Washington Capitals 2012-13 Opening-Day Roster

Robert TheodorsonSenior Analyst IAugust 1, 2012

Washington Capitals 2012-13 Opening-Day Roster

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    With free-agent signings far and few between in the nation's capital, Washington is looking to go into next season building on a solid foundation of defensive responsibility and timely scoring.

    The big news of the offseason was the acquisition of Dallas Stars center Mike Ribeiro and the Capitals' two first-round selections in the draft, Filip Forsberg and Tom Wilson.

    With depth waning on the wing, the Capitals felt it necessary to restock at both sides by selecting Forsberg, the first overall ranked European skater with the 11th overall pick, followed by gritty, tough forward Tom Wilson soon after.

    Ribeiro cost the Caps a draft pick and center prospect Cody Eakin, who had appeared in a few games for Washington at the beginning of the season. Acquiring a second-line center was the team's top priority and based on Ribeiro's reputation and past point totals, that need looks filled.

    Before we know it, the 2013 season will kick off, and everyone is wondering what the Capitals' opening-day roster is going to look like.

1st Line

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    Left Wing: Alex Ovechkin

    The biggest no-brainer is the captain on the first line, who will be sticking to his natural position. With the loss of Alexander Semin and no real scoring depth at right wing, Ovechkin isn't likely to be shuffled around at the other side, a tactic Bruce Boudreau tried out a few times.

    Ovechkin's numbers and playing time did not reflect that of a player getting paid over $9 million a season, but for the second season in a row, Ovechkin will look to rebound on a poor campaign. Last season, he registered his lowest point total in his career, only managing a meager 65 points in 78 games played.

     

    Center: Nicklas Backstrom

    Backstrom was Washington's best player last year before a cheap shot by Rene Bourque took Nicklas out for a large chunk of the season. 

    Even though he only played 42 games, Backstrom's 44 points were still among the most for any Capitals player. If he can pick up where he left off before the hit, Backstrom could turn into the Caps' biggest X-factor.

    In November he'll turn 25 years old, and his shot and playmaking ability are only going to get better. 

     

    Right Wing: Troy Brouwer

    As hard as it is to believe, Brouwer will be the Capitals' only player with Stanley Cup experience next year after it was decided not to bring back Mike Knuble.

    Brouwer is a gritty winger who has a decent scoring touch and is really starting on the first line simply because there is an extreme lack of serious talent at the right wing.

2nd Line

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    Left Wing: Brooks Laich

    Laich fits one of two bills: second-line left wing or third-line center. With the addition of Mike Ribeiro, there is little chance Laich is going to be pushed down to the bottom six.

    One of the best leaders the Caps have, Laich has a decent scoring touch that has declined as the Capitals' system has become more and more restrictive. A great two-way player, look for Laich's numbers to slightly increase this year with his new center.

     

    Center: Mike Ribeiro

    Second-line center was the Caps' biggest need for the past couple of seasons. Brendan Morrison looked like a good fit before he ran out of gas in the second half of the season during his one year in Washington, and Sergei Fedorov, while still extremely talented, just didn't have enough left to play top-six minutes during his tenure in D.C. 

    Ribeiro is a proven playmaking center who can easily exceed the 50-point mark if he given enough talent on his wings. 

     

    Right Wing: Marcus Johansson 

    This is really where the Caps' lack of depth first starts to rear its ugly head. Johansson is a center, and the Capitals would like to have him develop at center, but the young Swede needs top-six minutes in order to develop and the right wing is the only roster spot where he'll get those minutes.

    Johansson has shown steady improvement after his first two seasons, and he looks to be a very good two-way player, but with no real secondary scoring threat other than Brooks Laich, Johansson gets put at wing.

    If a trade is made in the near future, it's reasonable to suspect it'll be for this position, thus shifting MoJo back to being the third-line center.  

3rd Line

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    Left Wing: Jason Chimera

    If Chimera had better hands, he'd undoubtedly be a 30-goal scorer. The veteran left winger has earned a reputation for having stone hands, often missing wide open opportunities dished to him by his teammates after gripping his stick too hard and often flubbing great scoring chances.

    Chimera is one of the fastest skaters in the NHL and definitely the fastest in Washington. His speed is without a doubt his greatest asset and at 33 years old, Chimera won't be slowing down for at least another season or two.

     

    Center: Mathieu Perreault 

    Perreault is a skater who keeps getting better when he's afforded the chance to play more often.

    With 16 goals and 14 assists in 64 games last season, Perreault earned himself a nice raise and a two-year contract. 

    If given the full-time position at third-line center, Perreault could surprise a lot of people and get a career-high mark in points.

