Believe it or not, summer is winding down and it is time to think about the 2021-22 hockey season. Andrew Gillis and JJ Regan will discuss the biggest questions surrounding the Caps heading into the new season.
Today's topic: What prospects will chip in this season?
Andrew: The easy answers here are center Connor McMichael and defensemen Martin Fehervary and Alexander Alexeyev.
The Capitals will almost assuredly start the season with Fehervary in the lineup and McMichael is a guarantee to see games at some point. Alexeyev is less so, but I can’t imagine the Capitals will play 82 games absent at least one injury on the left side of their defense and not want to give the young kid a shot.
I think an under-the-radar prospect to keep an eye on is Axel Jonsson-Fjallby. The speedy winger is a talented defender and can play on the penalty kill. If something were to happen to Carl Hagelin (either injury or a salary cap dump), Jonsson-Fjallby feels like the easy replacement there.
Another prospect who I think is interesting is winger Brett Leason, who tallied 20 points in 33 games last year for the Bears. He’s a big body that can also fill in well on the fourth line and provide some physicality.
The Capitals as an organization aren’t very loaded in the minors right now, but they do have some interesting pieces that can play a specific role in the NHL.
JJ: Martin Fehervary should be a given. Not only should he chip in, but he should also be an everyday player this year on defense. Alex Alexeyev is not as close to being a finished product as Fehervary, but I could see him making his NHL debut at some point if injuries become an issue.
Offensively, I know everyone is excited about Connor McMichael, but there are two prospects who I think end up with more games than McMichael. First, I think Beck Malenstyn could make the NHL roster. This will depend on if the team has the cap space for a 13th forward, but if it does, I think Malenstyn is the guy. He missed all of 2021 with an Achilles injury so we will have to see how he looks in camp, but Malenstyn looks like a fourth-line NHL player and I think he is ready to make that jump.
The other player is Garrett Pilon. Brian MacLellan named him specifically as a prospect who could get time this season and I think he is the first center call-up over McMichael. For now.
The ceiling is certainly higher for McMichael than Pilon, but I think the team's goal is to have McMichael get as much playing time as possible in the AHL before he really competes for a spot on the NHL roster. For now, if the Caps need a quick call-up to plug into the middle, I think Pilon is the first option.