The Capitals definitely put up some impressive numbers last year, especially in the playoffs, but this was only their first championship and the hangover could very well be a real thing in the early part of October. They do have a good enough team to work their way out of said hangover and still have a very good season, but it would be silly not to expect a little bit of drowsiness to start the year.
Washington will also start the new season with a new (yet familiar) face behind the bench, which means that things won't be exactly the same to start in the system department. In terms of new faces, they are to be bringing in fresh talent from within their organization, since they didn't really have the available cap space to go out and shop for the big ticket free agents that were on the market. A lot will depend on those kids and how they adapt to the big leagues.
There's a lot going on for these Capitals and they can't sit on their laurels, expecting that it will be a championship ride once again, just because they have one under their belts. The other teams are going to be gunning for their spot and that could affect their numbers overall.
Table last updated on August 13th
Most Intriguing or Breakout Player
How does being the top scoring defenseman change a player moving forward? The Capitals had to do some serious shuffling in this off-season to get a new deal done for the leading scorer from the blueline, John Carlson, and that makes him my pick for the intriguing player this season.
I think we all knew that he had the talent, he certainly played on the right team to get register all those points, but now that there will be a focus on him and his abilities, will he be able to step up and be that guy in the 2019 season? I certainly think he will be up among the higher echelon of defenders this season, but between all the other factors for this team, I think leading the league again might be a stretch.
First Round Picks
Well, depending on how much celebrating actually went on with those Washington Capitals, I fully expect to see a few names hovering around the top of the list and they are the names that you'd expect. Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Braden Holtby were just dynamite last year, especially in the playoffs, and I fully expect them to make some noise again this coming season. There might be a little bit of a playoff hangover, but I think they'll sort it out before too long.
Other Pool Worthy Forwards
The Capitals didn't lose too much, in terms of the roster from last season, a good portion of it has stuck around and they should be hungry to get back at it again. I'm looking for Nicklas Backstrom, T.J. Oshie, Andre Burakovsky and Lars Eller to all compete at a hockey pool level and there's still some wiggle room for a few of their other bubble players.
Other Pool Worthy Defensemen
The Capitals have some pretty good depth on the blueline, but they are very responsible in their own end, than having a whole lot on the offensive side of the ice. Only Dmitry Orlov and Matt Niskanen were projected to be up there for the team, besides Carlson, so I may not count on them too much for blueline help.
There will be an open tryout for the number two job in Washington in training camp and it could go one of a few ways. 2014 2nd round pick Vitek Vanecek, 2015 1st round pick Ilya Samsonov or free agent signing Pheonix Copley are all signed on and ready to go. I've leaned towards Samsonov, but it might be a moot point behind Holtby, who eats a lot of minutes.
Team to Pick From Late?
I'm sure being the champs and all, opting for a Washington Capitals bubble player couldn't a bad idea. Tom Wilson wold be a good bet, if the PIM pool was to return this year. Brett Connolly or Jakub Vrana could also be a late round pick, if you were so inclined. On defense, Madison Bowey might start to show why he was a 2013 2nd round pick as well.
Unsigned Players and Salary Cap
I have the Capitals in with a full compliment of players, ready and raring to go, but winning comes at a pretty good cost. The team is only $1.5 million from the cap ceiling, looking at my current 23-man roster projection, so they'll have to do lots with what they have and not be expecting to be too big of players at the trade deadline.
The only major injury of note from last season's playoff run was Nicklas Backstrom's finger issue, where he had suffered a fractured finger in the run and missed a few games to get himself back to a more reasonable pain threshold. The Capitals appear free and clear on the injury front, heading to camp, so pick away here.