Tuesday, August 12, 2014

5 Players To Watch At Camp

It will be anticipated, but when the Capitals start their season camp in the next couple of weeks it will remain to be seen if the new brass got it right this off season. With the additions of Brooks Orpik, Matt Niskanen on the back end and smaller signings here and there, the Caps hope to become a bigger, stronger more physical team in the upcoming campaign. In the Metropolitan Division the Caps will still need to count on their offensive prowess.

This summer's camp will be important for both veterans and rookies alike as the Caps look to win now.  It will be important for these 5 Capitals to make an impression off the bat in this off-season's camp.

Alex Ovechkin - He is the singularly most important Capital that will (and has) define this organization. If this team has any hope to advancing farther than it has will lay on the captain's shoulders. His off-ice personal life saw him end his engagement to Maria Kirilenko it will remain to be seen if that has any effect on the high scoring forward this season. At camp this year, he will have to buy into Barry Trotz's new system and convert his game into a 200 foot game.

"He's a lot more dangerous when he's skating, when he's moving, when he's got a little bit of room to operate," Trotz said to NHL.com's Dan Rosen. "I have found him standing still a lot on the film that I'm watching, very easy to cover, and he still got 51 goals."

Ovechkin's leadership will be also paramount. He will have to alter his game and will still have to contribute to scoring on the offensive end.

Braden Holtby - If you ever heard the phrase "You are only as good as your goaltender." before, then you should apply it to Braden Holtby and the Washington Capitals. Holtby crashed onto the Caps' scene two years ago with 2.58 GAA and .920 save percentage. Those numbers dropped a bit last season after the coaching staff appeared to alter his playing style.

Known as an aggressive goaltender, Adam Oates and Olaf Kolzig tried to mold Holtby into a more stable goaltender and kept him in check. As a result, Holtby struggled at times through the season just stopping shots from the half boards. He just wasn't playing the style of game that got him the number one job in the first place.

Unsure about his future once regime change happened, Trotz and Brian MacLellen restored their faith upon the goaltender by signing a solid back up in Justin Peters and bringing in goaltending coach Mitch Korn (former coach of the Nashville Predators and players like Tomas Vokoun and Pekka Rinne). Holtby will have to return to form to back up the Capitals to a winning season. It will be interesting to see how Korn and Trotz coach the young goaltender and what adjustments they make to his overall game.

Andre Burakovsky - The rookie is already being put in some big shoes. The Capitals are addressing their lack of depth up the middle by inserting a couple of draft picks. Burakovsky will be battling for the second and third line center positions along with Evgeny Kuznetsov and Marcus Jonansson.

Whether Burakovsky can earn a top spot will depend mostly on his efforts at this August's camp. He has an impressive resume to help him thus far, he has amassed 87 points (41 goals, 46 assists) last season in the OHL as well has a strong outing in the 2014 World Junior Championship scoring seven points in seven games.

How will he do with the big boys? Keep your eyes on this kid once camp starts.

Joel Ward - Probably the biggest reason Ward has the contract he has with the Washington Capitals was his performance with the Nashville Predators under then coach Barry Trotz. Now that Trotz is back Ward should become a bigger voice in the locker room for his former coach. At least reason would dictate that.

It seems the line pairing of Ward and Jason Chimera who saw so much success last season isn't going to be broken up anytime soon. It will be interesting to see the progress of Ward under this new coaching regime.

Matt Niskanen - An off-season signing along with Brooks Orpik, Niskanen has to prove his last season's career numbers weren't just a fluke. He, along with John Carlson and Mike Green, will be called upon in this new system to add some offensive punch according to Trotz.

"With the forwards I have in Washington," Trotz was quoted in a NHL.com article. "I hope to keep their offensive production very high and add some more offense from the back end."

The defensemen will be given greater freedom in bring the puck up, join the rush and be apart of the 200 foot game the NHL is quickly becoming. Niskanen had a great year with the Pittsburgh Penguins. His 46 points were impressive for any defensemen and his 36 assists proves the defensemen can make the plays on the back end. His nine points in 13 playoff games is not shabby either.

Sure there will be some other story lines that come out of camp, but this is a good start. One thing is clear, the Caps' new brass is not interested in just surviving a 82 game season and make it to the playoffs to get through a round or two. Their aspirations are to win and bring to Washington a Stanley Cup championship. These five players will have an effect on that outcome and it all starts here.

No comments: