The Washington Capitals have assigned the following 6 players to the Hershey Bears this afternoon:
Goalie Jason Bacashihua
Defensemen Patrick McNeill and John Carlson
Forwards Andrew Joudrey, Francois Bouchard, and Steve Pinizzotto
That leaves the following players on the Washington Capitals main roster at this point in time:
Goalies (3): Jose Theodore, Michal Neuvirth, and Semyon Varlamov
Defensemen (10): Mike Green, Tom Poti, John Erskine, Karl Alzner, Shaone Morrisonn, Jeff Schultz, Sean Collins, Brian Pothier, Tyler Sloan, and Sean Collins
Forwards (23): Alexander Ovechkin, Alexander Semin, Mike Knuble, Brendan Morrison, Nicklas Backstrom, Brooks Laich, Tomas Fleischmann, Dave Steckel, Matt Bradley, Boyd Gordon, Eric Fehr, Chris Clark, Michael Nylander, Keith Aucoin, Jay Beagle, Chris Bourque, Alexandre Giroux, Andrew Gordon, Quintin Laing, Oskar Osala, Matthieu Perreault, Brandon Sugden, and Kyle Wilson
COMMENT: 2008 1st round pick John Carlson will be in the NHL, health permitting, some day but because of the log jam the Caps have on defense, Carlson’s age (only 19), and the ability for Washington to get him more seasoning at the AHL level without exposing him to waivers makes this the right move for a young man who has a very bright future.
Now that you’ve seen who is left on the roster with three pre-season games to go for the Caps, I thought I would take a stab at who I think will be on the final roster, something that only GM George McPhee and Coach Bruce Boudreau really know at this point (and that could change based on the play of some players in the next three games, injuries, trades, etc.)
First, let’s take a look at a very good high level synopsis of where this competition stands by reading JP’s post on Japers Rink today. I really like this summary and agree that these are the guys who are the favorites in the running for making the opening night Caps roster, especially with Fleischmann out due to a blood clot until at least mid-October and Fehr still not cleared to play.
Here are who I see as locks to make the team, barring an injury or a trade:
Defense: Green, Poti, Erskine, Pothier, S. Morrisonn
Forwards: Ovechkin, Backstrom, Semin, Knuble, B. Morrison, Laich, Clark, Steckel, Bradley, B. Gordon
This leaves a goalie, two defensemen, and likely three forwards to fill out 22 spots (the team could chose to go to 23 players but I’m assuming they will just keep 1 extra d-man and forward until Fehr comes back).
In net, I would be shocked if Varlamov is not the other goalie with Neuvirth going to Hershey. So I see that one as an easy choice.
On defense, that leaves Jurcina, Schultz, Collins, Sloan, and Alzner vying for two spots. I can’t see it not being Jurcina and Schultz and to me they are almost locks because neither one of them can be sent to Hershey without having to pass through waivers. Although, based on info from the Caps outstanding PR department, Collins and Sloan would have to pass through waivers as well before being able to play in Hershey so they carry some risk factor too. Alzner has a higher salary cap figure yet still can go to the Bears, so because he has not “wowed” the coaches to this point I see him starting in the AHL. Sloan seemed to be the call up of choice last season for two reasons – he is more physical than Alzner and more importantly, much cheaper in terms of salary cap dollars. But remember that McPhee told me on media day that Washington will have more flexibility with the salary cap this year compared to 2008-09. I don’t think the Caps want to lose any of these players because as we saw last year, injuries will happen and you need depth on defense. So I see GMGM trying to get Collins and Sloan through waivers and going to Hershey, sending Alzner down as well with no risk of losing him, and keeping #23 and #55. However, I am a bit worried that someone may try and claim Sloan, who showed he can play at the NHL level, when needed, last season.
Now it gets fun and very challenging when trying to be pick the remaining three forwards. For some reason I have a strong hunch that if he stays healthy Quintin Laing will make the team. This team is loaded with talent and skill so I see the remaining three spots going to guys who can play a role and Laing fits that mold with his great shot blocking ability and superb penalty killing skills. So I am penciling him in and that leaves two more spots until Fehr and Fleischmann come back. One of the biggest factors in this is what to do with Nylander, who has a no movement clause. #92 may just have to make the team unless McPhee can find him a trade (unlikely given his salary) or he signs in Europe (reports from some in the press box last night were that the Europe scenario might be dead because of the money Nylander wants – after all, he can sit in DC as a healthy scratch and collect $5.5M this season). If Nylander is on the roster, and I am having a hard time finding a scenario where he isn’t simply because of his contract, then that leaves one spot remaining. Bourque missed practice today after taking a hard hit in last night’s game so that may hurt his chances, although Boudreau seems to really like the scrappy forward. Aucion notched a goal and played well towards the end of last season with the Caps but I see him as more of a stop gap at center should Morrison get injured. Beagle is reportedly a Boudreau favorite and had he not been injured last season would have likely been in DC for more stints in 2008-09. Giroux, as I have written before, just doesn’t have the skating ability to play in the NHL so I see him Hershey bound, for sure. Again, I go back to the need to fit a role and that is where I think Beagle has the edge, the Caps don’t have an enforcer on the roster but they do have Bradley and Erskine and keeping Beagle gives them another guy with some size and toughness plus he is good on face-offs. So my guess, at this point, and barring no more injuries or trades is the Caps keep Laing, Beagle, and Nylander.
Feel free to add who you think McPhee and Boudreau will choose or any other thoughts in the comments section.