Over the past 10 years, Caps fans have been somewhat spoiled by the high level of talent that has made its way to DC. From Russian snipers to potent blueliners, these players have helped author the most successful decade in franchise history - and helped bring about the team’s first Stanley Cup.
As the decade comes to a close, we count down the top-10 players of that era, based on stats and also their overall impact on the team over the years.
And of course, because this is completely subjective, we invite everyone to offer their own take in the comments below!
Note: Any stats listed below are those accumulated as a Capital from January 1, 2010 through December 28, 2019.
10. Marcus Johansson
Games Played: 501
Stat Line: 102 G, 188 A, 290 Pts
Johansson was drafted by the Caps in the first round of the 2009 draft, 24th overall, and made his NHL debut a year later when he cracked the opening-night roster to kick off the 2010-11 season. He would go on to play seven seasons for the Caps, topping 40 points five times over that span and 20 goals twice. Unfortunately Johansson ended up being a casualty of the ever-tightening salary cap situation, sent to New Jersey at the draft the summer before the Caps’ Stanley Cup run.
9. Tom Wilson
Games Played: 493
Stat Line: 69 G, 101 A, 170 Pts
The Caps’ 16th-overall pick in the 2012 draft, Wilson holds the rare distinction of having made his NHL debut during the playoffs - his first action with the Caps came in Game 5 of their 2013 series against the Rangers. After making the opening night roster the following season, Wilson quickly established himself as a physical presence and racked up the fights (and penalty minutes) early on. But it’s in the last few seasons where Wilson has become the player the organization hoped he’d be when they took him in the first round. Not only has he begun showcasing his skills next to two of the franchise’s all-time greats, but he’s also changed the way other teams approach the Caps - and has become the poster boy for the “heavy hockey” style that led the team to their first Stanley Cup.
8. Alexander Semin
Games Played: 184
Stat Line: 75 G, 85 A, 160 Pts
There may not be a more divisive person (or a more difficult one to understand) for Caps fans over the last decade than Alex Semin. An immensely talented player, there were times it seemed as though he simply wasn’t trying - whether truth or just perception, a byproduct of someone who made the game look so easy. By the early part of the decade, his time with the Caps was drawing to a close; he put up career-high numbers in the high-flying 2009-10 season before seeing them drop off each of the next two years, and eventually injuries and that old friend the salary cap made Semin expendable. Still, he managed close to a point per game in those final three seasons, and remains one of the best goal-scorers in franchise history.
7. Mike Green
Games Played: 294
Stat Line: 52 G, 126 A, 178 Pts
Green is a fascinating example of a player who was both ahead of his time and yet also represented the end of an era in Caps hockey. At his peak, he was the type of offensive defenseman who today wins Norris Trophies — and yet at the time was maligned for arguably focusing more on scoring than on defense, and never really respected for just how good he was. He had his best season in 2009-10, with 76 points (a year after becoming just the second Caps’ defenseman in franchise history to hit 30 goals), and while injuries and changes in the team’s style led to his eventual departure, he had a huge impact on what this team was at its peak - and what it became.
6. T.J. Oshie
Games Played: 331
Stat Line: 117 G, 118 A, 235 Pts
Arguably one of the best trade acquisitions of the decade, Oshie is the only player on this list who was not drafted by the Capitals - and yet has become as much a Capital as any of the homegrown talent. He arrived in DC via a post-draft trade with St. Louis back in 2015, and almost immediately made his presence felt, finishing that first season with a career-high 26 goals and another 10 points in the playoffs (also a career-best). Since then, he’s averaged over 20 goals a season and has proven himself to be not only a Penguin-killer - with 11 goals and 22 points in 17 regular-season games, plus another 8-7-15 in 19 playoff games - but also a clutch playoff performer, which includes 21 points in the Caps’ run to the Cup.
5. Evgeny Kuznetsov
Games Played: 453
Stat Line: 114 G, 258 A, 372 Pts
We may have had to wait a bit for him to arrive in DC, but Kuznetsov was definitely worth the wait, establishing himself as the 1A center behind Nicklas Backstrom that the Caps have needed for so long. After taking the first year or so to get comfortable with the North American game, he began to excel, averaging at least 20 goals in each of his last four seasons and on pace to hit that mark again this year. It was his 2017-18 season, however, that cemented him as one of the decade’s greats, as he took a breakout regular season and carried it over into a postseason performance for the ages — one that, had Ovechkin not scored all of the goals, might have earned him a Conn Smythe Trophy.
4. John Carlson
Games Played: 725
Stat Line: 103 G, 350 A, 453 Pts
The 2010s have basically been the decade of John Carlson, one that he opened with a gold medal-winning overtime goal for Team USA at the 2010 WJC and that he’s closing out with an offensive show for the history books. In between, he’s somewhat quietly put up impressive point totals while growing into a reliable defensive presence and one of the team’s leaders. Only Alex Ovechkin has played in more games for the Caps over the last ten years than Carlson; only Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom have more points than Carlson over that span. Each year it seems he raises the bar a bit higher for what he’s capable of doing.
3. Braden Holtby
Games Played: 448
Stat Line: 274-114-44, .917 sv%, 2.50 GAA, 35 shutouts
The Caps have established themselves as excellent drafters of goaltending talent, and Braden Holtby was the latest of a long line of great picks when the Caps selected him in the 4th round of the 2008 draft. Although he made his NHL debut in 2010 (against the Bruins, fittingly enough) it was his performance in the 2012 playoffs that cemented him as the goalie of the future. He made the permanent move to the NHL the following season and took over as the full-fledged started two years later - and from his Vezina-winning season to The Save and beyond, he’s been there ever since. His future with the franchise is somewhat in question, as he’ll become a UFA this summer... but there’s no question that he’s been the goalie of the decade for the Caps.
2. Nicklas Backstrom
Games Played: 723
Stat Line: 188 G, 511 A, 699 Pts
Often overshadowed but frequently brilliant in his own quiet way, Backstrom has been the perfect foil for his gregarious Russian linemate. No one in the NHL has more assists over the last decade than the Caps’ top pivot, and while he - like many of his teammates at the time - had a career-best year to kick off the decade, he’s maintained a consistent and impressive scoring pace year after year. He’s one of four players with seven 70+ point seasons under his belt this decade, joining Ovechkin and a couple of Penguins atop the pack, and leads the League in 50+ assist seasons - also with seven. As much as Alex Ovechkin has been the face and the driver of the team over the last ten years, Backstrom has been the engine that makes it all go.
1. Alex Ovechkin
Games Played: 768
Stat Line: 437 G, 342 A, 779 Pts
More goals than anyone else over the last decade (and beyond). A top-five finish in goals in each of his 12+ seasons, with eight Richard trophies. A Calder, an Art Ross, three Hart trophies, a Conn Smythe... and a Stanley Cup.
It simply couldn’t be anyone else.