The Washington Capitals announced today that Alexander Ovechkin will be at Camden Yards this Friday, September 16th to throw out the ceremonial first pitch for the O’s games against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim that starts at 7pm. The fun loving superstar winger will fire away from the mound around 650pm, likely wearing Orioles gear. The Caps open training camp this Saturday at Kettler IcePlex in Ballston, Virginia but nearly all of the Caps have already been in town skating and working out. Caps strength and conditioning coach Mark Nemisch stated last week that the Great 8 is in the best shape he’s ever seen him and apparently Ovie weighed in recently at 225 pounds, down eight pounds from last year’s listed number.
There is lots of pressure externally on the Capitals to produce in the post season this spring but based on what I’ve seen and heard from being around the organization, no one is putting more pressure on the Caps than the team itself. The moves made by General Manager George McPhee this summer added leadership, grit, skill, and a quality goaltender (Tomas Vokoun), not to mention a potentially high choice pick in next year’s draft (the Caps have the first round pick of the Colorado Avalance via the Semyon Varlamov trade).
The Caps will be in Baltimore on Tuesday night, September 20th to open their pre-season slate against the Nashville Predators at 7pm. Fewer than 1,200 tickets are still available for this great event in Charm City.
Last week I mentioned that the top six defensemen to start the season will likely be Mike Green, Dennis Wideman, John Carlson, Roman Hamrlik, Karl Alzner, and Jeff Schultz. John Erskine is recovering from shoulder surgery and if healthy, will be the seventh defensemen. I don’t expect Tom Poti to be medically able to play at all in 2011-12, or at least for the first half of the season. There are a number of defensemen, who due to injury, could see some time in Washington to include Sean Collins, Patrick McNeill and 2009 2nd round draft choice, Dmitri Orlov. Orlov has enormous offensive skill and talent but learning how to play defense in the North American game is not trivial so he will benefit from a lot of time in Hershey in the AHL this upcoming season.
Up front, my top 12 forwards who will most likely make the team out of training camp, in no particular order are as follows:
Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Alex Semin, Brooks Laich, Joel Ward, Mike Knuble, Troy Brouwer, Marcus Johansson, Jason Chimera, Jeff Halpern, Jay Beagle, and Matt Hendricks
The 13th choice would likely be Mathieu Perreault, who has been up and down with the big club the last couple of seasons. Longer shots to make the club are 2009 3rd round pick Cody Eakin, Mattias Sjogren (23 year old rookie free agent signed this summer from Sweden), 2010 3rd round pick Stanislav Galiev (on 2011 Memorial Cup winning squad), and Christian Hanson (signed as a free agent this summer and the son of Dave Hanson from Slap Shot).