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Newest Cap had great teacher in Suter


Newest Cap had great teacher in Suter

Jack Hillen may never been compared to Ryan Suter at the bargaining table and the contract he signed with the Capitals on Tuesday confirms it.

While Suter was pondering multi-year, multi-million-dollar offers from multiple NHL teams, his former teammate agreed to a one-year, 650,000 contract with the Capitals.

But that doesnt mean Hillen wasnt paying attention in Nashville while he and Suter shared the same ice every day.

I cant express enough how good Shea Weber and Ryan Suter are, Hillen said Tuesday in a conference call with reporters. I think I learned so much just from watching, especially from Ryan Suter, because I think he plays a similar style of game to myself. Hes
not an overly big guy, but hes always in the right position.

At 5-foot-10, 190 pounds, Hillen is three inches shorter and eight pounds lighter than Suter and prides himself in being a reliable puck-moving defenseman with a strong and accurate first pass. But he says in one season watching Suter with the Nashville Predators he learned the value of how to play against some of the NHLs bigger forwards.

Ryan makes so many difficult plays look so easy, Hillen said. I think I learned a lot about body positioning and about what style I can play from watching Ryan Suter because he does everything well. Hes always in the right position. His game is what I try to tailor mine after and I think watching him for a year really helped me develop more as a defenseman.

The Caps certainly hope so. Hillen was added to a blue line that now boasts nine defensemen with NHL experience Karl Alzner, John Carlson, Mike Green, Roman Hamrlik, Dmitry Orlov, Jeff Schultz, John Erskine and Kevin Marshall are the others -- and another Cameron Schilling who will be given a shot at cracking the starting six..

Im just going in there and will do my best in camp to earn my role or get a role on the team, Hillen said.

Hillen, 26, has recorded 56 points 10 goals, 46 assists and 129 penalty minutes in 230 NHL games with the New York Islanders and Predators. In 55 games with Nashville last season he had six points two goals, four assists, a plus-6 rating and 20 penalty minutes.

Hillen also got his first taste of NHL playoff action last spring when he played in two games against the Detroit Red Wings in the Western Conference Quarterfinals.

Being with Nashville last year was such a change of pace for me from being with the Islanders, he said. Nashville has had great success, especially recently, and seeing what it was like being around that winning organization really helped open my eyes to a lot of things.

Im excited to be joining Washington, another successful organization and I think what I learned from last year is what successful teams do and I hope that I can come in and help contribute to Washington, whos had great success as well recently.

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Oddsmakers give three Capitals the chance to win MVP in 2018-19

Oddsmakers give three Capitals the chance to win MVP in 2018-19

There are no signs of Alex Ovechkin slowing down heading into his first season after winning a Stanley Cup. Bovada just released their latest odds for the Hart Memorial Trophy (the NHL’s Most Valuable Player Award) and Ovechkin was tied with the third-best odds to win in all of the NHL at 10/1.

He was joined by two other Washington Capitals, Nicklas Backstrom and Evgeny Kuznetsov both at 50/1 odds. 

Here are all the odds for the top 11 players:

Connor McDavid          10/3
Sidney Crosby              13/2
Auston Matthews        10/1
Alex Ovechkin               10/1
Jon Tavares                   10/1
Taylor Hall                     15/1
Nikita Kucherov            15/1
Nathan MacKinnon      15/1
Mark Scheifele              15/1
Anze Kopitar                  18/1
Evgeni Malkin                18/1

The only two players ahead of ‘The Great 8’ are the 21-year-old McDavid and dreaded rival Crosby.

Even with the immense amount of alcohol that has been consumed in the past two months, Ovechkin is still commanding respect in Vegas. It is hard not to when he turns around these intense offseason workouts. At 32, Ovechkin led the NHL in scoring with 49 goals a year ago, the seventh such time he has done so. 

