Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Washington Capitals Finalise Roster - A Look at the 2012-13 Depth Chart and Opening Night Roster

Photo Credit: RMNB
The Washington Capitals have today reassigned 2012 first-round pick Tom Wilson to the OHL's Plymouth Whalers. A day after sending defenseman Cameron Schilling to the Hershey Bears of the AHL, the Caps have seemingly finalised their 23-man opening night roster.

Wilson and Schilling had both impressed, but cracking a roster that will include only one rookieBraden Holtbyand boasts five summer additionsJoey Crabb, Eric Fehr, Jack Hillen, Mike Ribeiro, and Wojtek Wolskiwas always going to be a big ask.

The team needed to reach the 23-man limit by Friday at 3PM, but decided to cut the group down to 22 early. As of right now, the Caps have 13 forwards in Nicklas Bäckström, Jay Beagle, Troy Brouwer, Jason Chimera, Crabb, Fehr, Matt Hendricks, Marcus Johansson, Alex Ovechkin, Mathieu Perreault, Ribeiro, Joel Ward, and Wolski, a group of seven defensemen comprised of Karl Alzner, John Carlson, John Erskine, Mike Green, Roman Hamrlik, Hillen, and Jeff Schultz, and the two young netminders Holtby and Michal Neuvirth.

The roster does not include forward Brooks Laich or defenseman Dmitry Orlov, both out with injury. Tom Poti, who is on a conditioning sting in Hershey, is also not included. All three of these players should figure into the lineup when they return.

Of course, it is no easy task to predict what the Caps depth chart or opening-night roster may look like, but the week of training camp has given several indications. The depth chart, with injured Caps included and all players in natural position, would appear to look something like this.

Alex Ovechkin
Nicklas Bäckström
Troy Brouwer
Wojtek Wolski
Mike Ribeiro
Eric Fehr
Jason Chimera
Marcus Johansson
Joel Ward
Matt Hendricks
Brooks Laich
Joey Crabb

Mathieu Perreault

Jay Beagle

(A good group. The Caps will have a strong top-six and good complementary bottom-six. When Laich returns from injury, Perreault could find himself the odd-man-out, but he'll be elite as far as 13th forwards go. The top call-up options from AHL Hershey include Zach Hamill and Ryan Stoa for top-six roles and Garrett Mitchell and Mattias Sjögren for the bottom-six.) 

Karl Alzner
John Carlson
Tom Poti
Mike Green
Roman Hamrlik
Dmitry Orlov
Jeff Schultz

John Erskine

Jack Hillen

(The right defense is very good, whilst the left side is also solid. Alzner and Carlson will become elite defensemen, while Green will be hoping for a bounce-back year. When Poti and Orlov return, the Caps will need to make a trade to relieve some depth on the back-end. Jeff Schultz and his $2.75 million cap hit would appear the most likely option to be dealt. The dynamic Tomas Kundratek is the top option in Hershey, but Cam Schilling will definitely get a look as well.)

Braden Holtby
Michal Neuvirth

(Much to the disappointment of a certain Caps Across the Pond blogger, me, all signs point to Braden Holtby starting on opening night, but Michal Neuvirth will get plenty of starts. Dany Sabourin will get call-up duty, though top prospect Philipp Grubauer perhaps deserves an opportunity.)

The lines used by Adam Oates in drills remained fairly consistent throughout camp. The opening night lineup would appear to look like this:

Marcus Johansson - Nicklas Bäckström - Alex Ovechkin
Wojtek Wolski - Mike Ribeiro - Troy Brouwer
Jason Chimera - Jay Beagle - Joel Ward
Matt Hendricks - Mathieu Perreault - Eric Fehr

Perhaps most significant is Ovechkin's placement on the right-wing, but he himself suggested it, so it will be interesting to watch how he does. The second-line is made up of one grinder, one playmaker, and one scorer. If they get some chemistry going, they could tear it up. Jay Beagle gets the nod at third-line center over Perreault. It will be interesting to see how he does, considering the hard-working fan-favourite scored only four goals and 41 games last season. Eric Fehr returns to the Caps lineup on the fourth-line.
Karl Alzner - John Carlson
Roman Hamrlik - Mike Green
John Erskine - Jeff Schultz

No real surprises here. Alzner and Carlson will play upwards of 30 minutes, while Green will soak up powerplay time and look to put points on the board.

Braden Holtby

Our Saskatchewanian hero is in goal.

The Caps take on the Tampa Bay Lightning (#BeatTheBolts) on Saturday at 7PM. My prediction? #Caps win 4-2, with goals from Marcus Johansson (assists to Ovechkin and Bäckström), Mike Green (on the PP from Ovechkin and Bäckström), Jay Beagle (unassisted), and Wojtek Wolski (from Mike Ribeiro and Karl Alzner).

The boys are back.

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