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Capitals 2017-18 Prospect Preview: Defensive Prospects

Capitals 2017-18 Prospect Preview: Defensive Prospects

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?

PROSPECT PREVIEWS: Jakub Vrana | Nathan Walker | Chandler Stephenson | Christian Djoos | Madison Bowey

2017-18 CAPITALS PROSPECT PREVIEW: 

Tyler Lewington
Age: 22
Height: 6-1 
Weight: 189 
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

Connor Hobbs
Age: 20
Height: 6-0
Weight: 196
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

Lucas Johansen
Age: 19
Height: 6-1 
Weight: 174
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

Jonas Siegenthaler
Age: 20
Height: 6-3
Weight: 220
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

PREVIEWING 2017-18 BREAKOUT CANDIDATES: Tom Wilson | Brett Connolly | Andre Burakovsky

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.

RELATED: Ranking the 10 best Capitals players of all time

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In just one week, Madison Bowey already looks like a much improved player

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In just one week, Madison Bowey already looks like a much improved player

Madison Bowey’s second game went a lot better than his first and it’s not just because the Caps allowed only two goals as opposed to eight.

Despite being thrust into a significant role in his first taste of NHL experience, Bowey seemed to settle in a bit in his second contest even as it came against the NHL’s best offense in the Toronto Maple Leafs.

“Just everything in the first game felt like it happened so quick, I think,” Bowey said Thursday after the team’s practice. “It was obviously nice to come back in Washington and play in the home in front of the home crowd, get a practice in on Monday before the game Tuesday with the team. Just all the little factors that went into it definitely helped and I think it definitely felt a lot smoother out there on the ice.”

RELATED: BURAKOVSKY DEMOTED TO THIRD LINE

Playing at home definitely has its benefits for the coaching staff as they try to protect the rookie defensemen. Home teams get the chance to change after the visiting team allowing the coaches to pick the matchups they want for Bowey.

More favorable matchups certainly helped him, but Bowey also seemed to play with more confidence and a level of calm that was not there against Philadelphia. For Bowey, the difference was having time to settle in and practice with the team.

“Obviously this team is one of the veteran teams in the league so to be able to practice against top players in the league, it goes a long way,” Bowey said.

RELATED: WHY THE CAPS SHOULD NOT TRADE PROSPECT IIYA SAMSONOV

Bowey was called up for a Saturday game in Philadelphia after Matt Niskanen suffered a hand injury Friday in New Jersey. That means he quickly had to join the team and jump into the lineup for his first ever NHL game without any practice with the Caps at all.

Bowey now has two practices and two games under his belt and even a team-building day at FBI training. The effect that has had on his game was noticeable on Tuesday. It should be even more clear on Friday as the team travels to face the Detroit Red Wings.

“I feel myself improving every day,” Bowey said. “It forces you to really work hard and be on your top every day you come to the rink so for me, just having those two practices already have been huge. I feel the development's getting a lot better early.”

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Game 8: Capitals at Red Wings Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

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Game 8: Capitals at Red Wings Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

What: Washington Capitals at Detroit Red Wings

Where: Little Caesar's Arena, Detroit, Mich.

When: 7:30 p.m. ET. Coverage starts at 6:30 p.m. ET with Capitals FaceOff.

How to Watch: Capitals at Red Wings will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington Plus. (Channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can watch the Capitals at Red Wings game on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page.

WHEN IS THE CAPITALS-RED WINGS GAME?

The Capitals (3-3-1) take on the Red Wings (4-3-0) Friday, October 20 at 7:30 p.m. ET at Little Caesars's Arena.

WHAT CHANNEL IS THE CAPITALS-RED WINGS GAME ON?

The Capitals-Red Wings game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington Plus. Capitals FaceOff gets things started at 6:30 p.m. ET followed by Caps GameTime at 7:00 p.m. Stay with NBC Sports Washington Plus following the game for Caps Extra followed by Caps Overtime and Caps in 30 for all your postgame coverage. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

6:30 p.m. — Caps GameTime
7:00 p.m. — Caps FaceOff
7:30 p.m. — Capitals @ Red Wings
10:00 p.m. — Caps Extra
10:30 p.m. — Caps OverTime
 

WHERE CAN I STREAM THE CAPITALS-RED WINGS GAME?

The Capitals-Red Wings game, as well as the pre and postgame shows, is available to stream live here through NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and is available to authenticated NBC Sports Washington subscribers on desktops, tablets, mobile devices and connected TVs anywhere in the United States.

WHAT ARE THE LINES FOR THE CAPITALS-RED WINGS GAME?

Here are the projected lines:

Forwards
Tom Wilson - Nicklas Backstrom - T.J. Oshie
Alex Ovechkin - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Jakub Vrana
Brett Connolly - Lars Eller - Andre Burakovsky
Devante Smith-Pelly - Jay Beagle - Alex Chiasson

Defense
Brooks Orpik - Madison Bowey
Christian Djoos - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Taylor Chorney

Goalies
Braden Holtby starts with Philipp Grubauer as backup

Scratches
Nathan Walker, Aaron Ness, Tyler Graovac (injured), Matt Niskanen (LTIR)

CAPITALS-RED WINGS OPEN THREAD

Use the comment section below to discuss the game action with other Capitals fans. 

For all the latest Caps coverage, follow Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir, Capitals correspondent JJ Regan and the NBC Sports Capitals account on Twitter. Be sure check out our Capitals page and NBC Sports Washington's Facebook page.