The Washington Capitals training camp roster is down to 48 after the team re-assigned Vinnie Iorio on Friday. Now, it looks like their opening night roster is starting to come together.
Group A at Friday’s on-ice session saw 13 forwards, eight defensemen and two goalies take the ice. It mainly consisted of the Capitals’ main cast, with a few roster hopefuls as well. Connor McMichael and Hendrix Lapierre skated with the main forwards, while Martin Fehervary and Matt Irwin are remaining in the mix on defense.
Here’s what that group looked like:
Forwards: Nic Dowd, Lars Eller, Carl Hagelin, Garnet Hathaway, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Hendrix Lapierre, Anthony Mantha, Connor McMichael, T.J. Oshie, Alex Ovechkin, Conor Sheary, Daniel Sprong, Tom Wilson
Defensemen: John Carlson, Martin Fehervary, Matt Irwin, Nick Jensen, Michal Kempny, Dmitry Orlov, Justin Schultz, Trevor van Riemsdyk
Goaltenders: Ilya Samsonov, Vitek Vanecek
It seems possible from the looks of that group that it could be the one that takes the ice come opening night.
However, head coach Peter Laviolette said the team is still looking at a number of options.
“We’re still going to look at everybody. There’ll be a lot of players still in games… our guys have got to get together and start working and start doing the things that we need to do so that we’re ready to start the season, so at some point, you have to break it off.
“I’m still at the point where [you] don’t get the pen out yet. Just keep the pencil in your hand and keep writing it down, because it’s going to keep changing,” Laviolette added.
Nicklas Backstrom is still absent from training camp, and given the combinations and groups, there are several options for the team to consider if he does in fact miss the start of the reason. And right now, that is starting to look more realistic.
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Taking that into account, Washington has a number of options. If the Capitals do place Backstrom on the LTIR to start the year, it would open up cap space and offer flexibility. One player would have to be cut, though, as Backstrom would still be listed on the roster. Teams can’t have more than 23 players to start the year.
Lapierre is continuing to make quite the argument to make the NHL jump this season. He’s had a standout performance through camp and in preseason action, leading Washington with four assists in two games. The 19-year-old has also responded to several challenges, including improvement in the face-off dot.
McMichael, of course, has been a favorite to make the roster and is coming off an impressive campaign. The 20-year-old led all Hershey Bears in scoring in 2020-21 and trained alongside Connor McDavid and more with Gary Roberts Performance.
Both Lapierre and McMichael were interchanging at centering the third line between Conor Sheary and T.J. Oshie. Laviolette reiterated, though, that nothing is guaranteed as the Capitals continue to evaluate.
“The competition is going to get tougher, both [Lapierre] and McMichael and others as well… we’re still looking at other players that could possibly fill the void if needed,” Laviolette noted. “I think any of the young players that come up and jump in.”
Looking at Group B, it looks like there are more fringe players taking part in that group. The following players are in that second group:
Forwards: Kody Clark, Shane Gersich, Axel Jonsson-Fjallby, Kale Kessy, Breett Leason, Beck Malenstyn, Mason Morelli, Garrett Pilon, Brian Pinho, Aliaksei Protas, Michael Sgarbossa, Joe Sniely, Riley Sutter, Mike Vecchione
Defensemen: Alex Alexeyev, Cody Franson, Tobias Geisser, Lucas Johansen, Dylan McIlrath, Bobby Nardella, Eddie Wittchow
Goalies: Pheonix Copley, Zach Fucale, Hunter Shepard
- Kempny continues to get back up to game speed. He said he looks forward to playing in more games and getting used to adjusting to gaps and making the right reads and turns.
- Sprong was flying out there. Looked solid and like he’s primed to continue his top-6 play heading into the season.