Before last season, position switch was merely a suggestion among many offered for Alex Ovechkin’s declining numbers, but became reality with Adam Oates behind the bench. It looks like the same crew will be playing for Oates again this year, with the possible addition of Tom Wilson, who could end up being the agitating, pesky, physical player the Capitals need. And he’s skilled, too- two goals so far in the preseason. However, Oates said any decision regarding Wilson making the roster will be decided after training camp.
After spending a season playing for the newly relocated Winnipeg Jets (neè Atlanta Thrashers) in his hometown, and struggling with shoulder problems that kept him out most of the season, Fehr returned to the Capitals organization in 2013, this time, healthy after two shoulder surgeries.
One of George McPhee’s prized first-round draft picks, Fehr never quite lived up to the production expected of him, but has proved himself to be a solid third-line player and last season added the penalty kill to his repertoire. Now, Adam Oates is experimenting with Fehr at center during preseason, but won’t call it anything more than that.
While it may be difficult to duplicate the success he enjoyed during the second half of the truncated 2013 season (and post right wing transition), a full season of Ovechkin at right wing will no doubt see its share of success, especially under the tutelage of Coach Oates.
The Southeast Division Ovechkin victimized so frequently is a part of hockey history, and the Metropolitan Division is now in its place, rife with familiar foes. Familiar though they may be, the addition of former Western Conference opponents, like the Detroit Red Wings, makes things a pinch more competitive in the Metro Division. But when has the “Great 8” ever shied away from a challenge?
Brouwer scored a career-high 19 goals last season, centered by Mike Ribiero for many of them. This season, he’ll be playing with Mikhail Grabovski and either Brooks Laich or Martin Erat, though it’s likely they’ll split time on the second and third line.
A big, tough forward who is oft a screen for a potential goal-scorer, Brouwer’s role won’t stray far from what was expected of him last season. In fact, Oates uses Brouwer as a comparison for how he wants Tom Wilson to model his game after.
Acquired from Nashville in 2011, Ward is a solid contributor on the Capitals’ third and fourth lines. During preseason, Ward’s pairing with Eric Fehr and Jason Chimera has seen a fair amount of success, and appears to have some chemistry. If the Eric Fehr Center Experiment pans out, those three would be quite the energy line during the regular season.
Wilson isn’t a lock to crack the Caps roster this season, but it’s no secret that Oates would like him to stay. Though he hadn’t played an NHL game before May 2013, when he was called up from Hershey to pinch hit in the last two games of the Rangers series (after Martin Erat was sidelined with injury), Wilson has been a standout in every Capitals-held camp this year.
If Wilson doesn’t make the roster, he’ll have to go back to the Plymouth Whalers of the OHL instead of Hershey. Wilson can play in up to 10 NHL games before the first year of his entry-level contract begins, but can’t play in Hershey because of something called the CHL-AHL agreement. In a nutshell, if a player played in juniors before being drafted by the NHL, they must be 20 years old by Dec. 31 of that year or have played four years of junior hockey.