Taylor Chorney

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The 25 most important players for the Caps: No. 20 Taylor Chorney

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The 25 most important players for the Caps: No. 20 Taylor Chorney

Every player on an NHL team plays a role.

Some play bigger roles than others.

In the coming weeks, Tarik El-Bashir and JJ Regan will rank the 25 most important players in the Caps’ organization, from least to most important, weighing factors such as past production, future potential and intangibles. 

Today’s player: No. 20 Taylor Chorney.

RELATED: 2017-18 CAPITALS SEASON PREVIEW SERIES

One of the more interesting storylines during training camp is going to be the battle along the blue line and where everyone, particularly a veteran like Chorney, fits into the plan as the Caps skew a bit younger.

The top pair is easy to figure out; it’ll be Dmitry Orlov and Matt Niskanen.

After that, it gets a little more interesting.

John Carlson will be on the second pair, perhaps with Aaron Ness.

If that's how things shake out, it would make sense to have Brooks Orpik anchor the third pair, especially if the No. 6 spot goes to a rookie since they'd surely benefit from the steady hand of a soon-to-be 37-year-old.

But will that spot go to a youngster like Christian Djoos, Madison Bowey or someone else? 

Or will it go to Chorney, a 30-year-old who's appeared in 141 NHL games spread over eight seasons for four clubs?

The Caps anticipate that Djoos and Bowey are closer to being NHL-ready than their other defenseman prospects.

Djoos lit up the AHL last season to the tune of 58 points in 66 games and the team needs to replace some offense. Bowey, meanwhile, has the look of a promising two-way defenseman.

But here’s the drawback—and where Chorney, in my opinion, fits into the equation.

Neither Djoos nor Bowey have done it yet. And until they do, no one can be 100-percent sure they’re completely ready to handle the everyday duties that the NHL demands. 

Chorney, to that end, has a significant advantage in experience, at a position where it matters a lot. He appeared in 18 games last season and a career-high 55 games the year before, also with the Caps. 

The bottom line: I suspect Chorney, who is entering the final year of his contract, will open camp penciled in as the team’s No. 6/7.

I also expect that he'll play a decent amount this season, maybe more than last year but perhaps less than 2015-16. I could even see him in the opening night lineup. Eventually, though, the Caps will want to see Djoos, Bowey or another youngster squeeze their way past Chorney and into the lineup full-time.        

Check out the full list of the Caps most important players as it comes out here and check out previous player profiles below.

— No. 25 Aaron Ness
— No. 24 Chandler Stephenson
— No. 23 Riley Barber
— No. 22 Pheonix Copley
No. 21 Devante Smith-Pelly

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After a strong performance Sunday, Chorney stays in the Caps' lineup

After a strong performance Sunday, Chorney stays in the Caps' lineup

Taylor Chorney will get a sweater for a second straight game when the Capitals host Auston Matthews and the Maple Leafs on Tuesday night, Coach Barry Trotz said.

It’ll mark the first time since March that Chorney—the Caps’ seventh defenseman—will skate in back-to-back games. He’ll again take the spot of Nate Schmidt, who’ll be a healthy scratch.

“There was no decision,” Trotz said of sticking with Chorney. “He played well, so he deserves to stay in.”

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Chorney scored his first goal of the season Sunday in the Caps’ 2-1 win over the Senators.

“It’s nice,” Chorney said. “You ask anybody, you want to play, you want to be in there as much as possible. Getting in back-to-back is fun. It’s what you work for.”

The Capitals have been one of the healthiest teams in the NHL this season and, entering Tuesday, they led the league in goals allowed per game (2.06). So Chorney’s services have not been in high demand.

In fact, the 29-year-old had only suited up for seven of the Capitals’ 36 games. Because of his infrequent usage, he stays sharp by staying longer and working harder in practices—an that effort does not go unnoticed by his teammates.

