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Capitals Training Camp Primer: Who To Watch, Storylines, Battles & Injuries

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Washington Capitals training camp

ARLINGTON, V.A. — The Washington Capitals are kicking off training camp on Wednesday with physicals and off-ice testing, as well as an in-house media day with photoshoots and promotions. Then, on Thursday, the Capitals will begin on-ice sessions with the infamous skate tests on Day 1 at MedStar Capitals Iceplex and also host their official media day.

Washington released its training camp roster on Tuesday, which features 42 forwards, 20 defensemen and six goaltenders for a total of 68 attendees. There will be some injuries, battles and interesting storylines to follow as camp progresses. The Capitals will have to trim down their roster to 23 men by opening night when they take on the Boston Bruins on Oct. 12.

The full roster for training camp can be found right here.

Here is Washington Hockey Now’s full primer ahead of the action, including storylines, names to watch and much more:

Washington Capitals To Watch

From roster players to fringe names, there are several skaters to keep an eye on going into training camp, especially with the influx of forwards. There could be a couple of dark horses for spots and some players coming back with plenty to prove, especially with full-time lineup roles also at stake.

Here are just a couple of names to watch going into camp:

  • Lars Eller: The 33-year-old is coming off what he called the “most challenging” season of his career. He experienced inconsistency and two bouts of COVID that resulted in lengthy quarantines. Eller also shifted from the top-6 to the bottom-6 and even had to move to the wing amid injuries and other experiments with the lineup over the course of the 2021-22 campaign. This season, he not only faces a big challenge from Connor McMichael — we’ll have more on that later in this piece — but he’s also in a contract year. Look for him to start off on the right foot with a stellar camp, especially after taking part in informal skates and working a lot with skating coach Wendy Marco.

RELATED: Several Washington Capitals Skate With Wendy Marco Ahead Of Season

  • Hendrix Lapierre: This is an obvious name to watch. Lapierre defied all expectations and took the DMV by storm last season as he won a well-deserved spot out of camp. He scored in his NHL debut and also quickly became a fan favorite, but after just six games and a few healthy scratches, the Captiasl returned him to the QMJHL to continue his development and get game experience, as well as well-deserved ice time. He had 51 points in 41 games with the Acadie-Bathurst Titan to close out the campaign, but since then, has had his sights set on winning a roster spot again, but this time, earning a permanent stay and an apartment to boot. He has done a lot over the summer (again, we’ll get to that), so it’ll be interesting to see what he does.

 

  • Beck Malenstyn: Malenstyn is again a dark horse for a spot. The 24-year-old is a hard-hitting, gritty penalty killer and utility player who can take on numerous roles. It’s unclear if Carl Hagelin is making a comeback yet (it’s a long process but right now there’s reason for optimism after his strides this offseason), but Malenstyn has certainly made himself stand out. He led Washington in hits over the span of his 12-game call-up this season and impressed in a fourth-line role. He was one of the last names at camp last year and could steal the show again if he has an impressive offseason after earning an extension this offseason.

READ MORE ON WHN: Beck Malenstyn Gets Two-Year Extension With Washington Capitals

  • Joe Snively: Snively, a Virginia native and little Caps alum, dominated to start his NHL career with seven points in his first 12 games. However, a wrist injury and surgery would end his campaign, though he is coming in next year on a one-way deal and will look to maintain his spot on the roster he won last year amid injuries. Look for him to impress.

 

  • Dylan Strome and Connor Brown: Both new forward additions are looking to make an impact and earn an extended stay with Washington. Strome will look to not only earn a top-6 role, but find the consistency and ability that made him the third overall pick in 2015. Meanwhile, Brown, who the Capitals acquired in a trade with Ottawa this offseason, will help fill Tom Wilson’s void on the top line as he recovers from injury. Look for Brown to also take on a major penalty-killing role.

WHN ANALYSIS: What Can Washington Capitals Expect From Connor Brown In 2022-23?

  • Erik Gustafsson: The former 60-point scorer is joining Washington on a one-year deal and is the frontrunner to take the vacant spot next to Trevor van Riemsdyk. There are several defensemen taking part in camp, including Lucas Johansen, so he will still be in for a fierce battle. Still, he has looked good at informal skates and has impressed with his mobility at informal skates, so it looks like he’s coming to camp in shape.

 

  • Lucas Johansen: As mentioned above, Johansen will be looking for a full-time role on the Capitals. He has been waiting for this chance and overcoming injuries and adversity since 2016. It is time now for him to show what he’s made of as he faces heavy competition as well.

 

  • Vincent Iorio: Another blueliner, Iorio has set himself apart this offseason by adding a lot of size and strength. He’s a big personality and has elevated himself on the depth chart, and as a natural right-hand shot (the team only has three RHD on the roster), he has a lot to prove as he looks to transition to the pros this season. He expects to start in Hershey, but don’t count him out.

Honorable Mentions: Henrik Borgstrom, Bear Hughes, Haakon Hanelt, Gabriel Carlsson, Matt Irwin.

