Entering the 2021-22 season, the Capitals knew they had one of the oldest rosters in the NHL.
And now, just a handful of games into the year, they’re undergoing a bit of a youth movement. Some of it was planned and some of it wasn’t. But for now, it’s here.
The Capitals have five rookies on the NHL roster and played four of them in a 3-2 loss to the Lightning on Monday night. Those four were Connor McMichael, Brett Leason, Martin Fehervary and Aliaksei Protas. Hendrix Lapierre was a healthy scratch.
Leason scored his first NHL goal just moments in the game while Protas made his NHL debut after being recalled in place of fourth line center Nic Dowd, who went on IR early Monday.
Still, there wasn’t a ton to see from some of the rookies in the lineup. Leason played just 5:58 and Protas just 3:53 — a decision coach Peter Laviolette explained postgame. Even McMichael, who played well, played just 12:10.
Laviolette did, however, lean on Fehervary quite a bit, as he played 16:34 during the game. With John Carlson on the first pairing, Fehervary has impressed with his slick skating ability and strong puck-moving skills.
The Capitals were ready, in a way, to make this year a youth movement of sorts. Zdeno Chara left, who was replaced by Fehervary, and the Capitals added McMichael to the lineup. Those changes were, in some way, expected.
But absent Nicklas Backstrom, and now T.J. Oshie and Nic Dowd, the team has had to rely on younger players to get the job done early on in the season. And while they didn’t rely a ton on the youngsters Monday, they’ll have to as the year goes along.