     

    Right Wing: Joel Ward

    Should Joel Ward be on a line higher than the fourth? Probably not, but unfortunately for the Capitals, GM George McPhee foolishly signed the former Nashville Predator playoff overachiever a rich contract, and as a result, the Capitals are stuck with him for the next three years, barring a trade.

    Ward is a player who excels at board play and little else. Setting career lows in full-time NHL duty, the Capitals' depth at RW shows up even greater on the third line. 

4th Line

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    Left Wing: Matt Hendricks

    Hendricks has quickly earned himself a reputation for being a fan favorite since his arrival in Washington. While the career fourth-liner doesn't score much, he's never afraid to stick up for his teammates and get rough when need be. 

     

    Center: Mattias Sjogren

    Sjogren was signed in last year's offseason as a depth player with a lot of upside. Unfortunately, after the Swede tried making the jump to the NHL, Capitals management told the 6'2", 214-pound center that his services were not needed at the NHL level.

    Sjogren felt spurned, and rightly so, after turning down multiple offers from other NHL clubs to play with the Capitals. 

    There are two reasons Sjogren will start on the Caps' roster next season.

    1. New blood is needed for a new season, and Sjogren will be the only player on this list (sorry, no spoiler alert) who did not play last year.
    2. If Mattias is denied a chance to play with the big club for a second year in a row, it will send a negative message to any European skaters that might decide to leave their leagues and come over to North America for a shot at the NHL. George McPhee stands to lose a ton of credibility in Europe if Sjogren doesn't play next season

     

    Right Wing: Jay Beagle

    Like Hendricks, nobody expects Beagle to put up decent numbers, but his ability to kill penalties and play good defense is going to be crucial for the Capitals in the long run. The fourth line is really the only place Beagle is going to be able to play, as much of his time will be allocated to the penalty-killing unit and keeping the lead late in games.

    It's important Beagle gets a lot of rest so he can play hard when the Caps need him the most.

    Beagle could become one of the most respected Capitals by the end of the year due to his willingness to get dirty and unselfishly give up his body for the team. 

Healthy Scratches and Depth Forwards

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    Wojtek Wolski

    Wolski is a player that has really fallen off the map since his time with the Colorado Avalanche.

    Never surpassing his rookie points total of 50, Wolski has continually regressed over the years and has been accused by Rangers and Panthers fans alike of being a lazy player. 

    On a one-year deal worth $600,000, Wolski was a no-risk move for the Caps. 

    If a player on the top three lines is failing to make any offensive impact, look for Wolski to find his way out of the press box and down to the ice. 

     

    Joey Crabb

    Crabb is a fringe NHLer who had a pretty decent season with the Toronto Maple Leafs last season, notching 26 points in 67 games as a bottom-six forward.

    Crabb provides more physicality than Wolski and will likely be given a chance before him as well. 

1st Defensive Pairing

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    Karl Alzner and John Carlson

    Alzner and Carlson have been the Capitals' best defensive pairing for a long time, and as a result, they will be asked to play more than any other defensemen the Capitals have.

    The two youngsters have basically grown up together since being drafted by the Capitals. Both have won Calder Cup championships with the Hershey Bears and have learned to perfectly with each other.

    When the Capitals break up the pairing, it's usually because of an overreaction to bad defense from other players, and it's incredibly apparent when watching them play on separate pairings that they aren't nearly as good with other defensemen as they are with each other.

    Karl Alzner is a prototypical stay-at-home defenseman who possesses good offensive skills but rarely uses them.

    John Carlson is a clutch offensive defenseman who is capable of scoring timely goals and logging serious minutes on the power play. Sound defensively in his own zone, Carlson is becoming one of the best two-way defenseman in the league. 

2nd Defensive Pairing

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    Mike Green and Roman Hamrlik

    Like it or not, Mike Green is here to stay, and he will most likely be paired with his most recent partner, former first overall draft pick Roman Hamrlik.

    While Green was hurt for most of the season last year, Hamrlik was rather abysmal in his first season with the Capitals.

    It wasn't until Green's return and the playoffs that Hamrlik finally picked up his game and played like the Capitals had envisioned.

    Expect both to get a bunch of time on the rearguard of the power play. A healthy Mike Green is an excellent power-play quarterback, and it's also when he's at his best. 

3rd Defensive Pairing

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    Dmitri Orlov and Jeff Schultz

    While he didn't get any playoff experience under his belt last season, expect Russian standout Dmitri Orlov to get a lot more attention at camp and an all but guaranteed roster spot. 

    Orlov is a very good talent who's projected to only get better, and the Capitals hope that his development will speed along quicker than that of your average defenseman.

    Taking the sixth spot is Jeff Schultz.

    A very large defenseman who doesn't use any of his physical attributes to his advantage, it seems the Capitals are stuck with Schultz, who has little if no trade value.

