Washington Capitals

Quick Links

The 25 Most Important Players for the Caps: No. 5 Evgeny Kuznetsov

The 25 Most Important Players for the Caps: No. 5 Evgeny Kuznetsov

Every player on an NHL team plays a role.Some, of course, 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. 5 Evgeny Kuznetsov

The Caps showed exactly what Evgeny Kuznetsov means to them by giving the budding star an eight-year, $62.4 million contract over the summer. The team has a top center in Nicklas Backstrom, but Kuznetsov has the talent and ability to be a top center and this contract ensures he will one day take that mantle from the 29-year-old Backstrom.

Kuznetsov's NHL career has already seen its ups and downs. The 2015 postseason looked like a breakout performance for the young Russian with five goals and two assists including the series-clinching goal in Game 7 against the New York Islanders. He followed that up with a 77-point season, but fell silent in the playoffs with only two points in 12 games. He started the 2016-17 season slow, but erupted in January and was named the NHL's first star of the month and was able to score 10 points in the 2017 postseason.

RELATED: CAPS CHIP IN TO HELP VICTIMS OF HURRICANE IRMA

So what Kuznetsov should fans expect to see this season? That will depend somewhat on how he's used and who plays beside him. One issue facing him is the fact that he lost not one, but both of his wingers from last year's second line. Gone are Marcus Johansson and Justin Williams so Kuznetsov will have to adjust to playing alongside two different players. But will he be adjusting on the second line or the first?

Based on the contract Washington just gave Kuznetsov, it's clear they see him as someone with top-line talent. They have also seen the Pittsburgh Penguins win the Stanley Cup the past two years by spreading their through the lineup. They could perhaps decide to move to Kuznetsov on the top line this season or they could keep him on the second line and move Alex Ovechkin down to play on the wing. Or they could switch Backstrom and Kuznetsov based on the situation. Or they could do none of those things and just have Kuznetsov play with Andre Burakovsky or Jakub Vrana/Tom Wilson.

Whether it is this year or in the near future, clearly the Caps see Kuznetsov as a top playmaker. The 2016 postseason also showed this team cannot be successful if he does not produce. He is incredibly important to the Capitals and now he has the contract to prove it.

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
— No. 20 Taylor Chorney
— No. 19 Nathan Walker

 No. 18 Philipp Grubauer
 No. 17 Christian Djoos

— No. 16 Madison Bowey
— No. 15 Jay Beagle
— No. 14 Brett Connolly
— No. 13 Tom Wilson
— No. 12 Lars Eller
— No. 11 Jakub Vrana
— No. 10 Brooks Orpik
— No. 9 John Carlson
— No. 8 Dmitry Orlov
— No. 7 Andre Burakovsky
— No. 6 Matt Niskanen

Quick Links

Tom Wilson suspended for 2 preseason games for hit on Blues prospect

Tom Wilson suspended for 2 preseason games for hit on Blues prospect

Tom Wilson has been suspended two preseason games by the NHL’s Department of Player Safety for his big hit on St. Louis’ Robert Thomas on Friday night.

In handing out the punishment, the NHL noted the lateness of the hit—it occurred more than a full second after Thomas had lost control of the puck—and the predatory nature of Wilson tracking down the Blues’ rookie before delivering the blow in front of the visitors’ bench.

RELATED: OVECHKIN, KUZNETSOV SET TO PLAY AGAIN ON SATURDAY

Wilson, a rugged 23-year-old winger who has a reputation for playing on the edge, has been on the NHL's radar for a while now. He’s been fined twice previously, but this marks the first time he’s been suspended.

Wilson must sit out Saturday’s exhibition game against the Hurricanes and Monday’s contest against the Devils. He’s eligible to return Friday at Carolina.

Earlier Saturday, Barry Trotz said he was “a little surprised” that the NHL had requested a hearing with Wilson, adding, “Whatever decision that they have we’ll deal with it. They do a good job.”

For Wilson, losing two preseason games amounts to a cheap lesson. But it also serves to underscore that he’s now squarely in the league’s crosshairs and will be considered a repeat offender should the Department of Player Safety examine a future play involving him.

MORE CAPITALS: WHY SLAPSHOT TERRIFIED US ALL IN FRIDAY'S PRESEASON OPENER

Quick Links

Ovechkin, Kuznetsov highlight the Caps' Saturday night lineup vs. the 'Canes

usatsi_8282237.jpg
USA TODAY Sports

Ovechkin, Kuznetsov highlight the Caps' Saturday night lineup vs. the 'Canes

Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Matt Niskanen highlight the Caps’ lineup tonight against the Hurricanes at Capital One Arena.

Here’s how Coach Barry Trotz will have them lineup (based on the morning skate):

Forwards
Ovechkin – Kuznetsov – Chiasson
Smith–Pelly – Beagle – W. Simpson
Vrana – Boyd – Connolly
Walker – Albert – Barber

Defense
Orpik – Hobbs
Djoos – Niskanen
Siegenthaler – Orlov

Goalies
Grubauer
Copley

RELATED: TOM WILSON TO HAVE HEARING FOR HIT ON BLUES PROSPECT

Some notes and observations from the morning skate:

  • Fourth line center Jay Beagle will make his preseason debut tonight. He’s been battling some “tightness” according to Trotz. “Everyone’s tight right now,” Beagle told CSN after the morning skate. “I feel great. I’m ready to play tonight. It’s something the medical staff was really diligent about.”
  • Vrana will skate in his third preseason contest…but in a much different role. In his first two appearances, the 2014 first rounder skated in the top-six (on Kuznetsov’s line and Backstrom’s line). Now’s getting a look on the third combo.
  • Tom Wilson was originally slated to suit up but he was pulled from the lineup because he’s facing a disciplinary hearing with the NHL for his hit on St. Louis’ Robert Thomas on Friday. Instead, Wilson participated in the intrasquad scrimmage at Kettler Capitals Iceplex.  
  • Matt Niskanen and Dmitry Orlov will also get their first action of the exhibition season. Although Trotz has said they’ll start the regular season as a pair, each will play with a prospect vs. the Canes.
  • Chiasson, who is on a PTO, has enjoyed a strong camp to this point. If he can add production tonight (while skating on a line with Ovechkin and Kuznetsov) that could go a long way toward him clinching a spot…if he hasn’t done so already. Chiasson was also on the first power play unit this morning.
  • Former Capitals winger Justin Williams will skate on the Hurricanes' first line tonight.
  • Another round of cuts is expected to come on Sunday.

 

MORE CAPITALS: HOW TO WATCH SATURDAY'S GAME