Now that the camp is over the next real hockey event as far as the organization is concerned will come in September. There is still lots of time for teams to finalize rosters and add free agents but it is never too early to speculate on what the Bears roster might look like this season.
Let's have at it....
- Michal Neuvirth
- Braden Holtby
This is pretty much set in stone. Holtby will be the backup to Neuvirth in Hershey this season. The ONLY way this changes is if the Caps think Neuvy can back up Simeon Varlamov in the NHL....I highly doubt the Caps would put 2 young goaltenders in that position.
- Tyler Sloan
- Sean Collins
- Patrick McNeill
- Greg Amadio
- Josh Godfrey
- John Carlson
- Zach Miscovic
- Joe Finley
- Viktor Dovgan
- Bryan Helmer
The first group are all under contract. I included Carlson in this list because the Caps have 8 defensemen (assuming Jurcina returns) without Carlson and they aren't going to keep 9 (or maybe even 8) in the NHL. We could actually see Karl Alzner as well next season depending on the health of some players.
I really think Helmer will be resigned. With Graham Mink and Dean Arsene leaving town there are a couple open veteran spots that can be filled. Add to that the slew of young defensemen and the team will want a veteran presence back there. And Helmer wants to come back...I suspect we will see him.
This group is actually pretty good in my opinion. Sloan, Collins, and McNeill all had some growing pains this past season but the Caps thought enough of Sloan and Collins to keep them in the NHL for extended stays. Ammo is a great team player but can he stay on the ice with all the young talent coming up.
Miscovic and Dovgan are a bit unknown right now. If the roster looks like I have it above I would say one (or both) of these guys could be in South Carolina.
Finley played some left wing at developmental camp and rumors were flying before that of a potential position shift. With the depth of prospects at defense having a left wing of his size could pay dividends for the Caps down the road.
- Francois Bouchard
- Mathieu Perreault
- Oskar Osala
- Kyle Wilson
- Andrew Gordon
- Quintin Laing
- Boyd Kane
- Jay Beagle
- Steve Pinizzotto
- Michael Dubuc
- Trevor Bruess
- Jake Hauswirth
- Chris Bourque
- Keith Aucoin
- Dmitri Kugryshev
- Joe Finley*
- Anton Gustafsson
- Grant McNeill
- Darren Reid
- Mikhail Yunkov
The first group above are players that are signed and will be in Hershey or South Carolina next season. The curious players there are Hauswirth, Dubuc, and Bruess. Hauswirth is a big (like 6'5" or something) center that likes to play in front of the net much like Minker did. He could replace the big immovable presence in front of the net that the team is missing without Mink there.
Dubuc was again a star at the developmental camp as he scored 7 goals in the scrimmages. Word is he is great at the offensive end but struggles in his own end. If he has improved that aspect of his game we could see him in Hershey. If he didn't improve then the only way he sticks is if he can play on the first or second line.
Bruess is a tough nosed center in the Beagle/Joudrey mode of player. He isn't going to light up the scoreboard but he is going to do the little things well. I actually expect him to stick in Hershey and fill the void left by Joudrey's departure on the 4th line.
All the other players were in Hershey last season and should be back there this year. Oh except Kane but he will be in Hershey too after coming over from Philly.
The second group includes 2 players that are under contract with the organization but only time will tell where they play. Aucoin is on a one way deal so if he plays in the AHL it will be for a higher salary. Bourque is on a 2 way deal BUT he now has to clear waivers meaning another team could (and probably would) pick him up if the Caps send him down.
My personal opinion....we see Aucoin in Hershey but not Bourque. With the Brendan Morrison signing in Washington and Nylander still rotting away on the bench I doubt very much if the Caps will keep Aucoin in Washington meaning he would have to clear waivers. But being an older undersized center I doubt anyone would pick him up since they are required to keep him in the NHL if they do.
Bourque though will either make the Caps out of camp....unlikely in my opinion...or be traded or sent down. He, unlike Aucoin, will probably get picked up by someone if he is sent down. Sure he might slip through but I would be surprised if a team doesn't take a chance on him.
The other players in that group, Kugryshev, Gustafsson, and Finley are question marks. Finley could play either defense or wing but is likely to be in Hershey. Gustafsson (2008 1st rounder) has said he wants to play in North America this season and he isn't likely to make the Caps out of camp. But no one knows for sure if he is serious about the NA thing. Kugryshev is not signed yet but is eligible for the AHL. He also could head back to juniors for another season.
After that it is speculation but I think GMac and Reid will both be back in Hershey. Muscle is still needed to GMac is a solid choice although the knee injury raises and leaves questions. Reid might fill one of the veteran spots left by the Mink, Giroux, and Arsene departures. Reid played well when given the chance and having him on the roster would allow Pinner to play up on the 2nd or 3rd line and try to score more.
The last name on the list, Yunkov, is a 2004 Caps draft pick that has been playing in Russia since. He is unsigned which makes this entirely speculation but he has stated that he wants to play in North America this season. If the Caps are willing to give him a deal we could see him in Hershey.
Obviously this is mostly speculation on some of these players as they are unsigned but the roster looks loaded from a talent perspective but possibly a little light on experience. With Neuvirth and Holtby in net this team should be good no matter what but there are a lot of goals missing from last years team. Who might step up and add some scoring?
A look at potential forward lines:
Osala - Aucoin - Gordon
Dubuc - Wilson - Bouchard
Beagle - Perreault - Pinner
Laing - Bruess - Kane
Bench - Reid, GMac, Gustafsson, Hauswirth
Again...just a glimpse and complete speculation but I would be 100% excited if that was the lineup. Not quite as deep scoring wise but still a very very talented team.