YOU CAN WATCH TARIK AND JILL'S FULL BREAKDOWN OF THE CAPS’ DEFENSIVE PROSPECTS IN THE VIDEO PLAYER ABOVE.
As we skate toward the start of the 2017-18 NHL regular season, our CSN Capitals team of Jill Sorenson and Tarik El-Bashir will analyze potential breakout candidates, prospects on the rise, players in need of improvement and the Metropolitan Division.
Today they're discussing the Defensive prospects who right now may rank behind Christian Djoos and Madison Bowey but still have a good shot at earning some playing time in Washington this winter.
The Capitals have a littany of young, talented defensemen working their way up the ranks. Which ones can we expect to see get called up and who still has work to do?
2017-18 CAPITALS PROSPECT PREVIEW:
Contract: Two-Way. Three-year, $665,000 (2015)
AHL Seasons: 2 (104 games)
2016-17 AHL Stats: 72 games, 4 goals, 13 assists, +16 plus/minus, 142 penalty minutes
Contract: Two-Way. Three-year, $720,000 (2016)
WHL Seasons: 4 (180 games)
2016-17 WHL Stats: 67 games, 31 goals, 54 assists, +30 plus/minus, 92 penalty minues
Contract: Two-Way. Three-year, $925,000 (2017)
WHL Seasons: 3 (202 games)
2016-17 WHL Stats: 68 games, 6 goals, 35 assists, +23 plus/minus, 39 penalty minutes
Contract: Two-Way. Three-year, $714,000 (2015)
AHL Seasons: 2 (13 games)
2016-17 AHL Stats: 7 games, 0 goals, 0 assists, +2 plus/minus, 2 penalty minutes
Tarik El-Bashir's Prospect Preview:
One of the primary battles to watch in the Capitals 2017-18 training camp will be contested on the blue line, where the departures of Karl Alzner, Nate Schmidt and Kevin Shattenkirk have created some opportunities for the organization’s young players.
As the roster stands now, there are five defensemen under contract for next season—Matt Niskanen, Dmitry Orlov, John Carlson, Brooks Orpik and Taylor Chorney. That, obviously, creates a couple of holes, if you include the spare.
We’ve already mentioned that Aaron Ness, 27, figures to get a good, long look in camp. He’s got more NHL experience—39 games—than anyone not currently on the Caps’ roster. His salary ($612,500) makes him an attractive option for a team that’s up against the cap ceiling.
After Ness it gets interesting. There are top prospects Christian Djoos and Madison Bowey, whom we’ve already profiled this month. The organization has a high opinion of both.
Who’s behind Djoos and Bowey? Entering camp, that list seems to be Tyler Lewington, Connor Hobbs, Lucas Johansen and Jonas Siegenthaler.
Lewington, 22, is a rugged blue liner with a mean streak who was assessed a team-high 142 penalty minutes in 72 games last season. Hershey’s coaches love his physicality and how he stands up for his teammates. The thought is that he’s a guy Washington would like to get into a regular-season game sooner rather than later.
After Lewington are Hobbs and Johansen, both of whom are looking to make the jump from junior to the AHL.
Hobbs, 20, turned heads last season by putting up 31 goals and 54 assists in 67 games with Regina of the WHL. He’s got an NHL-caliber shot, a crisp breakout pass and he impressed the Caps' staff in development camp this summer with his vastly improved physical conditioning. The faster he translates his scoring ability to the pro level, the faster he’ll find himself in Washington.
Johansen, 19, also made a positive impression in development camp. In addition to displaying the kind of solid all-around game you’d expect from a first-round pick, he packed about 10 pounds onto his 6-2 frame and was up to around 188 pounds. Continuing to bulk up and improve his strength as he battles bigger, stronger forwards at the next level.
Siegenthaler, 20, probably lags a little behind the others, but that's mostly due to his need to adapt to the North American game after spending the bulk of the last few seasons in his native Switzerland. At 6-3, 230-pounds, he’s got NHL size and his footspeed was noticeably quicker at development camp. Like some of the other youngsters, he was also in better physical condition when compared to a year ago.
When will this next group of blue line prospects get their shot?
The evaluation process begins in earnest at Kettler Capitals Iceplex in mid-September. But even if none of them manages to pull off a surprise and seize a spot on the big club’s roster, I suspect we’ll see a couple of them on call-up duty at various points during the season.