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Capitals’ Miroshnichenko Shines In ‘Emotional’ Preseason Debut



Washington Capitals defenseman John Carlson (74) celebrates with center Michael Sgarbossa (23) and left wing Ivan Miroshnichenko (63) after scoring against the Detroit Red Wings during the third period of an NHL preseason hockey game Thursday, Sept. 28, 2023, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

WASHINGTON D.C. — Ivan Miroshnichenko has skated on dozens — if not hundreds — of ice sheets in his life, but the one at Capital One Arena will always be one of the most memorable.

A year ago, while battling Hodgkin’s lymphoma, his blue jeans draped around his hips. Making his NHL preseason debut Thursday night, the red Capitals sweater with his name stretched across the back fit snug.

“First period was emotional for him,” Alex Ovechkin said, “but the second one and the third I think he kind of realized (what) was happening and I think he played a good game.”

Miroshnichenko’s line, which included Ovechkin and longtime center Nicklas Backstrom, represented a blend of two eras of Capitals hockey: the present and the future. And it didn’t take long for Miroshnichenko’s name to echo throughout the arena — undoubtedly the first of many.

Facing a 1-0 deficit in the second period, a pass from Miroshnichenko wound up on the stick of Ovechkin, who fed Backstrom in front of the net for the team’s first goal of the game.

In the third period, John Carlson pushed the game-winning goal past Red Wings goalie Sebastian Cossa, but only after Miroshnichenko fed the veteran defenseman in front of the net.

“He was kind of all over the place,” Tom Wilson said of Miroshnichenko. “I think the effort was there, he was working really hard. I think as he gets more comfortable in this league at this level, with this rink and all that, I think his upside is awesome. He looks like he’s got a lot of tools, so (I’m) excited to see him keep playing.”

So far, Miroshnichenko’s professional experience is limited. Over three seasons in Russia, his career-high is 31 games in a season. But while his battle with Hodgkin’s lymphoma is partially to blame, he’s still only 19-years old.

To most, his lack of ice time is anything but discouraging. His shot alone, traveling akin to a missile as Capitals goalie Mitchell Gibson joked, instills fear into opposing defenses. Given his young age however, he obviously still has room to develop a more complete skill set.

After signing his entry-level contract earlier this summer, Miroshnichenko is expected to start the season in the AHL. But his initial impression has been lasting, making the 2021 first-round pick a name to watch sooner rather than later.

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