Going back to a year ago, Conor Sheary’s next NHL move was something of a mystery. The two-time Stanley Cup champion was still an unrestricted free agent, and it’d be a month until he got a call from the Washington Capitals, who signed him to a one-year, “prove-it deal.” Fast forward to now, and he has become a key part of the roster.
Sheary signed a two-year extension with the Capitals back in April, and he has been making the most of his opportunity to open the first year of that deal. As a jack of all trades, he has been able to make a strong impact and has quietly been one of Washington’s most effective players.
“I’m definitely more comfortable,” Sheary said at the start of the season, adding, “I take pride in the fact that I can kind of play up and down the lineup. Whether it’s first or fourth line, I think I’ll just play my role and do what I do best and I think I bring that throughout the lineup.
The 29-year-old has three points over his last four games and has been a jack of all trades for the Capitals so far. As a key member of the bottom-6, he’s been playing the role of a mentor to young guys like Hendrix Lapierre, Connor McMichael, Brett Leason and Aliaksei Protas as they transition to the pros. As a leader, Sheary has been helping guide Washington’s rookies while also utilizing his speed and knack for the net to generate scoring chances.
Through nine games, Sheary ranks second among all Capitals in high-danger Corsi-for percentage (66.67), fourth in scoring chances-for percentage (60) and fifth in expected goals-for percentage (65.40).
“I think he’s been one of our best players this year,” John Carlson said of Sheary. “It seems like he’s always making stuff happen one way or another.”
To reward Sheary for his play, head coach Peter Laviolette promoted him to the first power-play unit in hopes to spark the struggling man advantage. He’s done a decent job in that spot, engaging in puck battles, retrieving the puck and getting to the front of the net to create opportunities. He got his first goal of the season on Monday against the Tampa Bay Lightning by crashing the crease and holding his ground in front.
“He’s been excellent,” Laviolette said, adding, “He’s tenacious on the puck, he’s competing hard to turn over pucks and come up with pucks. He’s skilled enough to make plays.”
The Capitals are 5-1-3 to start the season, and the schedule is only going to get more difficult going forward. As Washington continues to balance injuries, they’ll need to keep getting a lot from the 5-9, 179-pound forward. His versatility can go a long way, and it’ll be key for the Capitals if they want to make another strong run this year.
“He can do a lot of different things,” Carlson noted. “I think he helps a lot on the breakouts and certainly has an eye to find guys all over the ice… we feel like he’s a really good piece to shake things up and make some stuff happen.”