Another playoff disappointment—as well as a host of expiring player contracts—has left the Capitals with a ton of questions to answer this offseason. Over the next month, Jill Sorenson, JJ Regan and Tarik El-Bashir will take a close look at the 20 biggest issues facing the team as the business of hockey kicks into high gear.
As GM Brian MacLellan goes about reshaping the Caps’ roster this summer, fans can be relatively certain of one thing: cap considerations will ensure that youth will be served in Washington next season. Young players already on the team are going to get more responsibility. And prospects that have been frozen out by veterans and good overall team health the past couple of years are finally going to get their turn. Over the next two days, we’re going to discuss some of the youngsters and where they might fit in.
Today’s question: Which blue line prospect (s) will make an impact next year in Washington?
Sorenson: I think Washington’s future is very bright in Hershey and the Capitals would be wise to give more than a few of its Bears players 10-15 games each in the NHL this season. One of the blueliners I expect we’ll see on a regular basis is Madison Bowey. I thought we would see more of the Winnipeg native last season, after he turned in a few strong preseason performances with the Capitals before suffering an upper body injury. Things got worse for the young defenseman during the regular season while in Hershey as he missed two and a half months after having surgery to repair a partially severed tendon in his ankle. Bowey did manage to put up 14 points in 34 regular season games. When he returned in March, Bowey found his game in the postseason, scoring two goals and recording two assists in ten playoff games. At 6’2” 206 pounds, his size will serve him well as the Capitals want to see heavy play from speedy defensemen.
Regan: Not only will Madison Bowey have an impact next year, I have him penciled in as Brooks Orpik’s partner on the third pair on opening night. With Karl Alzner and Kevin Shattenkirk expected to leave in free agency, the Caps have an opening on the third pair and I believe the hope is for a prospect to seize that role and not for there to be a constant rotation. I expect Bowey will stick with the NHL squad for most if not all of the season and be a regular in the lineup. Christian Djoos also has a chance. There’s no denying his talent, but at 6 feet, 161 pounds, he needs to bulk up. There is some excitement over 2016 first-round pick Lucas Johansen, but he has not yet played in an AHL game and is still someone who needs more time to develop. Jonas Siegenthaler needs more time as well to adjust to the North American game before we even begin to talk about him getting time in the NHL. There is a chance Tyler Lewington makes his NHL debut this season, but I think the ceiling is pretty low for him and I don’t have high expectations. To summarize, I expect Bowey to definitely have an impact and possibly Djoos.
El-Bashir: I expect a few blue line prospects to get a shot in Washington next winter, but I’m less bullish on the situation than JJ. I mean, there’s a chance Niskanen, Orlov, Schmidt, Carlson, Orpik and Chorney all return, giving the Caps at least six veteran options at a position where experience matters. If something were to change (ahem, Vegas, I’m looking at you) then, of course, things could open up considerably. And, based on how things unfolded in Hershey last season and a couple of conversations I’ve had with folks who watched the Bears closely, I suspect Christian Djoos, a smallish but dynamic puck-mover, will get a really good look in September. Listed at 6-foot, 161-pounds, he’s definitely on the light side, but his offensive game flourished in Hershey as he racked up 58 points (13 goals, 45 assists) in 66 games. Right-shooting Madison Bowey also figures to get strong consideration for a significant role with the Caps, though the 2013 second rounder’s development was stunted a bit by the injury Jill mentioned. My sleeper pick to see time in Washington next season is Tyler Lewington, who is tough, reliable in his own end and solid on the penalty kill. Jonas Siegenthaler is well-regarded but, as JJ said, he needs time in Hershey to adapt to the North American game. I suspect Aaron Ness is viewed as more of a call-up guy. So the bottom line for me is this: I don’t necessarily consider any of the defensive prospects as a lock to be in the opening night lineup. If it does happen, though, I’d expect Djoos and/or Bowey to be the guy (s) suiting up.
- What direction should the Caps take this summer?
- Should the Caps re-sign T.J. Oshie?
- Should the Caps re-sign Justin Williams?
- Should the Caps re-sign Karl Alzner?
- Should the Caps re-sign Brett Connolly?
- Can Andre Burakovsky take the next step?
- Is Schmidt ready for a top-four role?
- Which bottom-six forwards should the Caps protect from Vegas?
- What one area must Caps address for next season?
- Which veteran do the Caps need to step up?
- What should the Caps do about their No. 2 goalie?