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8 players to watch as Caps open development camp

8 players to watch as Caps open development camp

Tuesday will be the first on-ice day for the players at Capitals development camp. Here are the future Caps you should be keeping an eye on throughout the week.

Alex Alexeyev: Alexeyev is Washington’s first first-round pick since 2016 and development camp will be the first time he hits the ice as a member of the organization. The success of the Capitals’ 2018 draft will depend on how good of a player Alexeyev turns out to be. Teams just cannot afford to miss on their first-round picks. Camp will provide us with the first chance to see his skill and just how he stacks up against the team's other prospects and free agents.

Kody Clark: As the 47th overall pick, Clark is the highest drafted forward the Caps have taken since Jakub Vrana in 2014. Plus, he didn’t even come from the WHL which has become the major pipeline junior league for Washington. Clearly, they must have seen something they really liked in Clark to draft him as high as they did.

Shane Gersich: How does a player go from three NHL games and two playoff games to development camp? We’re about to find out. While Gersich went straight to the NHL after signing from North Dakota, Gersich’s future in the upcoming season likely will be in the AHL…unless he can prove he’s ready already to make the jump. If he doesn’t look like he’s head and shoulders above the rest of the prospects at camp, he’s not ready to challenge for an NHL roster spot.

Lucas Johansen: Expectations are high for the team’s top draft pick from 2016. Now entering his third development camp with the team, the biggest question for Johansen is just how much muscle has he been able to put on? The camp roster lists Johansen as 177 pounds. That would actually mean he has dropped a significant amount of weight since last season’s camp when he was 188 which would of course mean he’s trending in the wrong direction.

Axel Jonsson-Fjallby: The young Swede was a breakout star in the World Junior Championship with his speed and flowing locks. He followed that up with an impressive performance in the SHL playoffs with six goals and nine points in 13 games. The bar has been set very high for him heading into this camp.

Brian Pinho: This will mark Pinho’s sixth development camp, but this time, he comes in under contract with the Caps. After four seasons playing at Providence College, Pinho could have become a free agent on Aug. 15 had he elected to wait, but instead chose to sign with the team that drafted him. After a strong collegiate career, now the question is just what can he offer the Caps?

Ilya Samsonov: Samsonov signed an entry-level deal with the Caps after the KHL season ended and now is poised to make his North America debut in the fall. The plan for now is for Samsonov to start in Hershey and Pheonix Copley to serve as the Caps’ backup, but Copley has only two games of NHL experience. What’s plan B if he struggles? If Samsonsov can adjust quickly to the North American game, he could potentially challenge Copley for that backup role.

Jonas Siegenthaler: Depending on how free agency plays out, the Caps may have one or two spots open on the blue line heading into training camp. Of the team’s defensive prospects, Siegenthaler is believed to be the most NHL ready at this point. Could he be in the running for a spot with the Caps this season?

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Free Agency Bracket: Noel Acciari vs. Marcus Kruger

Free Agency Bracket: Noel Acciari vs. Marcus Kruger

It is almost time for NHL free agency to begin, and the Capitals certainly have needs to fill and a limited budget. Who would be the best fit? Who would be the best free agent target for Washington to pursue? That’s what NBC Sports Washington wants to find out!

Our experts got together and made a bracket of the 16 best free agent fits. The bracket is divided into four regions: Third line forward, fourth line forward, depth defenseman and Caps’ free agent. Now we want you to tell us who you want to see rocking the red next year!

Every weekday we will match two free agents up against one another and present a case for each player. Then you get to vote and decide who advances!