    If Schultz continues to stink it up in the majors, he could soon find himself being replaced by a defenseman who's willing to give up more for the team. 

Healthy Scratches, Depth Defensemen and Tom Poti

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    John Erskine

    A tough defender who is always willing to fight, Erskine will be welcomed with open arms at the first sight of Jeff Schultz or Dmitri Orlov struggling.

    A guy you really want on your roster when you're playing the Rangers, Flyers or Penguins, Erskine is sure to see quite a few games next season even though he doesn't possess a whole lot of skill.

     

    Jack Hillen

    A player who is offensively capable if given the opportunity, Hillen was used as a stay-at-home defender by the Nashville Predators last season, appearing in 55 games.

    Hillen is only 26 years old and could still have some untapped potential the New York Islanders and Nashville Predators were unable to capture.

    At this point, Hillen is a great depth defenseman for the Capitals and will get a serious look at filling in for the majority of games in case of an injury on the blue line. 

     

    Tom Poti

    Poti hasn't played since the 2010-11 season, but with only one year left on his contract and plenty of cap space, there's no risk of giving the veteran one last shot at continuing his NHL career.

    Poti getting any playing time is a long shot, but should he feel ready to go sometime next season, there's no harm in warming him up in the AHL, and if he performs up to par, bringing him up for a few games. 

    If the Capitals decide to send Poti to the minors and he is claimed on waivers, it's no big deal. If he's lost to injury, same situation—nothing of value will be lost. 

Goaltenders

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    Starting Goaltender: Braden Holtby

    The Capitals haven't had a legit No. 1 goalie since Olaf Kolzig, preferring to go by a goalie-by-committee system since his departure.

    After a surprising playoff run where Holtby was hands down the best player, he has earned the right to become the Caps' starting netminder at the beginning of next season.

    While it is unknown if the youngster will be able to handle a full NHL season, there's only one way to find out.

    The days of messing around with older veteran goalies like Cristobal Huet and Tomas Vokoun are over, and the Capitals need to stick with someone, and Holtby has a ton of promise.

     

    Backup Goaltender: MIchal Neuvirth 

    Although he didn't perform as admirably as he had the previous two seasons before 2011-12, Neuvirth is still a very talented goalie with a good future ahead of him.

    Michal is only 24 years old and has his whole NHL career ahead of him, and a good bounce-back season as Holtby's backup could earn him an extension with the Capitals if he's content with being a backup. 

    If that isn't the case, as long as he still performs, Neuvirth's trade value would increase tremendously, in which case the Caps might be willing to deal him to a team that would like him as the starter. 

Future Call-Ups

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    Tomas Kundratek

    We got to see a little bit of Kundratek last season and while he wasn't anything to write home about, he wasn't horrible, either.

    The young Czech was paired with Roman Hamrlik to ease the transition into the NHL. The two fellow countrymen played well enough together, although Kundratek showed absolutely no offensive instinct.

    At only 22 years old, there's plenty of time to let the young blueliner develop with the Hershey Bears, where he should get a heavy workload.

    There is about a 100 percent probability of seeing him play a game or two next year in the NHL 

     

    Zach Hamill

    One of the more useless trades the NHL saw this summer was when Chris Bourque was sent to Boston in exchange for Zach Hamill. 

    The Bruins most likely made the trade as a favor to Chris' father, Ray, who is one of the greatest Bruins to ever play. The Capitals did it because they had seen enough of Bourque.

    Teams tend to give second, third and fourth chances to players who really don't have the ability to play in the NHL if their draft position is high enough, and Zach Hamill fits that bill as a former eighth overall draft selection by the Bruins in the 2007 draft.

    There's a good chance Hamill will at least be called up to the majors if not just to sit in the press box. At this point in his career, it's safe to call Hamill a bust, but Washington will see if they can get a flash in the pan out of him.

     

    Stanislav Galiev 

    As seen in previous slides, there isn't a whole bunch of depth at the wing, and even less scoring talent at any position. 

    Galiev could either play next season in juniors or be sent to the AHL. If Galiev does indeed get sent to the minor league affiliate, I suspect he'll get a call-up only if the Capitals are having serious scoring issues, as neither Joey Crabb nor Wojtek Wolski really qualify as fresh blood.

     

    Ryan Stoa

    Stoa, like Hamill, might get another crack at the NHL due to his former draft position. Chosen 34th overall by the Colorado Avalanche in the 2005 draft, time is not on Stoa's side. 

    Stoa elected to play four full seasons at the University of Minnesota and as such, he didn't make the jump to professional hockey till after college. 

    At 25 years old and not showing too much promise at the professional level, Stoa might get another shot with the Capitals, but it's highly doubtful we'll see him next year.