Heading into the NHL training camp this off-season, it seemed as though it would come down to the final week before the final forward roster spot would be filled. And boy was that prediction spot on. After the Capitals’ fourth pre-season game last night, the race for the final playoff spot is still as tight as can be. The only problem? There are four young, highly talented forwards remaining on the Capitals roster and only one will make the final cut. The four remaining players are Mathieu Perrault, Mattias Sjorgen, Chris Bourque, and Cody Eakin.
The proverbial front runner heading into training camp, Mattias Sjorgen, really hasn’t proven his worth at the NHL level. He has produced minimal points in the games he has played in during the pre-season, and hasn’t shown any consistency at the highest level of the game. I expect Sjorgen to be placed on Washington’s AHL affiliate, the Hershey Bears, this season. He may see playing time on the Capitals roster at some point this season, but I don’t expect to see him in the big leagues often this year.
The other top prospect heading into training camp, Cody Eakin, has been playing well, but is still lacking in consistency. He did record a goal in last night’s win against the Columbus Blue Jackets. That is only his first point of the preseason but he has been playing a very strong game. I don’t believe he will make the cut either, though. He has always played consistently in the WHL, but there is a huge difference between junior hockey and the NHL. I also believe that he will play for the Hershey Bears this season, will seeing playing time in the Nation’s capital if injuries arise.
One of my favorite players to watch growing up, Chris Bourque, has been making a name for himself this pre-season. Something that Bourque has never done was put up many points when he got the chance to play in the NHL. He was always a flop, whether it was when he played for the Capitals previously, or for the Penguins when he played for them. Last night, Bourque recorded an assist on each of Washington’s three goals. That tally equaled what he had two seasons ago in 21 NHL games. Over the past year Bourque spent time playing in the Swiss League and KHL and looks as though he has matured greatly. I wouldn’t be surprised if Bourque were to make the final spot on the roster heading into the regular season.
Finally, there is Mathieu Perrault. The one player that I feel is completely prepared to play full-time in the NHL from what I’ve seen this pre-season. Perrault recorded a goal last night in the Capitals game against the Blue Jackets. Perrault, who has also struggled with consistency at the NHL level with only 14 points in 35 games last season. However, Perrault is a dimunitive playmaker that could be a good fit centering many great scorers on the Capitals roster.
With only over a week left in the preseason, don’t be surprised if all four of these players appear in each of the Capitals’ final games. As I stated, I do believe that Mathieu Perrault will make the final roster spot, but it really is still up in the air and any of these great, young players could be game changers in the upcoming season.