Karl Alzner

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The Capitals would like to see Tom Wilson score a few more goals this season

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Tom Wilson is the classic “love him or hate him” type of player depending on which team he happens to be playing for.

If he is playing on your team, you probably like him. If he is not … you probably hate him.

Wilson has spent the first four years of his career playing in the Washington Capitals’ bottom-six, playing an extremely physical brand of hockey that can sometimes come close to crossing the line. He is also a very good defensive player and penalty killer, a fact that can sometimes get overlooked due to his style of play and the punishing hits.

With the Capitals roster getting ripped apart around the edges this summer due to salary cap restrictions there are a couple of openings in the team’s top-six forward group thanks to the departures of veteran forwards Justin Williams and Marcus Johansson.

Wilson would like to take one of those spots, but he knows he needs to add more consistent offense to do it.

The Capitals would like to see that from him as well.

Here is coach Barry Trotz talking about what he wants to see from Wilson this season, via Isabelle Khurshudyan of the Washington Post.

“Like all our young players, we’ve been trying to continually have growth with Tom,” Trotz said. “The next step in his evolution — he has that physical element, he’s reliable, he can kill penalties, he can play late-game situations, he’s developed that — now he’s got to find that offensive side. We’ve got to get more production out of Tom Wilson. We’re going to need some more goals out of him. He’s got to get into double digits this year.

He went on to say little improvements like that from players like Wilson are how the team can chip away and deal with the players they lost over the summer, just getting a few extra goals from players that are still on the roster.

Wilson’s production has been incredibly consistent during his career and has averaged about seven goals and about 18 total points per 82 games. He has never scored more than seven goals in a season, the mark he has reached in each of the past two seasons. He did add three goals in the first-round of the Capitals’ series win over the Toronto Maple Leafs, including a two-goal effort in their Game 4 win in Toronto.

The Capitals are going to look like a very different team this season after losing Williams, Johansson, Karl Alzner, Nate Schmidt and Kevin Shattenkirk over the summer and only bringing in Devante Smith-Pelly and Alex Chiasson on a tryout deal. Still, with a core that includes Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Evgeny Kuznetsov, T.J. Oshie, Andre Burakovsky John Carlson, Dmitry Orlov, Matt Niskanen and what is probably one of the top-three goalies on the planet they should still be a fierce contender in the Eastern Conference.

They may not bring home a third consecutive Presidents’ Trophy, but they are not going away just yet, either.

Alex Chiasson will join Capitals on tryout contract

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After the Calgary Flames decided to not extend him a qualifying offer this summer, veteran forward Alex Chiasson became an unrestricted free agent. He remained unsigned throughout the entire offseason but will get an opportunity to make the Washington Capitals roster when he joins the team in training camp on a professional tryout contract.

The team announced his tryout deal on Saturday morning.

Chiasson, 26, appeared in 81 games for the Flames during the 2016-17 season, scoring 12 goals and adding 12 assists. He has also spent time with the Dallas Stars and Ottawa Senators in his career, scoring 50 goals in 320 games.

It has been a slow offseason for the Capitals as the salary cap has taken a lot of depth from a team that won back-to-back Presidents’ Trophies. The only real addition to the lineup has been Devante Smith-Pelly. Because of those subtractions — combined with the lack of moves to replace them — there is an opening in the Capitals lineup for a player like Chiasson to potentially step in.

Earlier this week the team signed defenseman Jyrki Jokipakka to a tryout contract. The Capitals lost Kevin Shattenkirk, Karl Alzner and Nate Schmidt off of their blue line this summer.

Capitals might address some D departures with PTO for Jokipakka

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In a move that’s only really a gamble for area copy editors/copy-paste-adverse fans, the Washington Capitals announced that they handed defenseman Jyrki Jokipakka a PTO invite for training camp.

Jokipakka deserves some credit for amassing 150 regular-season games of experience at the NHL level at the relatively young age of 26. That’s not bad for a guy who was drafted in the seventh round (195th overall) in 2011 by the Dallas Stars.

He’s bounced around a bit lately, going from the Stars to the Flames in 2015-16 and then from the Flames to the Senators in 2016-17.

Despite some solid experience, his stats speak mainly to him being a mundane presence.

That said, Jokipakka could at least be a feasible bottom-pairing or even seventh defensemen for the Capitals, if he can make the team. Washington has seen some gutting losses on the blueline in the departures of Karl Alzner, Kevin Shattenkirk, and Nate Schmidt, so it doesn’t hurt to look into a variety of options to try to stop the bleeding.

If only his defensive skills intimidating forwards as much as his name strikes fear into the heart of bloggers, writers, and copy editors alike …

Celebrate Labor Day by pondering the ‘hardest working’ NHL defensemen

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It’s Labor Day (or Labour Day), so hopefully you’re getting those last summer nights/hot dog grillings out of your system.

(Not just talking to you, Phil Kessel.)

With the holiday in mind, it seems sensible to get into the theme of things and ponder the “hardest working” players in hockey. For the record, these lists are based on stats, so feel free to project your own opinions about hustle/grit/other things that would show up on a John Cena t-shirt.