Roster Battles To Watch

  • Third-line center role: This is perhaps the most interesting battle of camp. Washington signed Dylan Strome this offseason and expect him to help fill Nicklas Backstrom’s void on the top 6. While this could change with the course of the season, it looks like it’s now a battle for the third-line center role, with Evgeny Kuznetsov, Strome and Dowd locked in for spots down the middle. That showdown comes down to Eller and McMichael. General manager Brian MacLellan mentioned that he wants to see McMichael take on a bigger role at pivot this season, and with Eller in a contract year and wanting to maintain his spot at 3C, it’ll come down to both of them looking to prove they can win that role. That will also determine who starts on the wing and who will have to compete in that ongoing battle, especially with Marcus Johansson returning, Hagelin looking to draw back in, youngsters looking to earn a spot and more.

 

  • Blue Line Battle: We touched on this earlier, but the blue line battle is going to get intense. The Capitals made several additions to the blue line this offseason, bringing in Gustafsson and Carlsson and re-signing 7D Matt Irwin. Johansen is also looking for a spot. Those are all left-handed defensemen, which will allow Trevor van Riemsdyk to shift back to his natural right side. Still, there are dark horses, like Iorio, to look out for, and in all, four defensemen competing for one full-time vacancy on the d-corps. Alex Alexeyev will also not be ready for the start of the season with injury, though he is also a name to watch as a call-up option (and he’s also a left-hand shot).

Washington Capitals Injury Updates & News

  • Backstrom and Wilson are recovering from major injuries and surgeries and will not be on the ice at camp. Backstrom is rehabbing from hip resurfacing surgery but still intends to return at some point in 2022-23. It will be a big mission, as hip resurfacing surgery has ended several NHL careers, though there’s no more pain for Backstrom, who admitted this offseason that he couldn’t even put on his socks due to the pain. And, per The Athletic’s Tarik El-Bashir, Backstrom is progressing, and on the Wilson front, No. 43 is “ahead of schedule” in his recovery. On a positive note, both were in full gear at the in-house media day, a good sign to see.

GOTTA SEE IT: Nicklas Backstrom, Tom Wilson In Full Gear At Washington Capitals Media Day

  • Hagelin is out of a non-contact jersey and was going all-in on the physical battles and drills at informal skates. However, the 34-year-old still faces a long role back, as a high stick under his tilted visor at a March practice ruptured his choroid in his left eye. The impact led to a permanent loss of some of his vision and took away his depth perception, though he has been taking part in eye training and had surgery as well.

‘TOTAL DARKNESS’: Hagelin Opens Up About Extent Of Eye Injury

  • Alexeyev is still in a non-contact jersey. His timeline has him out of game action until at least October.

 

  • Backstrom, Wilson, Hagelin and Alexeyev are the only listed injured players going into camp, a welcome sign for D.C.

 

Training Camp Storylines & Tidbits

  • Washington will see its new goaltenders in action as Darcy Kuemper and Charlie Lindgren take the reins between the pipes. The Capitals ran with Ilya Samsonov and Vitek Vanecek over the last two seasons. However, neither could find consistency or set themselves apart as the true No. 1. So, MacLellan chose to part ways with both RFAs this summer. This is the first time in a long time the team is running with two goalies from outside the system. It will be interesting to see how it unfolds. Kuemper just won a Stanley Cup, and Lindgren impressed in the NHL/AHL. He is in for his first full NHL campaign.

RELATED: Inside Why Washington Moved On From Samsonov & Vanecek, Went For Full Goalie Overhaul

  • Lapierre and Iorio, as well as Hanelt, are best friends who have formed a brotherhood with Washington. They will all be at training camp as Lapierre eyes a roster spot, Iorio aims for a jump to the pros and Hanelt looks to show more after suffering a devastating injury in his post-draft year. However, he has been making a strong comeback with a World Juniors run and impressive development and rookie camps.

READ MORE ON WHN: Lapierre, Iorio & Hanelt Discuss Bromance, Becoming ‘3 Peas In A Pod’ With Washington Capitals

  • Brothers Dylan and Matthew Strome will be at camp. Dylan is coming to D.C. on a one-year deal, and Strome just signed an AHL deal with the Bears. It’ll be fun to see both of them take in the experience together.

 

  • Speaking of family ties, Peter Laviolette III, the son of Capitals head coach Peter Laviolette, will take part in camp. He has looked good at development and rookie camp. The 25-year-old has taken strides after playing D3 hockey at Plymouth State University. He has also worked with Marco on skating.

 

  • Hagelin is attempting to make his comeback, and though signs are good, he has ways to go. Still, his teammates are rallying around him, and his return could mean some interesting chances to boot.

 

  • Alex Ovechkin is entering his 18th season. He sits at 780 goals, good for third-most of all time and the most among European players in NHL history. He needs to average 29 goals per season over the next four seasons to break Wayne Gretzky’s record of 894 and become the best scorer in NHL history. The Great 8 is coming off his record ninth 50-goal season and just turned 37. He’ll look to keep going.
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