Throughout the coming weeks, CSNWashington.com Capitals Insider Chuck Gormley will evaluate the 2014-15 performance of each player on the Caps roster. One breakdown will occur every day in alphabetical order. Today: Michael Latta
Age: 24 [turns 25 May 25]
Ht/Wt: 6-0, 209
Penalty minutes: 68
Average Ice Time: 8:22
Playoff games: 4
Penalty minutes: 2
Average Ice Time: 6:56
Contract Status: 1 year remaining on 2-year, $1.15 million contract [2015-16 salary: $575,000; cap hit: $575,000]
Strengths: At 6-foot, 210 pounds Latta is more than willing to take on bigger opponents, especially when defending his teammates. He dropped the gloves eight times this season, including a bout with 6-foot-3 enforcer Jared Boll of the Columbus Blue Jackets. After a season of bouncing between the AHL Bears and the Caps, Latta stayed with Washington the entire season and provided plenty of energy, if not much offense, to the fourth line. His average ice time [8:22] was lowest on the team among players who spent the entire season with the Caps. In that limited time he managed to deliver 91 hits.
Room for improvement: Latta was one of only two players [Brooks Orpik was the other] who spent the entire season with the Caps without scoring a goal. It was the first time in his career that has happened for Latta, who generated just 24 shots in 53 games, an average of just 0.5 shots per game. Latta also saw just 5:36 of shorthanded ice time this season, an average of just 6 seconds a game. Including the playoffs Latta was a healthy scratch 33 times this season. With the return of UFA centers Jay Beagle and Eric Fehr in question, Latta said he’s ready for a bigger role next season, including time on the penalty kill. “Getting scratched in Game 7 of the first series [against the Islanders] was tough,” Latta said. “Next season I want to put myself in a position to not even be a thought to be scratched in an important game in the year.”
Memorable Moment: On March 3, in a very physical game against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Latta quickly rushed to the defense of his linemate and roommate Tom Wilson when he went after Blue Jackets defenseman Justin Falk after Falk knocked Wilson’s helmet off with a big check along the boards. Latta suffered an upper body injury in the fight and missed the next six games.
Quotable: “I’ve got to work on my foot speed work on my overall game and hopefully next year I won’t be a rookie anymore and [Barry] Trotz will give me a little more trust out there, a few more minutes to prove myself. I need to be more of a difference-maker every night. Offensively, I had a lot of good looks and good chances but didn’t put up enough points.” – Latta on breakup day
2015-16 Expectations: If the Caps are unable to sign both Jay Beagle and Eric Fehr, look for Latta to return as the Caps’ fourth-line center, where he should be given more ice time as a penalty killer. If the Caps are able to sign both Beagle and Fehr, Latta’s role may be very similar to what it was this season. If not, he could be an energy player who averages 10-12 minutes a night. But he’ll need to produce more offense to earn that ice time.