We talked pleasant surprises and disappointments along with potential trade deadline needs in Part 1; now let’s turn our attention to some of those new faces on the roster and what the future might hold for the 2018-19 Capitals...
Q3. While the majority of last year’s team is back, there are some new faces in the room between offseason acquisitions and promotions from Hershey. Who among the newbies has stood out to you?
J.P.: I’ve really been impressed by Jonas Siegenthaler. Moreso than I’d expected to be. For my money, he’s passed Madison Bowey on the depth chart (which also owes to Bowey’s play, somewhat, but let’s couch it as a positive anyway, because it is).
Peerless: I’m with Jonas Siegenthaler, too. He has impressed me as a player who has been good at doing two things. First, addressing things he needs to have at this level. I seem to remember that there were issues about his mobility when in early development, and he seems to have improved in that area. Second, he doesn’t try to be what he is not. He is not going to be a big offensive contributor, but in a way he reminds me a bit of Karl Alzner. Not as accomplished in this regard at a similar point in their development, but he seems to use what talent he has to play angles and position to be effective. I don’t know what his ceiling is, but I like his development so far.
Jason: So, I am the world’s biggest Madison Bowey apologist. I openly really like the kid; he’s got one of the best attitudes on the team. And frankly, I think he’s established himself as a perfectly serviceable third-pair NHL defenseman. He and Siegenthaler together have been a welcome surprise.
Greg: Siegenthaler & Bowey are the obvious candidates here, but in an obvious bit of self-promotion, I’m going to highlight Dmitrij Jaskin. Since I wrote about him a couple of months ago, he’s fallen a bit out of favor, and hasn’t played much in the last month. Although I’m a believer in Reirden, Jaskin really should be playing regularly, and he’s impressed every time he’s been in the lineup.
Alex: I could also jump on the Siegenthaler train here because I’ve absolutely been impressed, but I’m going to take a page out of Greg’s book and continue to talk about a guy I wrote about earlier in the season. I really like Nic Dowd. I’ve liked him since October, I’ve liked him more and more as the season has gone on, and I think he fits into the Caps’ system well. His playing style reminds me of Jay Beagle, but I think Dowd has more offensive upside. He doesn’t spend too much time in the box, he makes plays, and he’s good on the PK. I’m never worried when he’s on the ice, and I think the more time he spends in the lineup the better.
Bryan: I think I’ve been really pleased with the deployment and production of the bottom-six forwards night in and night out. There are legitimately eight or nine guys who have played above their punching weight on the third and fourth lines where god forbid someone goes down with an injury, I don’t think the team will take a huge hit. In particular I’ve been really pleased with Nic Dowd, Travis Boyd, and Dmitrij Jaskin. While they’re not lighting up the scoreboard every night, they’ve shown the ability to stay calm and collected even when they’re called upon to square off against the opposing team’s top unit. While they may have lost a beloved Capital For Life in Jay Beagle this offseason, I think the players they’ve found to fill in on his role in aggregate have shown themselves to be more than worthy of picking up where they left off last year.
Sam: Obviously I’m on the Siegenthaler and Bowey train, but I must say: Travis Boyd. The 25-year-old has been gunning for a full-time NHL gig since last season, and has proven himself to be a clutch player and utility forward night in and night out. There was concern with losing ability in the face-off circle and on the PK when Jay Beagle left for Vancouver, but Boyd’s been able to kill penalties and is improving as a center while also showing skill and versatility as a winger. He has 11 points in his last 22 games and is a plus-8, and he’s only a rookie. There’s still a lot left that he can show us.
Q4. Bold prediction for the second half?
J.P.: Tom Wilson ends the season with more shots on goal than penalty minutes for the first time in his career.
Peerless: Individually, Andre Burakovsky will not be a Capital going into the postseason. He played in only 10 of 14 games in December and had one point. I think his head is just in a bad place these days and might need a change in scenery. As a team, the Caps will go through the same three teams they went through, in the same order, to reach the Stanley Cup final, where they will meet the San Jose Sharks.
Jason: Capitals win back-to-back Stanley Cups. Don’t waste my time.
Greg: Going to be tough to top Jason’s prediction! I’ll go a bit in the opposite direction, and say that for the first time since 2015, the Capitals do not win the Metro division. We’ll get our yearly dose of Caps/Pens... except that it’ll be in the first round, as the Columbus Blue Jackets win a division race for the first time in franchise history.
Bryan: Ovechkin scores 60 goals, John Carlson is a Norris finalist, Capitals beat the Penguins in the playoffs again.
Alex: Alex Ovechkin will win the Hart Trophy for the fourth time in his career.
Sam: Siegenthaler earns a full-time gig in the lineup for the rest of the season. He’s done a lot to improve his skating, speed and size, and has been able to take the opportunity as the first-call up and run with it. Bold, I know. But hey, it could happen.