While we our only four days into the opening week of the NHL’s training camp/preseason, it seems as though Marcus Johansson will be centering the first line of the Washington Capitals. Johansson will most likely be playing between superstar, and captain, Alex Ovechkin, as well as veteran forward, Mike Knuble. Both of which are known to make those they play around a much better hockey player both mentally and statistically.
Many Capitals fans are probably wondering why Nicklas Backstrom wont be centering these two, and the most I can understand is because Johansson just has a better chemistry with both Ovechkin and Knuble. Towards the end of last season, as well as in the playoffs, Johansson saw more playing time with them and made certain things happen on the ice that Backstrom just didn’t do. According to Capitals coach, Bruce Boudreau, both Ovechkin and Johansson have been making great plays on the ice so far during training camp this week. As of now, it is more of an evaluation of how well the tandem can play together and how much Johansson grew over the summer to work at the same pace as Ovechkin.
While Johansson didn’t play tonight in the Baltimore Hockey Classic, the Washington Capitals were shutout by the Nashville Predators 2-0 in the first professional hockey game played in Baltimore since 1997. Although neither player scored tonight, I wouldn’t be surprised if both Ovechkin and Johansson put up over 90 points each this season.
What does this mean for Backstrom? Quite frankly I’m not sure what will happen with Backstrom. Boudreau really hasn’t touched on the topic. My thoughts are he will center the second line between Alexander Semin and either Joel Ward or Troy Brouwer. This in turn would place Brooks Laich centering the third line and Jeff Halpern centering the fourth line. I personally like all of these line moves going into the season. I can’t wait to see how this lineup plays out in the preseason.
Possibly playing with Ovechkin will also increase Johansson’s fantasy value for this year. So anyone out there looking for a sleeper pick in their fantasy draft, don’t be afraid to take the second year center. I predict a huge year for Johansson now with him getting a lot of playing time on the top line.