coach Barry Trotz is expected to meet with reporters prior to Sunday’s game. It’s possible he’ll shed some more light on Kuznetsov’s outlook at that time.

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Who ya got? Trotz faces tough choice in net after Holtby's strong return

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Who ya got? Trotz faces tough choice in net after Holtby's strong return

Braden Holtby has made Barry Trotz’s weekend very difficult, but in a good way.

Back-to-back games against the New York Islanders offered the Capitals an opportunity to play both Philipp Grubauer and Holtby. Grubauer stayed hot earning another win for Washington. On Friday, Holtby got his first start since March 6 and played very well.

“A win is good,” Holtby said after the game. “I felt pretty comfortable. Some things to build off of and things that I want to get better at. It was a step in the right direction.”


A 22 save effort on Friday was bookended by two big saves. The first shot Holtby faced was a turnover on the power play that led to a dangerous shorthanded scoring opportunity for John Tavares early in the first period. Then in the third, with the Capitals leading 5-3 and the Islanders trying to mount a comeback, Holtby turned aside a breakaway opportunity for star rookie Mathew Barzal.

“I thought he was pretty solid,” Trotz said. “He looked really confident.”

“I felt a lot better,” Holtby said. “Not that I was feeling horrible before, it's just you get refreshed. It's like anything, you have a week off work, a holiday or something, you come back a little refreshed.”

And that brings us to Sunday.

On Sunday, the Capitals play the Philadelphia Flyers. The Flyers are a team in playoff position in desperate need of points after seven of their last eight games.

When asked on Wednesday who he thought would start Sunday’s game, Trotz said, “We're in a result business and we need some results so we'll see who is looking the sharpest and gives us the best chance to win.”

Both Grubauer and Holtby were impressive in their starts over the Islanders. You can’t argue Holtby is suddenly the hotter hand after one win considering how well Grubauer has played of late, but if Holtby remaisn the team’s No. 1, shouldn’t he get the next start after a strong winning performance?


Trotz was asked after the game who would start on Sunday after Holtby’s win.

“They're both playing well so I can't even answer that right now to be honest with you,” he said. “I do know that we have a number of games this week and whatever way go, obviously I'm going to sit down with the coaches and whatever way we go, I think they're both going to get some time this week.”

“I think you have to take it game-by-game,” Trotz added. “Bottom line is that you've got to make a decision and go with it and if your decision is that goalie A is a little hotter or you've just got a gut feel then you go with it and you have to live with it good or bad.”

So for now, it sounds as if we will see a rotation in net as Trotz continues evaluating which netminder gives the team the best chance to win in the playoffs. It is a tough position for the Caps’ bench boss, but, if both goalies continue to perform, having to choose between a hot Grubauer and a resurgent Holtby is a good problem to have and much preferable to having to choose between backup Grubauer and slumping Holtby.

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