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The 25 Most Important Players for the Caps: No. 18 Philipp Grubauer

The 25 Most Important Players for the Caps: No. 18 Philipp Grubauer

WATCH TARIK EL-BASHIR'S INTERVIEW WITH PHILIPP GRUBAUER IN THE VIDEO PLAYER ABOVE

Every player on an NHL team plays a role. Some, of course, play bigger roles than others.

In the coming weeks, Tarik El-Bashir and JJ Regan will rank the 25 most important players in the Caps’ organization, from least to most important, weighing factors such as past production, future potential and intangibles. 

RELATED: CAPITALS' 2017-18 SEASON PREVIEW SERIES

Today’s player: No. 18 Philipp Grubauer.

Last season, Grubauer was arguably the most reliable backup goaltender in the NHL, posting a 13-6-2 record, a .926 save percentage and the third best quality start percentage—.684—in the league.

And, at 25 years-old, he appears to be ready for a bigger role.

That opportunity, however, likely won’t happen in Washington, not with top-3 starter Braden Holtby under contract through 2019-20. In addition to being very good, Holtby also shoulders a heavy workload. In fact, he’s made 201 starts the past three seasons—eight more than anyone else.  

There was a time earlier this summer when Grubauer thought he might be selected by the Golden Knights in the expansion draft. He was not taken, of course, as Las Vegas GM George McPhee swiped defenseman Nate Schmidt instead.

Grubauer also entered the offseason as restricted free agent with arbitration rights. His camp did not elect arbitration because, according to a source, he did not want the Caps to opt for a two-year award. In the end, he signed a one-year, $1.5 million extension to stay in Washington.

So what now?

In the near term, Grubauer is doing and saying all the right things. He arrived in Arlington, Va., a bit earlier than usual this summer, eager to ramp up his preparations for training camp in mid-September.

“Just be patient, work really hard and be successful out there, be ready to go every time,” Grubauer told me after an informal practice at Kettler Capitals Iceplex.

“I want to be ready to follow where I left off last year, keep improving and working hard, get better every day and we’ll see what will happen.”

What could happen is a trade involving Grubauer at some point this season. Such a move would give the German netminder a bigger role elsewhere and deliver to the Caps an asset that could assist in their efforts reload on the fly. If that were to happen, Washington could turn to Pheonix Copley, Hershey’s No. 1 goalie and a well-regarded prospect, to back up Holtby.

All of that, of course, is out of Grubauer’s control. So he’s got his focus exactly where it should be for now: stopping pucks and continuing to build his resume.

RELATED: MOST IMPORTANT CAPITALS, RANKED

— No. 25 Aaron Ness
— No. 24 Chandler Stephenson
— No. 23 Riley Barber
— No. 22 Pheonix Copley
— No. 21 Devante Smith-Pelly
— No. 20 Taylor Chorney
No. 19 Nathan Walker

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Caps cut an additional nine players, but keep all four goalies in the midst of fierce competition for backup role

Caps cut an additional nine players, but keep all four goalies in the midst of fierce competition for backup role

The Capitals reassigned nine players from its roster to the Hershey Bears on Sunday, sending Kristofers Bindulis, Tobias Geisser, Connor Hobbs, Axel Jonsson-Fjallby, Brett Leason, Philippe Maillet, Bobby Nardella, Garrett Pilon and Joe Snively to its AHL affiliate.

Training camp for Hershey begins on Monday making Sunday a convenient time to update the roster.

The latest round of cuts contains no major surprises. Jonsson-Fjallby is likely the most NHL ready of the group, but after returning to Sweden he is not quite used to the North American game as he needs to be. After a disappointing showing in the Prospects Showcase and in training camp, he now finds himself headed to Hershey. He has committed to remaining in North America this season regardless of where he plays and given the Caps’ salary cap constraints and depth, he will likely spend most if not all of the 2019-20 season in the AHL.

Leason was a second-round draft pick by Washington in 2019 and scored a goal in Saturday’s preseason contest. As a 20-year-old, however, he is headed to Hershey instead of to a junior team.

The Caps elected to keep both rookie netminders Vitek Vanecek and Ilya Samsonov which will leave the Bears a bit shorthanded as camp opens. Both goalies are competing with Pheonix Copley for the backup role behind Braden Holtby this season.

The Caps are expected to make additional cuts prior to their preseason road trip beginning Wednesday in Chicago.

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3 players who stood out in playoff rematch against the Hurricanes: Samsonov gets the full game and the win

3 players who stood out in playoff rematch against the Hurricanes: Samsonov gets the full game and the win

WASHINGTON -- In a reversal of last season’s playoff, the Capitals dominant forecheck suffocated the Carolina Hurricanes for much of the game on Friday in a 3-2 preseason win. The game was the final preseason game in Washington as the Caps’ three remaining contests all will come on the road.

Here are three players who impressed in the home preseason finale.

Ilya Samsonov

Samsonov faced only 15 shots from a clearly outmatched Hurricanes roster, but he looked impressive in the few times he was tested. The save of the night came in the second period when he denied Julien Gauthier on a breakaway.

Gauthier attempted the old Peter Forsberg move and skated to his right while trying to craftily tuck the puck in to the left. Samsonov slid with Gauthier, but stuck out his stick to deny the shot and make the tremendous save.

Samsonov continued to demonstrate his comfort playing the puck with his stick as he also denied a scoring opportunity with a well-timed poke check and was always quick to play the puck when it came behind the goal line.

One area in which he was not comfortable was the glove. There were multiple occasions in which he was able to get a glove on the puck, but was not able to catch it creating dangerous opportunities for Carolina’s offense.

The Hurricanes managed only seven shots on goal through the first two periods, but managed some more pressure in the third. The shutout bid was ended in the third when Brock McGinn followed up his own rebound to score Carolina’s first goal of the game. The second goal came on a fluky bounce off the backboards that Janne Kuokkanen was able to whack behind Samsonov before he could get a glove to it.

While Todd Reirden likely hoped Samsonov would be more tested than he was, he was up to the task with 13 saves.

Brian Pinho

The Caps recorded three goals on the night and Pinho had two of them.  In the first period, Axel Jonsson-Fjallby created a turnover on the forecheck. Feeling the pressure, Fredrik Claesson tried a hopeful clear that was cut off at the blue line by Pinho who skated in and tucked the puck through the 5-hole of goalie Anton Forsberg. He scored again in the third period on the power play when his shot deflected off of Jake Bean and took a favorable bounce up before dropping into the net.

Pinho led the Capitals with five points in three games at the 2019 Prospect Showcase, but at 24 years old, he would be expected to play well. He faced slightly better competition on Saturday and still was able to produce with two goals on the night.

Richard Panik

One of the newest Caps, Panik has looked extremely comfortable in both of his preseason games thus far. He was again strong on the penalty kill where he logged 1:35 of ice time. He also looked strong offensively.

Panik played very heavy below the goal line which suits the Caps’ offensive cycle the team likes to utilize. He also showed good vision as, in the third period, he was able to fight off a check and literally kicked the puck out to a wide-open Tavis Boyd in the slot.

With Panik and Carl Hagelin together, the Caps should have a much more formidable penalty kill this season.

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