Positionally, forwards are not an area in which the Capitals are lacking. There are 33 forwards still on the roster at the Washington Capitals training camp held at Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Arlington, VA, which began on September 12 and will run through September 30. The roster will be pared down to 23 total players by that date, and it doesn’t appear there are any front runners to unseat any current roster players, aside from right winger Tom Wilson, who impressed coaches enough to allow him a chance to play in the Capitals last two playoff games in their series against the New York Rangers earlier this year, and has continued to earn accolades from the coaching staff in development camp, held in mid-July; rookie camp, held the week before this year’s formal training camp started; and training camp.
Coach Adam Oates told reporters he’d like to see the young forward play left wing alongside Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin, rather than center, based on their success together last season. Oates added that because of his speed, he’d rather see Johansson utilize it as a winger, rather than center, where speed isn’t necessarily as crucial.
Johansson struggled early in the 2013 season before he was diagnosed with concussion symptoms He returned in March, around the time Ovechkin settled in to his switch to right wing, and finished the season with 22 points (6g, 16a). Expect Johansson to spend most of his time on the top line, but that could always change. Martin Erat could just as well see some time with Backstrom and Ovechkin.
Erat played in only nine games as a Capital after he was traded from the Nashville Predators with Michael Latta for top Capitals prospect Filip Forsberg at the trade deadline in April. A solid top-6 player for Nashville, the most likely scenario for Erat may be playing alongside newly signed center Mikhail Grabovski and right wing Troy Brouwer. He is listed on the Capitals roster as a right wing, but shoots left-handed. Oates has a preference for pairing left and right handed shooters on the same line, much the way he is fond of left–right defensive pairings. Erat playing at left wing is also a departure from his role in Nashville, where he played right wing.
Once upon a time, post-Mike Ribiero, Brooks Laich was the Capitals’ second-line center. Then Mikhail Grabovski happened. Now, it looks like he’ll be relegated to the left wing, though he is listed as a center on the Capitals roster. Who he’ll be playing with or even if he’ll be playing early in the season remains to be seen. He’s been promised top-six minutes in the past, but Laich is a utility player, adaptable and willing to face any task set before him.
Laich is a leader in the locker room, too, as Ovechkin stated earlier this week. Adam Oates said he felt the Capitals were at their best last season when Laich was in the lineup, but injury once again makes things look murky for him, with straining his left hip flexor (unrelated to his groin issues last season) on the first day of training camp. He is currently day-to-day. There are still a few weeks until the regular season starts, so that may be sufficient time for him to heal and find his way back to the ice.
After scoring a career-high 20 goals in 2011-12, Chimera had a tough year in 2013, finishing with only three goals and fourteen points. He may have lost his scoring touch, but he can still torch an opponent in a puck race. He’ll likely continue to see time on the third and fourth lines, where he’s paired well with players like Joel Ward, Jay Beagle, and Mathieu Perreault.
Once ranked second in fighting majors on the Vancouver Canucks, Volpatti is a known pugilist, but since being claimed off waivers from the Canucks in February, he only tallied 7 PIMs in 17 games after joining the Capitals. Oates seems to like players like Volpatti – tough guys he can turn into gritty, pesky players who don’t have to drop the gloves to get their job done.
He signed a two-year contract extension with the Capitals in April, but was a healthy scratch during the 2013 playoffs. Most of his minutes were spent on the fourth line with Jay Beagle and now former teammate Matt Hendricks, aside from a weird turn of events that led to him playing on the first line for a game in March, while the Capitals were struggling to figure things out.