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Are Caps targeting defenseman in first round?

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Are Caps targeting defenseman in first round?

In their 40-year history the Capitals have had 51 first-round draft picks and have used more of them on defensemen [17] than any other position.

Considering the Caps have taken only forwards in the first round over he past six years – Marcus Johansson in 2009, Evgeny Kuznetsov in 2010, Filip Forsberg and Tom Wilson in 2012, Andre Burakovsky in 2013, and Jakub Vrana in 2014 – and have two up-and-coming goaltending prospects in Philipp Grubauer and Pheonix Copley, the Caps could be aiming for a defenseman with the 22nd pick of this year’s draft, which will take place Friday night and Saturday morning at BB&T Center in Sunrise, Fla.

Last year, only five defensemen were taken in the first round of a forward-heavy draft, all of them within the first 19 selections. In 2013, nine defensemen were taken in the first round, eight of them within the first 18 picks. And in 2012, a total of 13 defensemen were taken in the first round, including 10 in the first 22 picks, with Pittsburgh’s Olli Maatta arguably the best of them at No. 22.

MORE CAPITALS: RIGHT WING OPTIONS FOR CAPS

Based on that sample size, it’s anyone’s guess which defensemen might be available if the Caps retain their first-round pick at No. 22 overall.

NHL Central Scouting has nine defensemen ranked among its top 30 prospects. Six of those defensemen are projected to be taken before the Caps pick at No. 22.

So, for the sake of argument, let’s take a look at five defensemen who could be available when the Caps pick at No. 22.

Oliver Kylington, Farjestad (SWE): Smallish by NHL standards [6-foot, 185 pounds] Kylington is an offensive defenseman who was ranked first among European skaters on Central Scouting’s mid-term rankings but fell to six after he ended the season with 10 goals in 45 games with three different Swedish teams. In all likelihood he’ll be gone before the Caps pick at No. 22.

Jeremy Roy, Sherbrooke (QMJHL): Ranked seventh among defensemen, Roy is another smallish offensive defenseman [6-foot, 188] who recorded 43 points [5 goals, 38 assists] in 46 games for Sherbrooke. A right-handed shot, Roy can play either side and is projected as an NHL power-play quarterback.

Gabriel Carlsson, Linkoping Jr. (SWE-JR): If the Caps are looking for the next Brooks Orpik [and they probably should be], Carlsson is a big Swede [6-foot-4], who needs to grow into his frame [183 pounds] before making an impact at the NHL level. He’s ranked second on Central Scouting’s list of European players. He lacks the offensive skills of players like Kylington and Roy, but the Caps will like his size and the fact he had a plus-21 rating with Linkoping's under-20 team.

Thomas Chabot, Saint John (QMJHL): If there is a run of defensemen taken before the Caps select at No. 22, many believe Chabot might be the best choice for the Caps. Described as a two-way defenseman Chabot led Saint John blue liners with 41 points [12 goals, 29 assists] and should be able to pack muscle onto a 6-foot-1, 180-pound frame.

Noah Juulsen, Everett (WHL): Central Scouting bumped Juulsen from No. 38 on its mid-term rankings to No. 22, where the Caps will be picking. A right shot, two-way defender Juulsen is 6-foot-1, 174 and is coming off a nine-goal, 52-point season in which he finished a plus-22.

For those piqued by positional analysis, here’s a composite list on the Caps’ first-round selections:

Defensemen: 17

Rick Green, Robert Picard, Darren Veitch, Scott Stevens, Kevin Hatcher, John Slaney, Sergei Gonchar, Brendan Witt, Nolan Baumgartner, Nicholas Boynton, Steve Eminger, Jeff Schultz, Mike Green, Sasha Pokulok, Joe Finley, Karl Alzner, John Carlson

Centers: 15

Alex Forsyth, Greg Carroll, Ryan Walter, Bob Carpenter, Reggie Savage, Pat Peake, Jason Allison, Alexandre Volchkov, Kris Beech, Brian Sutherby, Nicklas Backstrom, Anton Gustafson, Marcus Johansson, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Filip Forsberg

Left Wings: 9

Yvon Corriveau, Jeff Greenlaw, Trevor Halverson, Alexander Kharlamov, Brad Church, Miika Elomo, Alexander Semin, Alex Ovechkin, Andre Burakovsky

Right Wings: 7

Tim Coulis, Mike Gartner, Jaroslav Svejkovsky, Boyd Gordon, Eric Fehr, Tom Wilson, Jakub Vrana

Goaltenders: 2

Olie Kolzig, Semyon Varlamov

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This Caps Stanley Cup tattoo has everyone's beat

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Twitter/@PeachOmania

This Caps Stanley Cup tattoo has everyone's beat

Since the Washington Capitals won the Stanley Cup for the first time over one month ago, Caps fans, (and players), have rushed to their local tattoo parlor to get some ink commemorating the win.

We've seen the classic Capitals logo with the Stanley Cup, but nothing that comes close to the masterpiece that is Shane Peacher's tattoo.

Peacher tweeted to Joe B and Courtney Laughlin the finished tat: a work of art featuring Alex Ovechkin kissing the Stanley Cup for the first time as it's hoisted over his head.

