J.J. Regan

Quick Links

Brooks Orpik is the Caps’ ultimate role model for ‘how to be a true professional'

usatsi_10368012.jpg
USA Today

Brooks Orpik is the Caps’ ultimate role model for ‘how to be a true professional'

When training camp began, all eyes were on the stars like Alex Ovechkin, T.J. Oshie and Braden Holtby. The eyes of all the young defensemen, however, were on Brooks Orpik.

Orpik, who will turn 38 on Wednesday, now enters his 17th professional season and fifth with the Washington Capitals. Once a staple on the top four, Orpik has seen his minutes and his on-ice role decrease with age. His role off the ice, however, remains as large as ever.

“All defensemen can come to him, all players will come to him on any number of issues and he's there for them,” head coach Todd Reirden said. “But more often than not, some of the players don't go to him and they just watch him and try to replicate some of the things he's doing.”

The impact that has on the locker room was enough that the Caps sought to re-sign Orpik even after trading him in the offseason.

Orpik and his $5.5 million cap hit was sent to the Colorado Avalanche as part of the Philipp Grubauer trade. Once the Avalanche bought Orpik out of his contract, the Caps jumped at the chance to re-sign him.

Why re-sign a player you just traded and risk the ire of the NHL? Because the impact he has on the team is worth it, especially for the younger players.

This year’s blue line for Washington will feature youngsters like Christian Djoos and Madison Bowey, who will both be in their second NHL seasons. Training camp also features several other young defensemen vying for a possible call-up like Jonas Siegenthaler, Lucas Johansen and Connor Hobbs.

Giving those players a chance to work with Orpik and see what it takes to be a true professional at the NHL level is invaluable.

“He's a true pro,” Bowey said. “I think anytime you have a guy like that in your locker room to look up to, it makes everyone's job a lot easier. I know he's a guy that I've leaned on a lot in my young career so far and is a guy that I'll continue to lean on. The way his presence is on the room, it's definitely recognizable and something that we all noticed.”

For his part, Orpik was adamant in that he does not feel his role has changed at all and is not approaching this season any differently. He is preparing this season to be a player, not a mentor.

But then again, he shouldn’t change anything because it is in how he trains, how he prepares, how he carries himself that he has become a role model.

“I remember when I was a younger guy, [Darius Kasparaitis] was there my first year,” Orpik said. “You catch yourself kind of just staring at these guys, watching these guys. I'm not naive, I know guys are constantly watching you.”

If he is going to be a mentor, he is determined to make sure it is going to be by example.

Said Reirden, “He's a great role model for how to be a true professional.”
 

MORE CAPS NEWS:

Quick Links

Sending Alexeyev back to his junior team is not a reflection of his play, it’s about timing

usatsi_10905403.jpg
USA Today Sports Images

Sending Alexeyev back to his junior team is not a reflection of his play, it’s about timing

The Capitals made their first roster cuts of training camp on Wednesday with the most notable name being the young defenseman Alex Alexeyev, the team’s first-round draft pick in 2018. A high draft pick getting sent back to his junior team less than a week into training camp could lead fans to jump to the conclusion that he has not performed well, but that would be incorrect. The reality is that the team has been very impressed with his performance.

Alexeyev recorded an assist in his lone preseason performance on Tuesday. He admitted to having some nerves at the beginning of the game to NHL.com writer Tom Gulitti, but he was able to settle down after that and managed very strong [performance overall.

“[Alexeyev] continues to show his ability to play in a number of different ways,” head coach Todd Reirden said after the game. “Just really some high skill plays in tight areas where he’s executing passes that normally guys at that size and that age probably don’t do as defensemen.”

Roster cuts have a negative connotation for most as they think in terms of NFL cuts (or this). To see Alexeyev cut this early may make some worry that it was because he was not good enough to make the team. That’s true, but only partially.

Alexeyev is not good enough to make the team…yet.

With John Carlson, Michal Kempny, Matt Niskanen, Dmitry Orlov, Christian Djoos, Madison Bowey and Brooks Orpik all returning, the Capitals’ defense is set for this season. There are also players like Jonas Siegenthaler, Lucas Johansen and Connor Hobbs all competing to show they are ready for the NHL in case of a call-up. There is just no room for Alexeyev yet, but he has shown clear future NHL potential.

But why send him back if they see potential in him? Wouldn’t he benefit from more time practicing with NHL coaches and players?

Yes if the coaches are focused purely on development. As training camp progresses, however, and the upcoming season draws closer and closer, Reirden and his coaching staff will focus more and more primarily on preparing for the season. That means more time working with the NHL players and less time for the young prospects.

The best thing for a player’s development is playing. Alexeyev’s junior team, the Red Deer Rebels, played its final game of the preseason on Saturday and will begin the regular season on Friday. The time to send junior players who are not going to make the NHL roster is now so that they can go back to their teams and get game action.

There’s a lot of excitement around Alexeyev and for good reason. His play in development camp, the rookie tournament and the preseason have, thus far, justified the faith the Caps showed in him when they drafted him in the first round. Sending him back to the WHL now is what is best for the development of a promising young player who is not ready quite yet to make the NHL.

Said Reirden, “[Alexeyev’s] a guy that has a bright future ahead of him and continuing to learn and grow every day."

MORE CAPITALS NEWS

Quick Links

It's not crazy to think Tom Wilson can score 20 goals

6aeed3a2d3b428a46c2249b76f6d02f8.png
NBC Sports Washington

It's not crazy to think Tom Wilson can score 20 goals

When you play on a line with Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov, your offense is going to jump. That’s exactly what happened with Tom Wilson who set career highs in goals (14), assists (21) and points (35) last season.

But it wasn’t just because of his linemates.

Wilson proved to be a productive wing on the top line, working in the dirty areas and winning board battles to generate more offense. He also provides balance on the top line in the defensive zone.

The Capitals signed Wilson to a six-year deal worth $31 million in the offseason. That’s not the kind of deal you sign to a fourth line goon. Clearly, expectations are high for Wilson to produce.

But can he reach the 20-goal mark?

While most people know Wilson more for his hits, don’t forget that he was a first-round draft pick of the Caps in 2012. He is a player with a lot of offensive skill and, at 24 years old, there’s still plenty of upside.

Wilson did not enter the 2017-18 season as a top-six player. In fact, he was forced to sit out the first four games due to his first career suspension. Yet, he was still able to double his previous career-high in goals with 14.

Now as an established top line player who is still improving on the offensive side of the ice, 20 goals looks like a very attainable number.

MORE CAPITALS NEWS