ARLINGTON, V.A. — As the Washington Capitals took the ice for Day 2 of training camp and the first official day of practice, head coach Peter Laviolette got a first look at his projected lines with Group A, which consists of the likely NHL roster players this season. And there were a lot of takeaways from those combinations as well.
New acquisition Connor Brown started on the top line alongside Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov, filling in for Tom Wilson on the right side. He appears to fit in well though, complementing the Russians with strong skating, speed, good vision and smart passing. They gelled together nicely there, and Brown believes he can bring a lot to the table with the stars.
“I skate well, I can make some plays and I think that I get some pucks back for them as well too. First on the forecheck and things like that,” Brown said. “I think I could be a good fit for them and it’s up to me to prove it.”
Okay Capitals lines:
— Sammi Silber (@sammisilber) September 23, 2022
On the second line, Dylan Strome got his first look at the top-6, but from a different spot. He was skating on the left wing rather than at center, where Connor McMichael got the first chance at pivot. Anthony Mantha was on the right side to close out that combination, though Strome joked that Mantha kept changing sides. Joe Snively also rotated in with Mantha on that combo.
McMichael looks like he’s added some more size and strength this offseason, and he has been skating well and moving the puck efficiently at informal skates and the start of camp.
For now, the wing a good starting spot for Strome, who is willing to play any forward position. He also already feels good connecting with his new linemates.
“Whatever happens, happens. I think I’ve played both last year and previous years. We’re gonna try both and see what happens. I feel comfortable in both spots,” Strome said. “So it was fun to be out there with those two guys. Played with Mantha a little bit at the World Championships and pretty dynamic player, so fun to play with him and then watching McMichael, he’s very skilled. So I’m excited to play both.”
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Marcus Johansson, Lars Eller and T.J. Oshie made up the third line, and Conor Sheary, Nic Dowd and Garnet Hathaway made up the fourth combination. Axel Jonsson-Fjallby rotated in with that group too.
Head coach Peter Laviolette said that he liked what he saw out of the first group but that the combinations are subject to change.
As for the standouts, Brown impressed with his skating, and Strome also looked good. However, perhaps the most noticeable player — and not just because of his name — was Alex Ovechkin. The Great 8 was a wrecking ball, throwing his weight around, digging hard into the ice, showing more speed and engaging in puck battles while also unleashing his wicked shot.
- Erik Gustafsson looked good alongside Trevor van Riemsdyk. The defensive pairings were the same as last year, with Gustafsson-TVR closing them out. Matt Irwin and Gabriel Carlsson were on an extra pairing. Carlsson did stand out, though, thanks to his size and skating ability.
- Johansson was moving the puck efficiently and in high spirits.
- Oshie is absolutely fine after his offseason procedure. There are no restrictions, and he was full go. There are no worries that he will miss time to open 2022-23.
- Darcy Kuemper and Charlie Lindgren are getting along well. The two shared laughs and also raced from blue line to blue line as the team skated.
- Laviolette did stop Group A after an error in drills and made his players skate. It was a high-intensity practice, though, and it looked like everyone bought in.