It’s July 1, which usually means the start of free agency, but more importantly, Canada Day. In honor of the national holiday, Ben Raby pitched a tremendous idea: what would the Washington Capitals all-time Canadian lineup look like?
Having been born in 1997 and not discovering my passion for the game until 2008, I had to grow up learning the team history. Thanks to the wonderful world of the Internet, some great books and more, I got to truly dive deeper into the franchise’s storied past. So, today, I put my knowledge to the test.
Here are the best Canada-born players to lace ’em up in D.C. and the ultimate Canadian starting lineup (in my opinion).
Dale Hunter – To this day, he’s Washington’s all-time tough guy and one of its most impressive scorers. The Petrolia, Ontario native leads all the franchise’s Canadian pivots in assists (375) and points (556), which are also good for sixth overall. He additionally holds the franchise record with 2003 PIM. Hunter is also famous for one of, if not the most, famous goal in Capitals history. In Game 7 of the 1988 Patrick Cup Semifinals against Philadelphia, Hunter went on the breakaway and net the overtime winner to eliminate the Flyers and send the team to its first-ever Eastern Conference Final.
Dennis Maruk – Maruk only suited up for Washington for five years, but he made quite the impact. The Toronto-born center is the Capitals’ all-time leader in points per game (1.26) and goals created per game (.49). In 343 career games in the Nation’s Capitol, he dished 182 goals and 431 points and was a two-time 50-goal scorer. Maruk, a two-time All-Star, also set single-season records in 1981-82 with 76 assists and 136 points in 80 games.
Mike Ridley – Hailing from Winnipeg, injuries and adversity early in his career took away from his development. As a result, an NHL career would be a long shot. Still, he worked his way up and made a name for himself as an undrafted player, signing with the Rangers as a free agent. He eventually landed in Washington, and that’s where he made his mark. Ridley was and remains one of the team’s best two-way players.
Adam Oates – Another standout center for the Caps, Oates put on a show throughout his NHL career as one of the game’s most generous and skilled playmakers. He spent six years in Washington, posting 290 assists and 363 points. Oates still remains the Capitals’ all-time leader in assists-per-game (.75) and cemented his legacy as one of the most talented passers in the game. He totaled 1,420 points through 1,337 career games and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2012.
Ryan Walter – Taken second overall by Washington in 1978, Walter made his mark as a solid, versatile two-way forward. He finished second in Calder voting following a breakout freshman campaign and was also named the Capitals’ rookie of the year. His leadership and scoring ability ultimately led his teammates to name him captain in his second season, making him the youngest to wear the “C” in NHL history at the time. He was a 50-plus point player through all four years with the Caps and ended his tenure with 277 points in 307 games.
Gaetan Duchesne – Originally an eight-round draft pick in 1981, Duchesne played the role of an underdog when it came to cracking the NHL. He’d gone unselected in the 1980 draft following an underrated showing in the QMJHL. However, the Quebec City native came to Washington’s training camp and surpassed expectations. After a strong showing, he won a spot on the opening night roster. Duchesne made his mark as a tremendous skater and hard worker who also played a strong defensive game. He finished his tenure in Washington with 87 goals and 225 points through 451 games. He passed away in 2007 after suffering cardiac arrest.
Brooks Laich – “Brooksy” just recently hung up the skates, leaving behind him a memorable legacy with Washington. A product of the Peter Bondra trade, Laich was a versatile player who could play center or wing. Overall, he ranks sixth all-time in points among the Capitals’ Canadian forwards with 324 points in 742 games in D.C. The Wawota, Saskatchewan native helped lead the Bears to the Calder Cup in 2007 and came in clutch on several occasions for Washington. However, he was mostly known for his dedication and passion that went beyond the ice.
Jason Chimera – Known as the “ice cheetah,” Chimera made his presence known when he arrived in the District in 2010 as a part of the deal for captain Chris Clark. Over seven years with the Capitals, he showcased his speed, scoring ability and physicality. Over 490 games in Washington, he registered two 20-goal seasons, 955 shots, 197 points and 727 hits. The Edmonton native also brought a lot of energy and positivity to the dressing room, from making jokes to singing and photobombing interviews.
Mike Gartner – Before Alex Ovechkin, there was Gartner. A natural scorer and playmaker, the Ottawa-born center made a major impact with the Capitals after being taken fourth overall in the 1979 NHL Draft. Over 758 games in D.C., he picked up 397 goals and 789 points, and by the time he was traded, he was Washington’s all-time leader in goals, assists and points. To this day, he remains the franchise’s highest-scoring Canadian. Gartner is also just one of eight NHL players to score over 700 goals in his career. Ovechkin passed his 708 goals to become the team’s all-time leading goal-scorer in 2020-21.