Joe B replied making sure Shane had enough room on his other tricep for next year.

Shane replied that he's thinking of Evgeny Kuznetsov's iconic celebration that has since been dubbed the "birdman."

Shane got his Caps tattoo at the Helix Tattoo Lodge in Rising Sun, Maryland, by tattoo artist, Justin Holcombe.

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Key Caps questions: Will John Carlson repeat his career year after signing long-term?

Key Caps questions: Will John Carlson repeat his career year after signing long-term?

The dog days of summer are officially here, but it's never too hot to talk some hockey.

Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir and Capitals correspondent JJ Regan are here to help you through the offseason doldrums. They will discuss key questions facing the Caps for the upcoming season as Washington prepares to defend its title for the first time in franchise history.

Today's question: Will John Carlson repeat his career year after signing a long-term contract?

Tarik: When a player has a career year and it coincides with the final year of his contract, the reaction from some fans and media is often a sarcastic, ‘Well, of course he did.’

And I’m sure there are some folks who wonder about Carlson’s breakout season and whether there was a connection between the uptick in his production and the potential of an enormous payday.

Indeed, the 28-year-old established highs in goals (15), assists (53), points (68) and ice time (24:47). He was outstanding in the postseason, too, amassing five goals and 15 assists while playing solidly in his own end to help lead the Caps to their first championship.

The financial reward came a couple of weeks later when he signed an eight-year, $64 million contract to remain in Washington.

Which brings us to today’s question.

It’s obviously impossible to say for sure what’s going to happen, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he had another big season. Why? A few reasons:

  • As good as he was, last year wasn’t a total outlier, either. Carlson racked up 55 points (12 goals, 43 assists) in 2014-15, which was tied for fifth best among blue liners that year.
  • He was at his best last season skating with trade deadline addition Michal Kempny. Kempny, of course, also re-upped, agreeing to a four-year extension. So, in theory, Carlson should be able to pick up where he left off.
  • Carlson has credited Todd Reirden with helping him take his game to new heights. Well, Reirden is now the guy in charge of the whole operation. How could that not help?
  • A major reason Carlson puts up so many points is his role on the power play. And that unit, which really hit its stride in the postseason (29.3-percent), returns all five skaters.
  • Carlson has also been pretty durable, which is critical to being productive. In fact, last season he skated in all of the Caps’ games for the sixth time in eight full-time seasons.

So, yeah, it’s all setting up nicely for Carlson to have a strong 2018-19.

To me, the only unknown is whether he’ll have the same hunger and determination now that he’s got long-term security and that previously elusive championship ring.

Again, that’s impossible to predict. But I can tell you this: Over the course of two decades in this business, I’ve covered lots of players who inked life-changing contracts. With a few of them, I had immediate concerns.

I have no such reservations about Carlson's ability to play up to his new deal, particularly in the first several seasons of it.

JJ: There's nothing wrong with a player being motivated by a new deal, but I am always wary when players have career years on the last year of their contract.

The issue is whether or not a player can continue to play at the level they showed when a new contract is no longer a motivating factor. After signing a new deal for eight years and $64 million, Carlson won't have to think about money or contracts for a long time.

When it comes to motivation, a lot of the questions surrounding the Capitals this year will depend on how they react to winning the Cup. Of course everyone wants to repeat, but psychologically will they come into camp more motivated than ever to defend their title or will they be satisfied with finally winning it all?

For Carlson, there are several reasons to be hopeful. Tarik went over a number of those reasons above, but the two biggest for me are Michal Kempny and Todd Reirden.

This season, Carlson will have Kempny as his partner to start, rather than a cycle of practically every left-handed defenseman on the ice depending on the situation. Second, what Mitch Korn is to goalies, Reirden is to defensemen. With him as the head coach, I believe the ceiling for Carlson will only continue to climb.

Let's also go beyond the numbers. Matt Niskanen suffered an injury early last season that forced Carlson into a primary role on both ends of the ice. He was playing nearly 30 minutes a night and, with two rookies on the blue line who Barry Trotz did everything he could to shelter, those were very hard minutes. Yet, Carlson excelled. The offensive upside was always there, but the way he played defensively was a revelation.

While Dmitry Orlov and Niskanen will remain a solid pair for the Caps, I believe Carlson will be the guy heading into the season which will mean more minutes and more responsibility.

Plus, despite what he meant to the team's defense and despite leading all defensemen in points with 68, Carlson was not selected to participate in the All-Star Game, he was not one of the three finalists for the Norris Trophy and he was not among the four defensemen named to the end of season All-Star team. His incredible season earned him no recognition at all other than his new contract. A $64 million contract is a heck of a consolation prize, but his season deserved more recognition than that.

You don't often see a player of his caliber enter a season with a chip on his shoulder, but Carlson should have a fairly sizable one.

Other key questions

How will the Caps look different under Todd Reirden?
Will the Caps suffer a Stanley Cup hangover?
Can Alex Ovechkin still challenge for another Rocket Richard Trophy?
Has Evgeny Kuznetsov made the jump from really good player to superstar?