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Capitals Have Options On Blue Line After Edmundson Injury



Washington Capitals defenseman Alexander Alexeyev (27) in action during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the New York Islanders, Wednesday, March 29, 2023, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Not even a full week into training camp and the Washington Capitals have already been bit by the injury bug.

Joel Edmundson, who the team acquired via trade as a veteran influence on the left side of the defense, did not practice Tuesday after suffering an upper body injury — “probably not good,” as described by head coach Spencer Carbery — during Sunday’s intrasquad scrimmage.

Edmundson underwent surgery to stabilize his fractured hand on Wednesday, resulting in him being sidelined for four to six weeks. At a minimum, he’ll miss the first three games of the regular season.

For his replacement, the Capitals will likely turn to one of their internal options, and there are quite a few in contention.

Alex Alexeyev

Alexeyev, who signed a three-year contract extension this offseason, entered camp with the expectation that he would battle for ice time with Edmundson. There’s a very real possibility that he could take it all for himself.

After playing in 32 games with the Capitals last season, Alexeyev — the team’s first-round pick in 2018 — is seemingly due for an increased role at the NHL level. Last season’s departure of Dmitry Orlov created an opening, but now it’s up to him to earn the spot throughout the preseason.

Hardy Haman Aktell was a 2016 draft pick of the Nashville Predators before inking an entry-level contract with the Capitals this offseason. (Michael Gallagher/Nashville Hockey Now)

Hardy Haman Aktell

Haman Aktell was a late bloomer — and the Capitals were able to take advantage.

A 2015 draft pick of the Predators, Haman Aktell never made the jump stateside. But he continued to develop while playing in Sweden over the past few seasons, ultimately finishing fourth in points among defensemen in the Swedish Hockey League last season — earning an entry-level contract with the Capitals in the process.

“The things that jump out right away: size, length, reach,” Carbery said. “To me in the practices — and we’ll get a real good sense of this in the next five games we have left, however many he plays — he seems like a really, really intelligent defender. Puts himself in good spots, can read where the next play is going so that he’s there quickly to close, and he breaks up a lot of plays.”

Hershey Bears defenseman Lucas Johansen and Rochester Americans winger Isak Rosen await a faceoff. (Tori Hartman/Hershey Bears)

Lucas Johansen

Johansen, the Capitals’ first-round draft pick in 2015, has been a defensive stalwart in Hershey since the start of his professional career. It goes without saying that he’s eyeing something new — a promotion.

Since making his NHL debut in 2021, Johansen has played in a total of three games at the highest level. The fact that he hasn’t found a home in Washington yet could be chocked up to a lack of opportunities, but if the 25-year-old hasn’t made it in after six AHL seasons, it makes you wonder what his future holds.

Vince Iorio tallied the second-most points among Hershey Bears defensemen last season. (Mike Zitek/Coachella Valley Firebirds)

Trevor van Riemsdyk (and Vincent Iorio)

Despite having been a constant on the right side for the last two seasons, the right-handed van Riemsdyk has played on the left side before, making him an option that, according to Carbery, the Capitals will consider.

Obviously if van Riemsdyk were to line up on the left side, that would then create a vacancy on the right side. Look no further than Vincent Iorio, the team’s top defensive prospect, to fill that role. He tallied the second-most points among Hershey’s defensemen last season.

Jared Serre covers the Washington Capitals for Washington Hockey Now. He is a graduate of West Virginia University.