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Capitals' John Carlson ready to embrace change

Capitals' John Carlson ready to embrace change

For the first time in a few years, substantial changes are coming to the Capitals’ roster.

John Carlson is fully aware of that fact—and he’s ready to embrace the turnover.

“It’s good,” Carlson said Friday. “You hate to see friends and teammates and great players leave, but it’s also great to get some fresh faces, some young guys to bring up the energy all the time.”

The veteran defenseman added: “I think it’s going to be good for us, so I’m excited for it. It adds a different dynamic and it can help everybody.”

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Indeed, the spots occupied by Karl Alzner, Nate Schmidt, Justin Williams, Marcus Johansson and Daniel Winnik will now be filled by younger, less expensive players as the Caps shoehorn their roster under the $75 million salary cap ceiling.

“I’m kinda used to it by now,” Carlson said. “No team ever stays the same. Well, maybe [last] year. A lot of them were guys that had been here for my whole career almost. So in that respect, it’s tough to see them leave.”

Carlson made his comments at Kettler Capitals Iceplex, where he's been skating and working out in recent weeks. He was the only NHL player on the ice Friday—Alzner, now a Canadien, has made some appearances as well—though the group is expected to grow in the coming days as players trickle back into town.

Training camp opens in mid-September.

All told, the Caps figure to have three new forwards and a new defenseman or two in the lineup when the season opens Oct. 5 in Ottawa.  

Depending on how things shake out, in fact, it’s possible one of those youngsters will be paired up with Carlson.

When Carlson broke into the NHL, there were a handful of solid pros in Caps’ room, like Mike Knuble, for him to learn from. Now, nine years into his career, Carlson says he’s looking forward to returning the favor.

“Last year we didn’t have many young guys,” he said. “It’ll be the first taste of the NHL for a lot of them. You got to show them the ropes. People did that for me. People helped me along the way. Whether it’s forwards or Ds, it doesn’t matter, it’s about showing them how to have success.”

Carlson added: “I think we have tremendous leaders in the locker room. There’s a lot of guys that have played a lot of games. …I know the quality of the people we have and I know they’ll step up and make sure everyone is comfortable from day one.”

In addition to the potential benefits of injecting youth into the lineup, there’s one more reason Carlson is looking forward to September: he hopes the buzz and anticipation of a new season will help him put last spring’s playoff disappointment in the rearview, finally.

“You still think about it all the time,” Carlson said of the second round loss to the Penguins. “You run into people, talk to people, it always kinda comes up. There’s no hiding from it. But once camp starts, you really just have to shift your focus and make sure that what we’re doing now is going to set us up for the end of this year. You can’t be looking back like that.”

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What Caps prospect Jonas Siegenthaler is doing to show he's ready for roster spot

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What Caps prospect Jonas Siegenthaler is doing to show he's ready for roster spot

Jonas Siegenthaler joined the Capitals' informal practices on Monday morning in an effort to get a head start on what figures to be a critical couple of months for the 20-year-old.

When training camp opens in mid-September, he'll be one of a handful of bubble players and prospects battling for two openings on Washington's blue line, if you count the spare. Even for those who don’t make the cut out of camp, it’s a chance to establish their spot in the pecking order for early-season call-ups.

Siegenthaler says he’s ready and looking forward to the competition.

“You work hard even more in the summer if you know [there are jobs available],” he said at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. “And, obviously, every young guy knows that. I think every guy will get in great shape and do everything for the spot. And at the end, the better one will get a spot.”

“It’s going to be a hard battle,” the 2015 second-rounder added, “and I’m excited to accept that challenge.”

RELATED: Previewing the 2017-18 Metro Division

Siegenthaler is the first of the young defensemen to join the Caps’ informal offseason skates, having arrived from Zurich a few days ago. He wanted to get here early for a couple of reasons: to work out at the team’s top-notch facility and to show everyone how serious he is about earning a spot next month. A year ago, Siegenthaler did not get the chance to play in a preseason game.

“It’s a great opportunity to train here with Nemo,” Siegenthaler said, referring to Washington’s strength and conditioning coach Mark Nemish. “I can get used to it and be more ready for camp. I’m trying everything to set my goals high — that’s why I’m here.”

He continued: “I want to show them that I want to play here. I think’s a pretty good sign. I think I’m ready.”