Craig Laughlin – You can’t make an all-time Canadian Caps roster without Locker. Not only was he a contagious personality and hard-working grinder, but he was a strong skater who didn’t shy away from puck battles. He truly hit his stride over the course of six years in D.C., registering four consecutive 50-plus point campaigns. The Toronto-born RW also made major strides in growing hockey in the District. He helped Washington to its first playoff appearance and additionally served as a team ambassador. He continues to expand the game today as the color commentator for the Capitals on NBC Sports Washington.
Dino Ciccarelli – Although he went undrafted, Ciccarelli silenced his critics and doubters with a Hall Of Fame career. Not only was he one of the best scorers, but he knew how to get under the skin of his opponents. The Sarnia native also played well at both ends of the ice. Through 223 games with Washington, he picked up 112 goals and 209 points and is the team’s 10th-highest scoring Canadian of all time.
Bobby Gould – Gould won Washington’s inaugural “unsung hero” award following his rookie year in 1982. He capitalized on the opportunity to take on a full-time NHL role. He excelled as a penalty killer and earned an “A” on his sweater. His checking game, character and work ethic made him one of the team’s most essential pieces. Not to mention, Washington ended up making the postseason for six of the seven years he was in D.C. Gould was also known for his famous fight with Mario Lemieux. Over 600 games with the Caps, he dished 134 goals, 276 points and 1,003 shots on goal.
Scott Stevens – An excellent skater, strong physical presence and stellar playmaker, Stevens remains the Caps’ best Canadian defenseman. The Kitchener, Ontario native rose to prominence as one of the top offensive defensemen in the game. To this day, he’s the franchise’s highest-scoring Canadian blueliner with 429 points in 601 games. He also finished in the top-10 of Norris voting in seven of his eight years in D.C. Following his standout performance in Washington, he went on to win three Stanley Cups with New Jersey. He additionally won the Conn Smythe in 1990.
Mike Green – Another clutch player and dynamic offensive d-man, “Game Over Green” was a key part of Washington’s young core. The Calgary, Alberta native was taken 29th overall in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft and showcased his talent as a lethal offensive blueliner and power-play quarterback. He’s a two-time Norris runner-up who leads all Caps Canadian d-men in goals (113), power-play goals (52) and game-winning tallies (20).
Yvon Labre – There’s a reason that No. 7 hangs in the rafters. Labre was one of the original Capitals, joining the club after the 1974 expansion draft. For years, the hard-nosed blueliner was a staple on the Washington blue line. He also scored the team’s first goal at Capital Centre and was the last original Capital to skate for the team. He picked up 12 goals, 96 points and 756 PIM over 334 games with the Caps and served as captain from 1976 to 1978. However, he was most prominent for his off-ice contributions. He was an active part of the community and worked with youth hockey programs. He played several roles for Washington after hanging up the skaters, serving as an assistant coach, color commentator and scout.
Larry Murphy – Before Ovi, there was another Hall of Famer who donned No. 8. Murphy made a statement with the Capitals as a strong puck-moving defenseman with a superb two-way game. He is the third highest-scoring Canadian defender in franchise history and is 16th all-time in overall team scoring. Through all four years in Washington, the Scarborough, Ontario native was able to contribute at least 50 points a season. In 1986-89, he was an All-Star and Norris finalist.
Joe Reekie – Reekie was renowned for his stay-at-home style and outstanding play in his own zone. His plus-68 rating ranks fourth all-time among all Washington skaters. His tough yet clean playing style, as well as his strength, helped him stack up well against top players from other teams. While he didn’t put up a lot of points, the Victoria, British Columbia native was one of the team’s most reliable top-4 defensemen.
Sylvain Cote – Known for his strong shot and skating ability, Cote brought a lot to the table for the Capitals. He took good care of the puck and could also play a vital role on special teams. He was an excellent passer and also adjusted his game to become one of the team’s best two-way defensemen. Through 622 games, Cote recorded 75 goals and 270 points, making him the fourth-best Canadian scoring blueliner in franchise history.
Braden Holtby – Holts led Washington to its first Stanley Cup, and went from a Hershey call up to an elite franchise netminder. He came up huge at critical times and shined as one of the top playoff performers over the last decade. The Lloydminster, Saskatchewan native is a great puck handler who can thrive under pressure. He’s the second-winningest netminder in Capitals history and is tied with Olaf Kolzig for the most shutouts (35). Over 10 years in D.C., Holtby boasted a 2.53 GAA and .916 save percentage, which leads all Caps netminders with at least 150 GP.
Don Beaupre – “The Don” is one of Washington’s top netminders in franchise history and a fan favorite. He sits behind only Kolzig and Holtby for the most games played (269) and was the team’s starter for five seasons from 1989 to 1994. The Waterloo, Ontario-born goalie ranks third in saves (6,809), eighth in GAA (3.085) and 10th on the team in SV% (.886). In 1990-91, he finished sixth in Vezina voting, and he also appeared in two All-Star Games in his storied career.
All-Canadian Line Combinations
I couldn’t go without picking a couple more favorites.
Geoff Courtnall-Joe Juneau-Joel Ward
Rick Green-Robert Picard