With players starting to trickle into Kettler Capitals Iceplex from all corners of the world, we’ll spend this week looking at the Capitals’ depth chart at each position and what we can expect heading into what promises to be a very interesting 2015-16 season. Today, we examine the left wing position:
Penalty minutes: 58
Power play goals: 25
Game-winning goals: 11
Average ice time: 20:19
Power play ice time: 3:49
2015-16 cap hit: $9.538 million
Analysis: With six years and $60 million remaining on the 13-year, $124 million investment the Caps made in him back in 2008, Ovechkin is still giving fans what they pay to see. He has led the NHL in goals in three straight seasons and showed no signs of slowing down in his first season under Barry Trotz. Ovechkin is the most lethal power-play threat in the NHL, leading all NHL forwards in power-play ice time (309:16), power-play shots (134) and power-play goals (25).
Ovechkin also quieted his critics with a plus-45 turnaround from the season before while scoring two more goals. Now, the only thing separating Ovechkin from true greatness is a Stanley Cup ring. Through 10 NHL seasons, Ovechkin is averaging .625 goals per game in the regular season and .5 goals per game in the playoffs. If there is one part of Ovechkin’s game that needs attention it is his penchant for taking penalties. His 58 penalty minutes were his most since 2009-10 and his 29 minor penalties were third most on the team behind Tom Wilson (41) and Brooks Orpik (33).
Projection: It will be interesting to see how Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom mesh with T.J. Oshie and Justin Williams, who could take turns on the Caps’ top line. We may also see Ovechkin paired with puck wizard Evgeny Kuznetsov to give opposing coaches something else to think about. No matter who he plays with, considering his recent history, you’d have to think Ovechkin is due for another 50-goal, 80-point season.
Penalty minutes: 10
Power play goals: 2
Average ice time: 12:55
2015-16 cap hit: $894,166
Analysis: Taken with the 23rd pick of the 2013 NHL draft, Burakovsky impressed the Caps’ coaching staff enough to make the opening-night roster last season and scored a goal in his first NHL game. Burakovsky was averaging close to 14 minutes a game through the first six weeks of last season but from early December through early March he spent 15 games watching from the press box while the Caps’ coaching staff worked on his defensive positioning.
In the postseason, Burakovsky was a healthy scratch for the first three games against the Islanders but had a dominant Game 4 against the Rangers with a pair of goals. It is with that in mind that Burakovsky will be given added responsibilities this season, either as a second-line left wing on a line with Kuznetsov and Williams or as a third-line center with perhaps Brooks Laich and Tom Wilson.
Projection: Trotz is a stickler when it comes to giving young players too much before they are ready for it and that was certainly the case with Burakovsky last season. He’s still unproven, but with improved strength in the offseason Burakovsky has a chance to be an impact player this season, capable of cracking 25 goals and 45 points, especially if he plays with a set-up man like Kuznetsov.
Penalty minutes: 10
Power play goals: 3
Power play assists: 12
Average ice time: 16:28
2015-16 cap hit: $3.75 million
Analysis: Facing the first crossroads of his career last season, Johansson responded with career highs in goals (20) and points (47) and was rewarded with a one-year, $3.75 million contract that should provide plenty of incentive to duplicate, if not increase, those numbers. With an ability to play all three forward positions Johansson provides plenty of versatility and could begin the season anywhere from second-line left wing to third-line center or right wing.
Johansson showed last season that when he shoots more – his 138 shots were 31 more than his previous career high – he scores more and that will continue to be a point of emphasis this season. An excellent passer, Johansson figures to play a prominent role on the power play, where he can team up with Backstrom or Kuznetsov to make a lethal combination.
Projection: When there is discussion of Johansson being on the Caps’ third line, you’re talking about a team deep in talented forwards. With Burakovsky eating up some of his ice time, Johansson’s playing time may drop this season and if he’s matched with Brooks Laich and Tom Wilson, his production will be even more necessary. With that in mind, another 20-goal, 47-point season would be considered a very strong season for the five-year veteran.
Penalty minutes: 51
Average ice time: 12:56
Shorthanded time on ice: 1:23
2015-16 cap hit: $2 million
Analysis: Coming off his lowest full-season offensive production in nine years, this could be the final season in Washington for the Capitals’ oldest player. If so, he’ll want to go out with a bang. Despite averaging less than 13 minutes during the regular season, mostly on a line with Joel Ward and Eric Fehr, Chimera earned 15:35 of average ice time in the playoffs, proof that he can still be an impact player when it matters most.
Still one of the Caps’ fastest skaters, Chimera had three goals and four assists in 14 playoff games and his .47 points per game in the playoffs ranks better than his .38 points per game during the regular season.
Projection: Even if used in a fourth-line role and as a second-team penalty killer, Chimera is still big enough, strong enough and fast enough to reach double digits in goals and his locker-room presence is, well, as colorful as they come.
Games: 45 (AHL)
Penalty minutes: 121
2015-16 cap hit: $621,666
Games: 28 (AHL)
Penalty minutes: 30
2015-16 cap hit: $635,000
Analysis: It looks as though the Caps might need to wait another year before 20-year-old Zach Sanford (24 points in 38 games for Boston College) is given a real shot at a roster spot on the left side. Until then, O’Brien and Walker could provide the grit factor Trotz likes to have on his fourth line. Both players are likely to start the season in Hershey and are considered injury call-ups at left wing.
Projection: If the Caps are healthy, fans will see a limited dose of O'Brian and Walker, but they are a pair of hungry agitators worth watching in training camp.