Washington Capitals: 2005

By Jeff Charlesworth
If you’re anything like me, you’ve been waiting for a Capitals youth movement for years. Caps management constantly bring in veterans instead of promoting some of the deserving youngsters in the minor leagues. Since you’re reading this on a site called Hockey’s Future, I can pretty much assume you feel the same way.

It will probably be a few years before we see our current group of prospects in the NHL. The veterans would leave gradually, with one or two young replacements per season. So let’s fast forward to 2005 to see what the lineup could look like, if we went with a group of players that would even be considered young five years from now.

The first thing to do is eliminate any player who will be 30 years of age or older on Opening Day 2000. The biggest names from that group of players are: Adam Oates, Peter Bondra, Calle Johansson and Vezina Trophy winner Olaf Kolzig. They would all be at least 35 years old by 2005, and would not fit in with the youth movement. Next, we have to determine what other players won’t be around five years from now. For various reasons, I decided to exclude Glen Metropolit, Andrei Nikolishin, Chris Simon and Ken Klee. They would all be over 30 by then, and I figured that they would be traded or leave via Free Agency before 2005.
I only kept six players from the current roster, and only two that are over 25 years of age. Forwards Jan Bulis, Jeff Halpern, Steve Konowalchuk and Richard Zednik, as well as Defensemen Sergei Gonchar and Brendan Witt. This group will form the core of future Capitals teams and will be counted on to lead the next wave of youngsters.

The top line has to be built around Kris Beech, because he will be the #1 centre by the time 2005 rolls around. Beech is a playmaker and is very quick. He needs wingers who can keep up with him, but most importantly can finish his passes. Matt Pettinger worked well with Beech in Calgary last season, and has the potential to score a few goals. Michal Sivek is a natural centre, but would have to be converted to a right winger due to the Capitals’ depth down the middle. He would be the sniper on this line, and should put up big numbers. For a top line, all three are responsible defensively – which is rare.

The second line is almost ready-made. Richard Zednik and Jan Bulis have already shown they have a chemistry together, and Caps management should resist the temptation to split them up if they slump. Bulis is best suited as a number-two centre because he will probably never achieve 100 points. The two of them alone make the second line effective, so all they need is a big right-winger who has enough speed and talent to stay with them. Charlie Stephens may not be second-line material solely on his own merit, but fits in well with what the Capitals will need here. He won’t score as many points as Bulis and Zednik, but will be able to chip in occasionally and provide the defense and toughness the other two lack.

With the top two lines providing the bulk of the offense the Capitals need, the third line should be the unit sent out against the opponents’ top players. They should be tough, speedy players who can also score when needed. This is usually the most important part of championship teams. The Capitals third line of the future should consist of centre Jeff Halpern between left-winger Steve Konwalchuk and right-winger Chris Corrinet. Halpern and Konowalchuk are known commodities in Washington. They play hard every shift and can be counted on to provide toughness and defense. Corrinet is the same type of player, but is much bigger than the other two. This line will leave their opponents black and blue as well as shutting them out.

The fourth line is sort of a forgotten element of most teams these days. With not enough talent to stock an entire roster, coaches usually double-shift their star players and leave the fourth-liners fighting for ice-time. The Capitals should have enough depth to field a competitive fourth unit, providing a similar effort as the third line. That line would consist of centre Brian Sutherby, along with wingers Stephen Peat and Roman Tvrdon. The Caps have considered converting Peat into a winger, and that would make sense – because if he is to be the enforcer on this team, it is better that he does not leave the defense shorthanded. All three of these guys are role players, and are not top-line material. This line combines toughness, defensive skill and a bit of scoring ability, and could give the coach an opportunity to use all four lines effectively.

The defense should be the strong point of this Capitals team, with three pairings providing a balanced attack. The first unit should consist of Sergei Gonchar and Alexei Tezikov. Tezikov would probably not be a number-two defenseman usually, but works well with Gonchar. Both of them have good speed and powerful shots, and should really help in the offense. We would probably see Gonchar pinch up more with Tezikov staying back and making the passes out to the wingers.

The second unit would see Ross Lupaschuk paired with Brendan Witt. These two are your typical “odd couple” that make up a second blueline pairing. Lupaschuk would play almost as a fourth forward, and provide all of the offense for the two of them. Witt would stay back and cover the odd-man rush if Lupaschuk got caught too far up. He would also hit everything in sight, clearing room for Ross to move.

The third set of defensemen would be J.F. Fortin and Jakub Cutta. There are several players that could have claimed these two spots, including Remi Royer and Nolan Yonkman. Fortin plays a solid two-way game with potential for an offensive upside. Cutta is a dependable stay-at-home defenseman and should be a rock on the blueline. These two would not get a lot of ice time, with the Caps giving preference to their top four. They would be used in more of a role-playing capacity, such as when the Caps need a bit more toughness on the ice, or if the other team is very fast and is wearing down the top four.

There is also room for extra skaters on the roster, in case of a last-minute injury or for depth purposes. One spot should go to forward Matt Herr, who has proven he can cpmpete at the NHL level and can play centre or wing. He would provide a spark in the lineup if needed and is very capable of playing extended periods of time if an injury arose. The defensive spot should go to Nathan Forster, who could be inserted into the lineup and play effectively filling any role needed.

The goaltenders on this team should be a tandem of Rastislav Stana and Sebastien Charpentier. Neither of them have proven they are ready for the NHL just yet, and unless one of them steps up – this could be the weak spot of the Capitals’ future. Both of them have the talent to be a number one goaltender, and should be effective with the strong defense corps in front of them. However, as we have seen with the Caps this season – having a star goaltender is very important.

Looking at what has been built here, we can see that the Capitals of the future will be a team built on speed that will count on the centres to set up the offense. They are extremely deep down the middle, but could use more scoring ability on the wings. The defense are large and mobile – and will be the difference makers for this team. As I mentioned, the goaltending is a question mark and could be an area addressed via the trade market.


2005 Opening Day Roster (with ages as of October 1st, 2000)

Matt Pettinger (19) – Kris Beech (19) – Michal Sivek (19)

Richard Zednik (24) – Jan Bulis (22) – Charlie Stephens (19)

Steve Konowalchuk (27) – Jeff Halpern (24) – Chris Corrinet (21)

Roman Tvrdon (19) – Brian Sutherby (18) – Stephen Peat (20)

Sergei Gonchar (26) – Alexei Tezikov (22)
Rastislav Stana (20)

Ross Lupaschuk (19) – Brendan Witt (25)
Sebastien Charpentier (23)

J.F. Fortin (21) – Jakub Cutta (18)

EXTRAS:

Matt Herr (24)

Nathan Forster (20)

This is, of course, all speculation and I can pretty much guarantee that the roster will not look like this in 2005. Some of these players will not turn out the way we hope and others will surprise us. There will be trades that alter the face of the roster as well, but it seems that the Capitals will be a competitive franchise for years to come.