The biggest concern about projecting the Capitals, going into the 2015 season, is what the effect Barry Trotz and his coaching style will bring to this team. Washington has been a fairly offensive team, trying to take advantage of some of the most talented offensive players in the league, while hoping their goaltending holds on and keeps them in games where they aren't firing on all cylinders.
With the influx of new defensemen onto the team, including a better two-way option and a stay-at-home option, the team should be able to help out some of the familiar faces that are already there, while adding a few elements of their own. Of course, this is all theoretical, until they hit the ice in training camp. The theory is solid, but the practice will be the telling story.
|Forwards||14/15 Proj||Cap Hit||Defense||14/15 Proj||Cap Hit||Goaltenders||14/15 Proj||Cap Hit|
|Alex Ovechkin||90||9.538||Matt Niskanen||50||5.750||Braden Holtby||65||1.850|
|Nicklas Backstrom||85||6.700||Mike Green||45||6.083||Justin Peters||10||0.950|
|Marcus Johansson||60||2.000||John Carlson||35||3.967|
|Evgeny Kuznetsov||55||0.900||Dimitri Orlov||25||2.000|
|Joel Ward||45||3.000||Karl Alzner||20||2.800|
|Troy Brouwer||40||3.667||Brooks Orpik||10||5.500|
|Jason Chimera||40||2.000||John Erskine||5||1.963|
|BUYOUTS & OTHER||0.150|
|Michael Latta||10||0.575||Steven Oleksy||10||0.542||Philipp Grubauer||10||0.579|
First Round Picks
Frankly, even if I wasn't going to project Alex Ovechkin or Nicklas Backstrom as 1st round picks in the hockey pool draft, they would probably go, thanks to their reputations. On the plus side, I think a healthy season on either side will be good and will make for a return to some more respectable scoring numbers. I get the feeling that a more transition-based game, from playing in the defensive end, will benefit the speed and skill of these two and points will come naturally.
Most Intriguing or Breakout Player
I think the Capitals have a legitimate Calder Trophy candidate in Russian youngster Evgeny Kuznetsov and his initial projections should reflect that. Kuznetsov was able to appear in 17 games for the Capitals last season, which keeps him a rookie into the 2015 season, and as much as his low scoring totals may dissuade, I think the level of his play did give some hope that he'll blossom into something special in the coming year. 9 points in 17 games last season could keep him lower in some pool projections, but I think he will be a good top six option this season.
Other Pool Worthy Forwards
Draft teams never seem to shy away from the Washington forwards in the draft and tucked in between the 1st round picks and a breakout player, we have Marcus Johansson, who might find a few more points with a young scoring winger on his side. Joel Ward generally finds a home in the draft, as does Jason Chimera and Troy Brouwer. I don't see any reason for that to change again this year.
Other Pool Worthy Defense
Last season, there were three Capitals defensemen taken in the hockey pool draft and I think we can see upwards of four taken this year, coming shortly after a Summer where management upgraded the blueline. The addition of Matt Niskanen should not only add another defender to the list, it may even make him the first Caps defender taken, unseating Mike Green for the honour for the first time in a few seasons. John Carlson and Dimitri Orlov should also get nods again this year for spots in the draft.
The view of the crease looks a bit clearer than it has in a couple seasons, with one goalie looking head and shoulders above the remainder, as Braden Holtby will emerge as the number one guy. Even with the improvements in other spots, I don't think it will translate well for the Capitals, but Holtby's minutes should improve, giving him a better shot at more wins for his own personal total.
Team To Pick From Late?
Other than the top end guys, who will go much earlier, I don't see the Capitals blowing off the doors with their depth. Breaking into the top six from camp may be rather difficult and so will a starting job on the blueline. Sleepers may be hard to come by in Washington, but keep an eye on training camps.
Unsigned Players and Salary Cap
The Capitals are in okay shape going into training camp, as their projected roster is already at 20 players and there is only one RFA left on their list, but Cam Schilling won't be projected to be on the opening night roster, so we won't worry too much about unsigned players. Those 20 players on the roster, however, do come in at $66.6 million, leaving only $2.4 million for three players, but they'll be depth players, so the battle for those last spots should be interesting.
One injury to speak of, but it isn't really pool worthy... forward Tom Wilson may not be ready to go for camp, as a broken leg in July has sidelined his progress. Wilson, known more as a tough guy, doesn't have much on his projections, but is still a helpful piece of the puzzle for Washington.