Coach Barry Trotz and his assistants, of course, will ultimately determine whether he’s ready — or at least how close he is to being ready based on camp and the preseason.

Siegenthaler, a left shot who is listed by the Caps at 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds, said he worked diligently with his personal off-ice coach in Switzerland this summer to improve his explosiveness. He also said he focused on building more upper body strength — another area the staff asked him to address following a solid showing at development camp in June.

“My skating, especially my quickness — it was my weakness over years and years,” Siegenthaler said. “I’m still working on it. You never can get to 100 percent, but you want the highest percentage [possible]. I will be working on quickness my whole career. I think that’s normal. I see improvements right now, and I hope I can improve more [before] camp and over the season.”

Another area where Trotz and company will want to see improvement from Siegenthaler will be his comfort level on smaller North American rink. It takes time, and he’s appeared in just 18 regular season and playoff games for the Bears over the past two seasons.

“It’s another game from Europe,” he said. “In Switzerland, the rink was bigger and you have more time. I need to get in my mind that you can’t always look for a beautiful [outlet] pass, or good pass. Sometimes it’s got to be a chip out with the boards.”

If he’s got to work his way up the ladder, he indicated that he’s ready to do whatever it takes. That said, his focus over the few weeks is going to be a singular one: earning a spot on the Caps’ roster.

“Everything is going to happen quicker, so I got to be ready,” he said. “But I think I am. We’ll see at camp.”

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Capitals' 2017-18 Division Preview: Breaking down the rest of the Metro

Capitals' 2017-18 Division Preview: Breaking down the rest of the Metro

Last season, the Metropolitan Division was the toughest in the NHL, producing the Stanley Cup champ, the regular season champ and three of the top four teams in the overall standings.

How’s the division shaping up for 2017-18 after a summer of change for a few of its eight teams?

This week, CSN is taking a look at each club's offseason moves and predicting how they’ll do this winter.

Team: Carolina Hurricanes

2016-17 Results: 36-31-15 (87 points). Seventh in division, 12th in conference. Did not reach the playoffs.

Notable acquisitions: F Justin Williams, F Josh Jooris, G Scott Darling, D Trevor van Riemsdyk, F Marcus Kruger

Notable departures: F Jay McClement, G Eddie Lack

2017-18 Hurricanes analysis and prediction: Carolina is arguably the most improved team this offseason and also return a stong, young core. The most important move was the trade for goalie Scott Darling. The Hurricanes were ranked 26th in team save percentage last season. If Darling can provide consistency in net, that will be a huge boost. Carolina finished last season eight points out of the playoffs. Even with some questions on offense, they can easily make up that gap with the improvements they made. 

Team: New Jersey Devils

2016-17 Results: 28-40-17 (70 points). Eighth in division, 16th in conference. Did not reach the playoffs.

Notable acquisitions: F Nico Hischier, F Brian Boyle, F Marcus Johansson

Notable departures: F Michael Cammalleri, D Mirco Mueller, D Jon Merrill

2017-18 Devils analysis and prediction: After years of looking like they had no direction, there may finally be light at the end of the tunnel for New Jersey. The Devils improved tremendously on offense with Nico Hischier, the top overall draft pick, and Marcus Johansson. Did they do enough to end their five-year playoff drought? Probably not, but they did take a big step in the right direction.

Team: New York Islanders

2016-17 Results: 41-29-12 (94 points). Fifth in division, 9th in conference. Did not reach the playoffs.

Notable acquisitions: F Jordan Eberle

Notable departures: G Jean-Francois Berube, D Travis Hamonic, F Ryan Strome

2017-18 Islanders analysis and prediction: After firing Jack Capuano midseason, the Islanders went 24-12 under Doug Weight. They then proceeded to do little to help him in the offseason. Jordan Eberle is a solid addition and their three-goalie headache is now solved thanks to J.F. Berube going to Vegas. But this is a team that did not make the playoffs last year and did very little to improve, banking instead on their prospects being able to contribute enough to get them over the edge. To go with the concerns on the ice, there is also a major concern off of it as they will have to deal with the headache of John Tavares nearing free agency without an extension. The noise surrounding Tavares' status will only get louder as the season goes on. Can they compete for a playoff spot? Sure, but they will ultimately be watching the postseason from home.

More Metro Division previews: