The Washington Capitals took the snow bright and early for the second day of training camp on Friday. The first group to skate was made up almost entirely of players who were expected to hit the ice for the first game of the regular season.
head coach peter laviolet gave us a first glimpse of what his opening lines might look like inside that group. The main points of interest come where the two Conners are lined up on the roster.
first rows/pairs/tandem of bullets #caps training camp:
strom-mcmichael-mantha (secretly) johansson-aller-oshi
— Tariq al-Bashir (@tariq_el-bashir) 23 September 2022
As we reported on Thursday, Conor Brown is getting the opportunity to close a spot in the top line with Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov, while Tom Wilson is recovering from off-season knee surgery. Brown is not new to top six assignments and has said in the past that he would be very comfortable with this exact scenario.
“I Think It Will Be Easy,” Brown Said about playing with Ovi and Kuzi in July, “The league has had two of the biggest talents for a long time. I’ve been on the other side of it. Obviously, it would be wonderful to play with those two guys. This team has a lot of good players up and down the lineup, so I don’t think That’s a bad spot you can fall into. I think I’ll have some time there and the whole lineup. When it comes to playing with those guys, they’re world class players, fun to watch And it’s a lot of fun playing with them.”
In addition to Brown for that role, other natural options on the roster include TJ Oishi, Anthony Mantha and Marcus Johansson. LaViolet said on Thursday that with the injury conditions of Wilson and Niklas Backstrom, she needed to be fully shaken up in preseason to be set with her top six.
“Because of the work we’re doing with Tom and Nick, I’m not sure where it’s going to fit in,” LaViolet Told, “So, we’re going to try things out in practice, we’re going to try some things out at exhibition games and see where it goes and what goes well with Kuzi and Ovi. If we get the right mix there then It could be that. We’ll see that and we’ll see.”
But the most notable inclusion from Friday morning was Conor McMichael taking the reins of the center of the second row, with Dylan Strom slamming him to the left. Versatility is a big deal that Laviolette preaches and he likes to have multiple players in his lineup who can play both center and wing.
“You’ll see him (McMichael) both at training camp,” LaViolet said on Thursday. “There are other players who are in the same position where they can play wing or centre. We’re going to get the players involved in the games and we’re going to evaluate from there.”
Asked if Dylan Strom is also in the same position, the veteran bench boss immediately replied in the affirmative.
“He’s a guy to me who can play in both positions,” Laviolette said. “I really like that with Nick for now it can have five centermen in our lineup and I always love it because when a centerman goes down you have someone who can turn around naturally. Changing the wing is a little easier.”
Note that it also appears at the start of the camp that Gabriel Carlsen and Matt Irwin could have placed the starting stage for a spot on Lukas Johansson as an additional defender. If the Capitals only have seven defensemen to start the year, the final roster spot could come down to a contest between those two rearguards.
Another competition to keep an eye on will be the bottom-six left wings. Marcus Johansson, Conor Sheery, and Axel Jonsson-Fajalby are all vying for one of the two spots there.
Headline Photo: Elizabeth Kong/RMNB