Check out today’s matchup:

Region: Fourth line forwards

Noel Acciari vs. Marcus Kruger

 

2018-19 stats

 

Noel Acciari (27 years old):72 games played with the Boston Bruins, 6 goals, 8 assists, 14 points, 12:59 TOI

 

Playoffs: 19 games played with the Boston Bruins, 2 goals, 2 assists, 4 points, 13:10 TOI

 

Marcus Kruger (29 years old): 74 games played with the Chicago Blackhawks, 4 goals, 8 assists, 12 points, 10:25 TOI

 

Playoffs: None

 

Hockey-Graph contract projections

 

Noel Acciari: 2 years, $1,180,934 cap hit

 

Marcus Kruger: 1 year, $861,030 cap hit

 

The case for Noel Acciari

Plays a lot bigger than his 5-foot-10, 205-pound frame. A perfect fit at right wing on the fourth line for Washington. The native New Englander, who played at Providence, is a home-grown Bruin and might not want to leave home, but Boston also might not have the cap space to give an obvious fourth-line player a decent raise. The Capitals might not, either, but for now, they really only have to add in RFA Jakub Vrana’s new contract and figure out what they’re going to do with RFA Andre Burakovsky. 

 

Acciari is renowned for his character and toughness. He was a college captain for Providence and helped the Friars win an NCAA title in 2015. There’s never been a shot he’s unwilling to block. Acciari sustained a broken sternum in the second round against Columbus and a blocked shot with his right foot in Game 7 of the Cup Final left him in a walking boot.  

 

Acciari’s offensive upside is limited, but he did have 10 goals in 2017-18. He was a key player for the Bruins in the past two Stanley Cup playoffs and chipped in two goals in this year’s playoff run that came within a game of a championship. Acciari would help on Washington’s penalty kill, too. In 111:52 he was only on the ice for 11 power-play goals against. Only two Boston forwards were on the ice more short-handed.  

 

The case for Marcus Kruger

 

A different skill set here for the smaller Kruger (6-foot, 186 pounds). Don’t expect even double-digit goals from him, either. But Kruger will likely cost less than $1 million and can be a valuable penalty killer, where Washington needs help. That’s huge for a team that is now dealing with an $81.5 million salary cap, which is $1.5 million less than expected. Add in the overage bonus for defenseman Brooks Orpik from last season and you’re in trouble at just over $80 million.   

 

Kruger played seven seasons with the Chicago Blackhawks and one disappointing one with the Carolina Hurricanes. Kruger has plenty of Stanley Cup experience, too, playing for Chicago’s 2013 and 2015 Cup winners. He has 87 postseason games and a triple-overtime game-winner in the Western Conference Final to his name in 2015 in Game 2 of that series against Anaheim. 

 

A defensive specialist, only two Blackhawks forwards played more short-handed minutes than Kruger (132:46) last season. There is risk here. Kruger was traded to Carolina in 2017-18, but was placed on waivers after 48 games and spent the rest of the season in the AHL before being traded to Arizona and then back to Chicago. But part of that stemmed from how much he was making on a $3.08 million cap hit. At a bargain-basement price, Kruger is more palatable. 

 

Who’s your pick? Vote here.

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Ted Leonsis reflects on Capitals' induction to D.C. Sports Hall of Fame

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NBC Sports Washington

Ted Leonsis reflects on Capitals' induction to D.C. Sports Hall of Fame

Click "play" in the embedded podcast to listen to the Capitals Talk Podcast interview with Ted Leonsis and click here to subscribe to the podcast.

Just as the party seems to be ending, the 2018 Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals are finding new ways to celebrate.

Sunday at Nationals Park, the Caps were honored with the "team of distinction" award in the D.C. sports hall of fame, the first-ever award of its kind.

“I think it just shows how this team connected with the fans and as many people have noted, this is one of the most divided cities in the world," Caps majority owner and president of Monumental Sports, Ted Leonsis said to Rob Carlin on the Capitals Talk podcast. "People can’t agree on anything, but they agreed on how much they loved, and how much fun they had and how proud they were that we won the Stanley Cup."

Founded in 1980, the D.C. sports hall of fame honors athletes, sports journalists and executives each year for excellence in D.C. sports. 2019 was the first time an entire team was formally recognized, fitting for the first-ever Stanley Cup championship in D.C.

"It [the honor] is a good capstone on that run," Leonsis said.

Listen to the full episode linked below.

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