Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Matt Hendricks was a valued member of the Washington Capitals, to say the least.
Chuck Gormley of CSNWashington.com spoke with Jay Beagle about the importance of Hendricks on May 17, immediately after the playoffs and before Hendricks had left the team:
He’s probably one of the best guys I’ve ever played with. You can talk to him about anything. He brings a certain work ethic every time you’re on the ice. He fights, he hits, he’s a good leader in the dressing room, he scores big goals, he has that shootout move not many guys can do. I tried it; I can’t do it. He’s a total package player, really. You need those guys on your team. He’ll go down and take a puck off his face. He’s a good role player and those guys are hard to come by.
Jason Chimera was more succinct when talking to Gormley about Hendricks:
There’s always changeover from year to year, but he’s one of those guys you’re not going to replace. It’s not an easy job to go out there and fight guys twice his size. He sticks up for guys on the team and brings energy when no one else has it.
Yet, general manager George McPhee has pegged Aaron Volpatti as the man to replace Hendricks.
The 28-year-old Volpatti has played only 71 games in his three-year NHL career. He has three goals and two assists, with a minus-five rating and 88 penalty minutes.
But it is Volpatti's physical presence that makes him an able replacement for Hendricks.
In his time in Washington during the 2012-13 season, Volpatti totaled 38 hits, seventh among Capitals forwards. On average, Volpatti had 2.24 hits per game, a number bested among Capitals forwards only by Alex Ovechkin (2.50 hits per game) and Troy Brouwer (2.30 hits per game). Hendricks averaged 1.94 hits per game. What's even more impressive is that Volpatti did this despite playing in only 17 games and averaging a team-worst time on ice per game of 9:18.
Plus, Volpatti likes to fight. The British Columbia native fought five times last season, according to hockeyfights.com. If he had played the entire season in Washington, he would have ranked second on the team in fights according to hockeyfights.com, behind only—you guessed it—Matt Hendricks.
Capitals fans may be pleasantly surprised at Volpatti's ability to fill Matt Hendricks' sizable skates.