Connect with us

Capitals Takes

Silber: Despite Additions, Johansen Can Still Win Role On Capitals Blue Line

Published

on

Capitals prospect Lucas Johansen

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Heading into the offseason, the Washington Capitals had clear-cut needs from the get-go: a new and improved goaltending tandem, and forwards to fill in for Nicklas Backstrom, Tom Wilson and potentially Carl Hagelin. However, they still had another objective: to bolster the blue line.

With third-pairing d-man Justin Schultz and extra Michal Kempny departing for the Seattle Kraken, Washington needed to add some more depth. So, in addition to re-signing 2016 first-rounder Lucas Johansen to an extension, they also brought Erik Gustafsson and Gabriel Carlsson on board, while extending Matt Irwin.

As has been the case, the top two pairings are set, with Martin Fehervary-John Carlson and Dmitry Orlov-Nick Jensen filling out that top-four. Trevor van Riemsdyk has also secured his full-time gig on the third pairing but needs a new partner. There are only LHD remaining, meaning TVR will get to switch back to his natural right side.

Although Gustafsson has been an NHL regular, and despite the Capitals also bringing in several other options, don’t count out Johansen for making the NHL jump and even becoming a regular on the blue line.

“Lucas Johansen [could be good] with TVR. I think we have pretty good depth on D,” general manager Brian MacLellan said of the 24-year-old.

It has been a long road for the 2016 first-rounder, who finally got to make his NHL debut this past season. He dished a great assist in his first game, and also took good care of the puck while playing with poise. Down in Hershey, he had a career year, setting new highs of eight goals and 28 points through 62 games, along with a +/- of plus-20.

“When you spend time down there, you’re definitely getting better,” Johansen said of his time with the Bears.

READ MORE ON WHN: Amid Standout Play, Haakon Hanelt Ready To ‘Make Own Statement With Washington Capitals

The younger brother of Nashville Predators star Ryan, Johansen is a talented puck-mover with tremendous skating ability. He can play a pivotal role on special teams and at even strength, and he’s not afraid to join the rush, either. He possesses a wicked point shot to boot. The 6-2, 181-pound blueliner has also grown more confident in puck battles while playing a solid two-way game.

That growth is exactly what makes him a great option on Washington’s blue line. The Capitals have stressed puck-moving defenseman since Peter Laviolette began his tenure in the District. Johansen has shown that he can bring that to the lineup, as he takes good care of the puck and knows how to make a strong first pass out of the zone.
“Johansen had a real good year down there, which was really good for us to hear and see,” Laviolette said.

One thing that Johansen has to work on is adding more bulk and strength. That will help him when it comes to competing with Gustafsson, as the 30-year-old regular has a lot of strength, skates well and can also move the puck effectively. He had 18 points in 59 games last season with the struggling Chicago Blackhawks.

Ultimately, it’s going to be a tough battle that’ll come right down the line. However, nothing’s set in stone, and as has been evident in training camp, anyone can prove their worth and crack the opening night roster. No spots are guaranteed, and if Johansen can shine in on-ice sessions and make the most of his preseason appearances, his rookie campaign could be on the horizon. And, even if he starts off as a seventh defenseman, he has grown enough that his time with Hershey could be behind him, as he has shown that he has evolved into an NHL-caliber player.

Welcome to your new home for Washington Capitals breaking news, analysis and opinion. Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and don't forget to subscribe to WHN+ for all of our members-only content from Sammi Silber and the National Hockey Now network.
Click to comment
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Get WHN in Your Inbox

Enter your email address and receive notifications of new posts by email.

All the Capitals news that's fit to print

Sign up and get all of our stories sent directly to your inbox.

Thank you for subscribing.

Something went wrong.