Already the 2018 Conn Smythe winner has three MVP trophies to his name (one more than Crosby) and there is no telling what to expect now that the 11-time All-Star has a Stanley Cup title. 

In his 11 years in the league, Backstrom has never received any votes for the Hart Memorial Trophy. Kuznetsov only has done so once and that was in the 2015-16 season. 


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Key Caps questions: What rookies will have an impact next season?


Key Caps questions: What rookies will have an impact next season?

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

Capitals correspondent JJ Regan is here to help you through the offseason doldrums as he discusses 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: What rookies will have an impact with the Caps next season?

In the team's push for the Stanley Cup the last few years, the Capitals brought in several veterans through free agency and trades to bolster the roster. As a result, there was not much room for the team's prospects. Last season, however, Washington took a very different approach.

Nine rookie players suited up for the Caps for at least one game in the regular season in 2017-18, the most the team has played since the 2013-14 season. Six rookies also played at least one game in the playoffs. Washington dressed zero rookies in the postseason in each of the two years prior. In fact, that is the most rookies Washington has used in a postseason in franchise history. 

To say the Caps won because they used their young prospects more so than before would be a gross oversimplification, but clearly there was value to adding cheap, young, talented players to the lineup.

But by returning virtually the same roster as last season, there will be little room for rookies to make a similar impact in 2018-19.

Here's a projected roster of the Caps' opening night lineup:

Alex Ovechkin - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Tom Wilson
Jakub Vrana - Nicklas Backstrom - T.J. Oshie
Andre Burakovsky - Lars Eller - Brett Connolly
Chandler Stephenson - Nic Dowd/Travis Boyd - Devante Smith-Pelly

Michal Kempny - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Matt Niskanen
Brooks Orpik - Christian Djoos - Madison Bowey

Braden Holtby
Pheonix Copley

Barring injury, there's just not much room there for the young players to break in.

Of the players who still qualify as rookies, the ones to watch are Boyd, Nathan Walker, Shane Gersich, Liam O'Brien, Riley Barber, Jonas Siegenthaler and Ilya Samsonov.

The most obvious answer to the question is Boyd. Jay Beagle's departure leaves a spot open at fourth line center and Boyd would be my pick for the most likely player to fill that role.

The addition of Nic Dowd means Boyd may be the only rookie forward to make the team on opening night. Barry Trotz usually kept only one extra forward and defenseman on the roster, but we do not know if Todd Reirden will have a similar outlook. If there is another spot open, Walker, Gerish, O'Brien and Barber will be in the running. I am not sure I see Walker becoming an every day NHL player, but I could see him coming on as a 14th guy since the Caps have a little bit of breathing room under the salary cap. The same does not go for Gersich who has a higher NHL ceiling. Even though he jumped right into the NHL last season, it is much more likely he goes to the AHL this year to take a large role in Hershey rather than to play scattered minutes in Washington.

O'Brien and Barber also make this list because the clock is ticking for them. Both are 24 and both have spent several years in the organization. They need a strong training camp to prove they belong in the NHL or they risk being viewed less as prospects and more as lifetime AHLers.

Like the offense, the defense also seems pretty set. Of the team's defensive prospects, Siegenthaler is probably the most NHL ready, but I have a hard time believing he will supplant any of the seven defensemen in training camp.

And that brings us to Samsonov.

Samsonov will make his North America debut this fall playing in Hershey. Brain MacLellan has been adamant that Samsonov will be starting in the AHL in order to adjust to the North American game. Just how quickly he can adjust, however, may determine if he earns a jump to the NHL at some point next season.

Samsonov is widely seen as Washington's future in net. While there is no reason to rush him, it is not hard to envision him supplanting Pheonix Copley as the backup should Copley struggle. But first, he has to play well in Hershey.

While the Caps look set throughout the roster, injuries always leave open the possibility for a player to get called up and play his way into a full-time role. As of now, however, it looks like there is not much room for the team's rookies this season, other than Boyd.

Other key Caps questions: