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The 25 Most Important Players for the Caps: No. 8 Dmitry Orlov

The 25 Most Important Players for the Caps: No. 8 Dmitry Orlov

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. 8 Dmitry Orlov

Dmitry Orlov's first season under Barry Trotz was one to forget as a wrist injury forced him to miss the entire 2014-15 season. No one knew quite what to expect from him the following season as a third-pair defenseman, but he managed a strong 82-game campaign and showed he was ready for a top-four role.

The biggest issue that held Orlov back was his tendency for making egregious mistakes in the defensive zone. For the most part, he was a solid defensive player, but he gave up some mind-blowing turnovers leading general manager Brian MacLellan to refer to him as a "high event player." But he unquestionably took another step forward this past season, cut down on his miskates and will enter the 2017-18 season on the top pair alongside Matt Niskanen.

RELATED: BRETT CONNOLLY PLANS ON SCORING A LOT OF GOALS THIS SEASON

Orlov's importance to the team was reflected in the new contract he signed in the offseason. After playing on a one-year deal that paid him $2.57 million, Orlov re-signed for six years, $30.6 million. That deal carries a cap hit of $5.1 million.

The 26-year-old Russian defenseman is entering his prime. On the offensive end of the ice, he has an incredibly strong slap shot that can be hard to stop when it is on target. Defensively, he is a hard-hitting player who now plays on the team's top shutdown pair along with Niskanen. The major weakness to his game is the turnovers, but when he is playing a responsible, smart game, he is a tremendous player.

The Capitals are enter next season with questions on both the second and third pair. They don't have any questions about their top pair, however, with Orlov on the left.

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
— No. 15 Jay Beagle
— No. 14 Brett Connolly
— No. 13 Tom Wilson
— No. 12 Lars Eller
— No. 11 Jakub Vrana
— No. 10 Brooks Orpik
— No. 9 John Carlson

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All signs point to T.J. Oshie returning to the Caps' lineup in Dallas

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USA TODAY Sports

All signs point to T.J. Oshie returning to the Caps' lineup in Dallas

T.J. Oshie is back.

Almost, anyway.

The Caps’ star winger practiced with his teammates on Monday morning, marking the first time he’s been a full participant in a team setting since getting his head smashed into the boards by San Jose’s Joe Thornton on Dec. 4.

SEE THE LATEST NHL POWER RANKINGS HERE

Oshie resumed skating on Dec. 10 and has steadily been ramping up his level of intensity since.    

If Oshie receives final clearance from doctors, he’ll suit up in Dallas on Tuesday night. And, as you might expect, he’s pretty excited about the possibility.

“I felt great,” said Oshie, who noted that this was the fourth documented head injury of his career. “They’ve got me in pretty good shape while I’ve been away. I feel ready.”

Although Coach Barry Trotz said a decision on Oshie’s status won’t be made until Tuesday morning, the fact that he took his normal spot on the right side of the second line with Jakub Vrana and Evgeny Kuznetsov is a strong indication that he’s expected to face the Stars.

Oshie was also back in his usual spot on the first unit power play, where he still leads the team in goals on the man advantage (7), despite missing six games.

Getting a player with Oshie’s skill set back represents a boost for the Caps, who went 5-1-0 while he was sidelined. But, on the flip side, it also means someone who has been playing well will have to come out of the lineup.

“The whole team is playing pretty good hockey right now,” Oshie said. “On the team side, you feel bad that someone is playing good hockey and they’re going to have to sit out.”

He added: “Hopefully I don’t mess up the mojo, but selfishly I want to get back in there and join in on some of the fun.”

WAS KUZNETSOV TRYING TO SCORE ON HIS GAME-TYING GOAL?

The odd man out on Monday, based on line rushes anyway, was Devante Smith-Pelly, who has not missed a game after winning a spot in training camp.

Here’s what the forward combos looked like at Kettler Capitals Iceplex:

Ovechkin – Backstrom – Wilson
Vrana – Kuznetsov – Oshie
Connolly – Eller – Burakovsky
Stephenson – Beagle – Chiasson

So the plan appears to be for Oshie to bump Chiasson down to the fourth line into Smith-Pelly’s spot. 

With 13 healthy forwards, Trotz said deciding whom will sit out is going to be based on performance and/or role. But that doesn’t mean it’s always going to be an easy choice to make.

“If everybody's playing well,” he said, “I just have to make a tough decision, that’s all.”

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NHL Power Rankings: The Caps are overcoming all obstacles, even the loss of Oshie

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USA TODAY Sports

NHL Power Rankings: The Caps are overcoming all obstacles, even the loss of Oshie

If you were to make a list of the players the Capitals could not afford to lose, chances are T.J. Oshie would be near the top of that list. Unfortunately, the Caps’ winger has missed the last six games due to an upper-body injury he suffered from a hit to the head by Joe Thornton.

Yet, even with Oshie out of the lineup the past six games, Washington has managed a 5-1-0 record.

SEE THIS WEEK’S NHL POWER RANKINGS HERE

Oshie is the undisputed energy leader of the Caps. He was considered so important, in fact, that a team with significant salary cap constraints still elected to re-sign him in the offseason to an eight-year, $46 million deal that carries a $5.75 million cap hit.

Oshie’s injury, however, has not cooled off the red-hot Caps who have now won 11 of their last 14 games. It is still clear the team is missing him—their 3-1 loss to the New York Islanders in which the Caps lacked any energy at all is evidence of that—but the way the team has been able to rally without him is impressive.

If Washington can win five out of six without Oshie, how much better will they be once he gets back into the lineup?

The Caps keep winning and that means they keep climbing in the NHL Power Rankings. See how high they climb in this week’s rankings here.