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.
Today’s player: No. 14 Brett Connolly
General manager Brian MacLellan took a chance on Brett Connolly last summer. He had not lived up to his potential after getting drafted sixth overall in the 2010 draft by the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Boston Bruins chose not to issue him a qualifying offer in 2017 making him an unrestricted free agent.
MacLellan gambled with a one-year, $850,000 contract and the move paid off. Connolly scored 23 points including a career-high 15 goals in very limited minutes. That earned him a second contract with the Caps and, one would assume, a much bigger role.
With a cap hit of only $850,000 last season, everything Connolly did was a bonus for Washington. The move was extremely low-risk. This season, Connolly’s cap hit will be $1.5 million. While that certainly won’t break the bank, it does come with increased expectations.
But there is a reason Connolly was a healthy scratch for six games in the playoffs last season. A lack of versatility will continue to limit him.
Connolly is not a penalty killer, and, given the team’s talent offensively, he’s not likely to get much time on the power play either. He may get some with the loss of Marcus Johansson and Justin Williams, but not a lot. As he is projected to start the season on the third line again, just how much more significant his role can be is a fair question to ask.
The difference now is that Connolly will not come into the season having to earn his spot. That fact limited him to only 66 games and 10:41 of ice time per night and he was still able to score 15 goals. What will he be able to produce with 13-15 minutes for 80 games? The answer to that question is why Connolly comes in at No. 14 on our list.
Check out the full list of the Caps most important players as it comes out here and check out previous player profiles below.
— 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
— No. 18 Philipp Grubauer
— No. 17 Christian Djoos
— No. 16 Madison Bowey
— No. 15 Jay Beagle