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After slow start, Caps' power play reclaims a spot among NHL's elite units

After slow start, Caps' power play reclaims a spot among NHL's elite units

After an uncharacteristically sluggish start to the season, the Capitals’ power play has slowly but surely reclaimed its rightful spot among the NHL’s elite units.

In fact, entering Saturday’s game against the Ducks, Alex Ovechkin and Co. had climbed into a tie for 6th with a 21.9-percent success rate. Last season, the unit finished fifth at 21.9-percent.

The Caps’ surge can be traced back to a power play goal scored by Ovechkin in Montreal on Jan. 9. Including that goal, the Caps have scored 16 times with the man advantage over the past 16 games.

RELATED: Nicklas Backstrom closing in on NHL points lead

No team in the NHL has had more success (38.1-percent) on the power play during that span.

For comparison’s sake, Washington’s power play was clicking at just 16.4-percent (19th) from opening night through Jan. 8.

Ovechkin is now tied for second in the league in power play goals with 11. The Caps' captain has also led his team's recent charge with five power play goals over the past 16 contests. But he's gotten plenty of help, too, from all over the lineup and across both units. In all, seven players not named Ovechkin have also found the back of the net since Jan. 9th.

Coach Barry Trotz attributed the uptick to some minor tweaks and an increase in precision.

“We’re executing [and] we’re executing with pace and with a little more precision,” Trotz said. “There have been a few adjustments for each [unit] and they seem to be grasping on it.”

The players have also grasped the fact that they’ve got to bear down when they do get an opportunity. During their 16-game hot spell, their 42 power play opportunities are 14th most. For the season, their 164 power plays rank 18th.

“The fact that we’re not getting a lot of power plays—I know the coaches have [said], ‘We don’t get many so make them count,” Trotz said.

MORE CAPITALS: What does Burakovsky's injury mean for Capitals?

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2018 NHL Draft: Caps add 7 prospects, 4 from WHL


2018 NHL Draft: Caps add 7 prospects, 4 from WHL

The Caps made seven selections in the 2018 Draft this weekend. The group featured three defensemen, three forwards and a goalie. Interestingly, a couple of the picks have fathers who enjoyed lengthy NHL careers.

Meet the newest prospects:

1st round, 31st overall: D Alexander Alexeyev, WHL, 6'4", 196 pounds

The Caps' first first-round pick sine 2016, Alexeyev is a smart two-way defenseman with good size.

Read more on him here.

2nd round, 46th overall (from Florida, via New Jersey): D Martin Fehervary, Allsvenskan (Sweden), 6'2", 194 pounds

A physical style defenseman who is very strong in his own end, but does not have much offensive upside. Sort of a throwback style of play which makes him a surprise pick this high.

2nd round, 47th overall (From Colorado): F Kody Clark, OHL, 6'1", 179 pounds

Kody Clark boasts an NHL pedigree as the son of Wendel Clark, a first-round pick of the Toronto Maple Leafs who recorded 330 goals and 564 career points in 763 NHL games.

3rd round, 93rd overall: F Riley Sutter, WHL, 6'3", 203 pounds

Riley Sutter also boasts a strong NHL pedigree as the son of Run Sutter and nephew of Darryl Sutter.

Riley is a power forward who played alongside Caps prospect Garrett Pilon on the Everett Silvertips in the WHL and recorded 53 points in 68 games last season.

4th round, 124th overall: G Mitchell Gibson, NAHL, 6'1", 187 pounds

A Harvard commit, Gibson posted a 1.59 GAA and .935 save percentage in the NAHL last season.

6th round, 161st overall (from Vancouver): D Alex Kannok-Leipert, WHL, 5'11", 194 pounds

The Caps certainly saw something they liked in Kannok-Leipert as they traded up from 186 to get him. That pick, along with a sixth-round pick in 2019, went to Vancouver.

7th round, 217th overall: F Eric Florchuk, WHL, 6'2", 174 pounds

Florchuk was taken with the last pick of the draft.


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GM Brian MacLellan: Capitals are close to re-signing John Carlson


GM Brian MacLellan: Capitals are close to re-signing John Carlson

DALLAS—The Caps are “really close” to signing star defenseman John Carlson to a long-term extension, GM Brian MacLellan said Friday night.

“We’re getting closer,” MacLellan said following the first round of the NHL Draft. “Hopefully we can get it done here over the next few days. We’re really close.”

Earlier in the day, the Caps cleared significant space under the salary cap ceiling by trading Philipp Grubauer and Brooks Orpik to Colorado for a second round draft pick (47th overall). 

That space will now be used to lock up Carlson, who could become the best defenseman on the open market if he were to reach it.

MacLellan met with Carlson’s agent, Rick Curran, here on Thursday night.

MacLellan did not divulge any figures, but it’s expected that Carlson’s new contract could come in at eight years and $8 million per—or perhaps a bit more. 

He earned $4 million last season.

Carlson had a career year in 2017-18 and was critical during the Caps' run to the Stanley Cup. He led all defensemen in the regular season with 68 points (15 goals, 53 assists). The 28-year-old also skated a career-high 24:47 per game.

MacLellan has long said that re-signing Carlson was the Caps’ top priority this offseason. And now it looks like that could happen within days, assuming the talks do not hit any snags.

“We’re going to do our best to sign John,” MacLellan said. “We’ve said it all along. We waited until the end of the year. We’ve had discussions. We’re close and hopefully we can close the deal here over the next 24 hours.”