Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan went on a little radio blitz on Tuesday, appearing on the Grant and Danny Show on 106.7 The Fan and again on SiriusXM NHL Network Radio.
Much of the discussion centered around the Capitals’ intention to improve their speed and quickness on the third line, along with the continued development of 22-year-old right wing Tom Wilson and 24-year-old defenseman Dmitry Orlov.
Since entering the NHL as a 19-year-old in 2013-14 under Capitals head coach Adam Oates, Wilson’s offensive numbers have modestly increased, from three goals and seven assists (151 penalty minutes) as a rookie to four goals and 13 assists (172 PIM) in Year 2 and seven goals and 16 assists (163 PIM) this season. His ice time has also increased, from 7:56 as a rookie, to 10:56 last year and 12:54 this season.
MacLellan says he thinks the Caps’ decision to promote Wilson to the NHL instead of letting him play one more season with the WHL Plymouth Whalers was a mistake.
“I’m optimistic with him,” MacLellan told NHL Network Radio. “I think, in hindsight, we probably started him in the NHL a year early.
“I think sometimes guys are physically mature and they can handle the physical part of it, but you know, big guys would be well-served playing a power play or playing a top-six role in a lower level versus a fourth-line role at the NHL level.
“I think maybe that first year didn’t do him any good. This year, I thought he made a lot of progress. He’s turned himself into a really good penalty killer. We played him in a third-line role most of the year, and he did a real good job killing penalties
“It would be nice to get him a little more offensive, you know maybe get on the second power play. But I think he’s coming. I think it’s just harder for him to get touches with the puck when you’re playing in a bottom-six role, and we anticipate putting him in more of an offensive role going forward.”
MacLellan told 106.7 The Fan that Orlov could find himself in the top four defensive rotation next season, with veteran Brooks Orpik possibly taking a reduced role as a third-pair defender with Nate Schmidt.
That could mean Orlov is paired with Matt Niskanen next season, with John Carlson and Karl Alzner being reunited.
“There’s an offensive upside to Orlov and there’s ability for him to move up in our lineup, and we’ve got to be careful that we don’t limit him in his ability to move there,” MacLellan said.
Orlov recorded a career-high eight goals and 21 assists in 82 regular season games while averaging 16:01 of ice time. That ice time decreased to 13:18 in 11 playoff games, where Orlov posted one assist and was pulled out of Game 2 against the Penguins.
“I would count on him developing and getting to that next level,” MacLellan said. “The idea would be, Brooks Orpik plays a little less minutes and Orlov plays a little bit more, maybe he moves into the top four for part of the time. That would be ideal situation, but we’ll have to see how he comes into camp.”
MORE CAPITALS: WILSON COULD LEARN A FEW THINGS WATCHING WARD, BROUWER