Tough Decisions to Make in Washington

The Washington Capitals have made headlines up here in Boston this week. Following the surprising signing of Zdeno Chara on Thursday, the Caps released their training camp roster on Friday. There are 24 forwards, 12 defensemen, and 5 goalies to narrow down from. With all the time off that everyone has had, especially those who finished 2020 in the AHL, it’s hard to say how things will shake out. But, as always, I have a theory. Here’s who I think we’ll see on the Capitals roster on January 13th.

Quick Note

Before I give who I think will make up the team, here’s my rationale. I think the Caps will want to keep prospects still needing to develop in Hershey or in juniors for as long as possible. I think the 6 alternates will be players used to the NHL who can step in without having to acclimate to the level of play. It would be a waste to have 6 young players as alternates because they wouldn’t be developing at all. They’d be practicing ad nauseam without any practical experience, which is exactly what the AHL is made for.


Okay, so I’ll get the obvious ones out of the way right now. Ovi, Backstrom, Wilson, Vrana, Kuztensov, Oshie, Eller, Hagelin, and Panik will easily round out the top 3 lines. After that, the 4th line and alternates will be a little more difficult to place. Keeping in mind my rationale, I think the last 4 players on the roster itself (4th line plus 1 healthy scratch) are: Sheary (W), Dowd (C/RW), Hathaway (W), and Pinho (C).

Dowd and Hathaway were fringe players on the roster last year. They’re very much 4th liners, but they were consistent and have experience. Sheary was an offseason acquisition, which leads me to believe the Caps have plans for him. And as for Brian Pinho, it’s Pinho season! He’s a Hockey East alum (Providence College) who has spent the last few years in Hershey. This summer, however, he fought his way into the lineup after the hiatus and played in 2 playoff games this fall. He’s blossomed nicely. I don’t know that he’ll be a permanent fixture in the lineup yet, but he deserves to be there.

Now for the alternates. I know I said the Caps would want experienced players as alternates, and I meant that. But what I think is more important is that the youngest players are left in the AHL or juniors. With that said, I think the alternates will be Sgarbossa (C), Sprong (W), and Carr (W).


Mike Sgarbossa has been up and down his entire professional career. He’s played for 4 different organizations, and in every city, he’s worked hard. He had 40 points in 39 games last year in Hershey. He’s reliable and professional, exactly what the Caps need in a backup.


Daniel Sprong has a similar background, having played for 3 organizations since 2015. He doesn’t have quite as much recent NHL experience, but he’s performed well everywhere he’s played and would easily be able to slot into the 4th line if need be. 


Daniel Carr is a lot like Sprong, having played in 3 organizations since 2015. He split his seasons in Montreal between the NHL and the AHL, so he has by far the most experience of the 3. Right now, he’s playing in Switzerland and is averaging a point per game (8 in 8). He seems to be one of those players who’s a big fish in a small pond but isn’t quite ready to be a small fish in a lake.


Again, let’s get the obvious ones out of the way. Carlson, Dillon, Orlov, Chara, and Schultz. That leaves only 1 full-time spot and 1 healthy scratch spot (assuming a 7D strategy). I think it’s going to be a rotating spot in the lineup, and I think it’s going to be Siegenthaler and Fehervary. Siegenthaler split 2018-19 between DC and Hershey but was on the roster all of last season. I’m not sure he was quite ready for the NHL, but he did fairly well. He’s still learning and deserves some ice time to continue to develop. Fehervary has only played 1 season in North America. He played the regular season with Hershey with some success, then earned a spot on the Caps roster over the summer. He played 6 NHL games, 2 of them playoff games. He’s obviously very young, but has shown great promise and clearly works hard. Again, I think he deserves some ice time in the NHL to really blossom.


This is a million-dollar question. Samsonov needs a backup or a tandem, but without Lundqvist as an option, who will it be? I think it will be between Vanecek and Anderson. Those will definitely be the two who travel with the team, but in what capacity could go either way. In my opinion, I think Anderson would be better suited to the alternate position for a few reasons. For one, he’s a seasoned veteran who’s used to long periods of time off. For another, he hasn’t had a winning season since 2017 (granted those seasons were in Ottawa). Anderson also has the experience to mentor the 2 younger goalies without having to play every other night.

The flip side of this thought is that I believe Vanecek will be the 2nd goalie. I explained why a few weeks ago, but briefly, I think the organization had been planning on Vanecek in net for a while, and feel comfortable with that decision. It wouldn’t make a ton of sense to me to pick a 3rd party they hadn’t previously thought of. This arrangement of goaltenders gets the best out of all 3 players without compromising quality.

In Summary

These decisions are going to be difficult no matter what. It could get even more difficult if other players show up to training camp suddenly on another skill level entirely. But assuming everyone comes exactly how they have been in the past, these are what make the most sense to me. I’m definitely excited to see how things shape out in the next week. This season may be the most interesting we’ve seen in a long time.

-Heidi Thomas (@DamselOnDrums)

Heidi Thomas

Washington Capitals fan, casual gamer, hiking enthusiast. Ask me about my Greyhound. I also wrote a book once.

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