If nothing else, it’s refreshing to discuss some stats that don’t get as much attention.

Defensemen tend to be some of the biggest workhorses in the sport, so this first post will be devoted to them.

For forwards and goalies, check out this post.

Sheer volume

In maybe the least surprising development imaginable, Ryan Suter continues to stand out as a guy who just logs an inane amount of ice time.

Suter headlines a list of five players who’ve logged at least 8,000 minutes of regular-season ice time from 2013-14 through 2016-17.

1. Suter: 9,201:55
2. Drew Doughty: 8,906:33
3. Erik Karlsson: 8,897:18
4. Shea Weber: 8,116:20
5. Alex Pietrangelo: 8,055:50

(Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Roman Josi are very close behind them.)

Killing penalties is one of the toughest jobs, and it can be a very specialized one. Using the 2013-14 to 2016-17 standard, only one defenseman logged 1,000 penalty minutes. Meanwhile, six players logged at least 900.

1. Andy Greene: 1,115:48
2. Alex Pietrangelo: 996:28
3. Zdeno Chara: 986:38
4. Karl Alzner: 935:08
5. Jay Bouwmeester: 945:03
6. Francois Beauchemin: 900:15

(Big-minute guys Doughty and Weber also ranked up high in penalty killing.)

For a significant defenseman, Pietrangelo carries a considerable workload. Consider how much tougher his role has become over the last few seasons.

2013-14: 52.3 percent offensive zonne starts vs. 47.7 defensive
2014-15: 48.4 offense, 51.6 defense
2015-16: 46.9, 53.1
2016-17: 43.1, 56.9

Pietrangelo still manages to produce offensively, so the 27-year-old is quite the all-around gem.

Gritty leaders

However you feel about certain “grit” stats and how helpful they actually are for a team, it’s easy to admire players who put their bodies on the line.

Using the framework of 2013-14 to 2016-17, Kris Russell easily leads the NHL in blocked shots with 907, even doing so in 277 games while Dan Girardi comes in second place with 719 in 300 contests. Russell blocks a hearty 3.3 shots per game.

It’s easier to understand Girardi slowing down when you consider the bumps and bruises he likely endures. Girardi blocked 719 shots during that span, and he also delivered 690 hits. (Shea Weber is a similar bruiser: 637 blocked shots, 644 hits in 313 games.)

Karl Alzner piles up those grit stats while spending a lot of time on the PK, which is predictable but also commendable.

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These stats don’t guarantee that the listed defensemen work “harder” than others. Still, it’s easy to get lost in possession stats and other considerations, and lose sight of how much effort goes into the dirty work in hockey.

If you’re bored and hockey-starved on this holiday, consider clicking around the above links to notice certain names that show up consistently. It might give you a greater appreciation for players you otherwise might have dismissed.

Capitals prospect Djoos trying to bulk up before season

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After losing Karl Alzner, Kevin Shattenkirk and Nate Schmidt this offseason the Washington Capitals are going to have some big openings on their blue line, a development that presents a great opportunity for skilled prospect Christian Djoos to get his first look in the NHL.

Djoos, a seventh-round pick by the Capitals in 2012, is coming off of a monster season for the Capitals’ AHL team in Hershey that saw him record 58 points (13 goals, 45 assists) in only 66 games.

That production made him the third-leading scorer on the team and by far the team’s most productive defenseman.

He signed a two-year contract with the Capitals over the summer, with the first year of that contract being a two-way deal. But given the fact he would have to clear waivers before going back to the AHL it seems to be a solid bet that he is going to be on the Capitals’ roster to open the season, especially after the production he put on the board in the AHL this past season.

Before he gets to the NHL though the Capitals have had him spending his summer trying to add more weight to his frame.

Via CSN Mid-Atlantic’s Tarik El-Bashir:

“For sure, I need to get bigger,” he said. “We’re working on it every day here in the gym and back home over the summer. It feels good, getting bigger and stronger.”

The Capitals have him on a high calorie diet that requires him to eat much more than other players.

“You just got to eat everything almost,” he said. “Not the bad stuff but you gotta eat all the time. Just trying to do that every day.”

He then cracked: “I just got to keep eating, keep eating, work out, then maybe one day just explode and gain some pounds.”

Djoos spent last being listed at just 161 pounds, which would have made him the lightest defenseman in the entire NHL. According to the NHL’s database the only defensemen that were listed under 174 pounds were Kris Russell (170 pounds), David Warsofsky (170 pounds) and Jared Spurgeon (164 pounds).

In previous eras that lack of size would be a major hurdle for a player Djoos to navigate when it comes to getting a spot on an NHL roster, and for some teams it probably still would be, especially for a defenseman. Slowly but surely, however, though teams are starting to open up to “undersized” players and are more willing to overlook that if there is enough skill behind it. Given what Djoos has shown since coming to North America two years ago he clearly has the skill to make an impact.

The Capitals lost quite a bit off of their defense this summer, and with Brooks Orpik being another year older they are going to need players like Djoos and Dmitry Orlov, who is just starting a six-year, $30.5 million contract extension, to really take on big roles as puck-moving, offensive defenesmen.