You don’t have to watch Christian Djoos very long to realize he has the skill to be an NHL defenseman. You also don’t have to watch very long before you notice how much smaller he is than everyone else around him.
At 5-foot-11, 169 pounds, Djoos is the smallest player at Capitals training camp and by far the smallest defenseman. The second smallest defenseman is Lucas Johansen who weighs in at 175 pounds.
But size is what you make of it and in Barry Trotz’s mind, it’s not as important as one may think.
“Size is sometimes a little bit overrated,” Trotz told reporters after Monday’s morning skate. “If you've got hockey I.Q. and make quick decisions, I mean, Erik Karlsson may be the best defenseman in the league right now. He's not overly big but he's got a great skillset and he thinks the game extremely well. You don't have to be the biggest or the toughest or the fastest. If you can think the game really well, you're going to have a chance to be a real good player in this league.”
It should be noted that Karlsson stands at 6-feet, 191 pounds. That would make him smaller than nine of the 18 defensemen at Capitals training camp. He is certainly not the smallest defenseman out there, but not the biggest either. Trotz’s point was that Karlsson is not the best because of his size, but rather because of his skill and Djoos needs to show a lot of skill and hockey I.Q. to balance out his lack of size.
“[Djoos is] more of a cerebral player than he is a physical specimen," Trotz said. "That's how he's going to find a way to play. He's going to have to navigate that. He's going to have to be smarter than [someone who is] bigger. He has a great stick, he has [a] good mind for the game. I think he's going to be fine.”
But make no mistake, Monday’s preseason game is an important test. With size being the only question for Djoos, all eyes will be on him to see just how he is able to handle a Devils’ lineup that features more scoring talent than one may expect for a preseason game. Taylor Hall, Marcus Johansson, Kyle Palmieri and first-overall draft pick Nico Hischier will all be in the lineup for New Jersey. How Djoos plays this preseason is going to determine whether or not he stays in Washington or finds himself back in Hershey.
“We're not really going to make the decision,” Trotz said. “The players really make the decision. You start watching how they handle playing and how they handle situations. They sort of separate themselves. We just have to watch and they really do it for us.”
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