Opening Night of the 2013-14 NHL season is less than a month away.
Who will be donning a white sweater for the Capitals on Opening Night?
Here is a prediction of the Washington Capitals roster for the start of the 2013-14 season. This list covers the four forward lines, three defensive pairings and two goalies, with a brief analysis of each player.
Note: All statistics courtesy of NHL.com unless noted otherwise.
The Washington Capitals 2013-14 roster is deep enough in terms of forwards that head coach Adam Oates can overload his first line with his three best offensive players.
This results in the potent Vodka Line: one part Russian, two parts Swede.
- Right Wing: Alex Ovechkin. Reigning Hart Trophy winner will look to reach 50-goal, 100-point plateaus in first full season under Oates.
- Center: Nicklas Backstrom. The engine of the Capitals offense seems to be firing on all cylinders once again. Can also reach 100-point plateau.
- Left Wing: Marcus Johansson. Deserves spot on first line after strong finish in 2012-13 while skating with same line mates. Primed for a breakout season.
This is the most unsettled of the Capitals lines, as it boasts one relatively new player and one brand new player.
Even so, it looks strong on paper and has the potential to give the Capitals offense a solid one-two punch.
- Right Wing: Troy Brouwer. All eyes will be on the rugged power forward to carry this line as he looks to repeat his career year.
- Center: Mikhail Grabovski. A late addition to the Capitals during this offseason. Grabovski is a natural second-line center who should flourish in this role, after a forgettable finish to 2012-13 campaign.
- Left Wing: Martin Erat. Under more pressure than any single Capitals player. That status may never change as long as he wears the red, white and blue.
With the addition of Grabovski, the Capitals third line now becomes perhaps their most dangerous group of forwards.
This trio employs the prefect combination of hard work, grit and skill to give other teams nightmares.
- Right Wing: Joel Ward. Had a rebound season in 2012-13. One of the most valuable players on the team.
- Center: Mathieu Perreault. Finally coming into his own. This diminutive pivot can stick handle in a phone booth.
- Left Wing: Brooks Laich. The team's heart and soul is back. Laich is a better fit at left wing, despite GM George McPhee's proclamation that Laich would play second-line center, according to The Washington Post.
Yes, Matt Hendricks will be sorely missed.
But the Capitals fourth line represents another versatile group of forwards that Adam Oates can use to his advantage.
- Right Wing: Eric Fehr. Defensively responsible forward with unrealized offensive potential. A perfect fit for the fourth line.
- Center: Jay Beagle. A no-brainer. Oates can write Beagle's name on the fourth line using a pen, not a pencil.
- Left Wing: Jason Chimera. Like Fehr, the speedy Chimera gives this group more offensive punch than is typical for a fourth line.
This pairing includes the two best players on the Capitals blue line, although it is definitely not the strongest defensive option.
Even so, it is a potent pairing that should continue to work well together.
Another strong combination of offensive skill and defensive grit.
This pair established good chemistry with each other last season, helping to quell uncertainty surrounding the Capitals defensive corps.
- Right Defenseman: John Carlson. Quietly becoming one of the best defenders in the Eastern Conference, if not the entire NHL. Will see time on first defensive pairing, as well.
- Left Defenseman: John Erskine. Finally grew into the role of crease-clearing brute the Caps had been clamoring for. The team's only heavyweight should see more fights this season with Hendricks gone.
A pleasant surprise of the second half of last season. One player missed 20 games before being called up from the minors, and the other player missed 25 games due to injury.
A full season from both of these defenders will significantly strengthen the Capitals defense.
The drama never ends for the Capitals goaltenders.
A town long enamored with quarterback controversies on their football team seems to love goalie controversies on their hockey team just as much.
- Starter: Braden Holtby. Most likely gets the nod on Oct. 1 in Chicago, despite subpar performance in playoffs. Will be on a short leash all season long.
- Backup: Michal Neuvirth. Good enough to start on most NHL teams, including this one. Will have to wait for Holtby to struggle before he gets another shot at the starting gig.