“Chorns comes to the rink every day with a smile on his face and works his butt off,” fellow defenseman Matt Niskanen said. “That’s not easy to do when you’re not in the lineup. Sometimes there’s not even a light at the end of the tunnel. It’s pretty amazing the positive attitude that he’s kept. You root for guys like that. To be rewarded with a goal was a pretty cool moment. I think everybody on the team was pretty fired up for him.”

Chorney has one goal, one assist and four penalty minutes in the seven games he's played. The team has a 6-0-1 record in those contests.

“I’ve tried not to let it get to me too much,” Chorney said of coming in and out of the lineup. “But when you go in there and you play well, you want to keep rolling. I understand it’s a tough situation. We have a really good team and it’s a numbers thing and that’s the way it works out. So I’m not going to stand here and complain. But at the same time, as a competitor you want to be out there with your teammates."

MORE CAPITALS: Caps' penalty kill has vaulted to 2nd in NHL

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Spare defenseman Taylor Chorney pushes the Caps past the Senators

Spare defenseman Taylor Chorney pushes the Caps past the Senators

As the Capitals’ spare defenseman, Taylor Chorney doesn’t get to play very often. In fact, Sunday’s 2-1 win over the Senators was just his seventh appearance of the season.

Which is exactly what made his third period goal—the game winner—so sweet for Chorney, his teammates and the coaching staff.

“Guys were cheering,” Coach Barry Trotz said. “We were all happy for him. There’s certain things guys do very well—scoring for Taylor is probably not one of them. So when he does get one, it’s special for everybody.”

Indeed, the goal was Chorney’s first since March 2, 2016, his second in 62 games as a member of the Caps and just his third in 130 career contests. Of those three goals, two are game winners.  

And Chorney couldn’t have picked a better time to deliver another one.

RELATED: Defense comes up big on both ends in win over Senators

Locked in a 1-1 battle, he took a pass from defensive partner Brooks Orpik less than three minutes into the final frame and fired the puck past Ottawa goalie Mike Condon to give the Caps a lead they would not relinquish.

Afterward, fellow defenseman Karl Alzner, who scored the Caps’ first goal, revealed that Chorney had called his own shot as the team returned to the ice for the start of the third period.  

“I was just joking,” Corney said of telling his teammates that he felt a game-winner coming. “I wasn’t expecting to score, but I did. When we walked out, I said, ‘It would be nice to get the first of the year on a game-winner.’ It just worked out.”

Like everyone else in the dressing room, Alzner was excited to see the puck go in for team and, just as important, for Chorney.

“More than happy,” Alzner said. “Chore is unique. It’s a super-hard position to be in. He doesn’t get to play a whole lot. Every single game he’s played he’s been not just good, he’s been great. And he still comes out of the lineup just because of the way the team is built. He always has a smile and he’s always working hard. It’s nice to see him get rewarded.”

Chorney said the play that led to the goal is something the Caps have been working on in practice lately.

“We’ve been working on getting into that look where we get it up at the top and go D-to-D and get into a flank look,” he said. “Brooksie put it in a good spot and I just shot it. There was a bunch of traffic and it went in.”

Trotz doesn’t often change a winning lineup. But he opted to insert Chorney over Nate Schmidt, despite the Caps’ 6-2 win in New Jersey on Saturday.

Why?

“Every day he comes to work,” Trotz said. Trotz also knows that he needs to keep Chorney sharp, just in case injuries strike.

“That’s how we think about our team—everybody is an important piece,” the coach added. “Even Chore, who’s not always in the lineup, he comes in as a true pro, works his butt off every day, doesn’t complain, gets in the lineup and contributes. That’s what you look for. And that’s why the guys love him. That’s why a guy like Taylor Chorney is so valuable to your hockey team. He comes in a does a real good job, and he’s done it all year.”

The goals by Chorney and Alzner marked the sixth and seventh by the Caps’ defensive corps over the past 11 games. While that’s still behind last year’s pace, the group is steadily closing the gap.

And for a Caps’ team that still isn’t scoring as much as it should, getting contributions from the backend is a welcome sign.   

“It’s huge,” Trotz said. “Tonight, two guys that don’t score a lot of goals were the difference.”

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