When the coronavirus ended the regular season, the Washington Capitals were on top of the Metropolitan Division, solidifying them a place in this year’s playoffs. Alex Ovechkin was nearing another 50 goal season, including being tied for most goals in the league at 48. John Carlson‘s elite play was gaining him recognition as a possible Norris Trophy winner. And the goalie tandem of Braden Holtby and Ilya Samsonov was nothing short of solid in the net. Now, they’re in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, looking to gain the first seed in round-robin play. To obtain that spot, they’re going to need lots of depth. So, here are the Capitals black aces.
Washington Capitals Black Aces
For the purpose of this article, a Black Ace is a player that the Capitals will be including in their expanded Stanley Cup Playoff roster. A Black Ace wouldn’t regularly have featured in the standard roster and therefore is most likely a minor/junior league call-up.
The term “Black Ace” was once used negatively. The term originated from Eddie Shore, who would refer to spare players as a “Black Ace.” Shore would say that a team would be in bad shape if they had to use one of their Black Aces in a game. However, recently, it has been used more positively. A team would use a Black Ace to help them overcome the loss of a player or if they thought a different player could be utilized in a way to help the team win.
Acting as the Capitals third goaltender, Pheonix Copley would practice with the team. An emergency stand-in if Holtby or Samsonov suffers an injury, Copley will serve in a back-up capacity again. Copley has played 29 games in the NHL, with a save percentage of .901 and a goals-against-average of 2.98. He stood solid in net as Holtby’s backup during the 2018-2019 season.
Officially called up, he is a Capitals Black Ace in net, Copley will help the Capitals make a run at another cup. And, if Holtby walks away into free agency, Copley may have the chance to show the Capitals that he has the ability to take on the backup spot, permanently. He will be the third goalie in line, however, if needed, he will be there to help.
Following the departure of the fourth-line winger Brendan Leipsic, the Capitals will need a replacement. Beck Malenstyn‘s physicality and stellar penalty kill play make him an easy choice. He is arguably the Capital’s prospect with the most developmental progress in his past two seasons in the AHL. Maelnstyn could bring a physical edge to the Capitals game. This is something that is always welcome in the playoffs.
While he didn’t put up any points in the three games he played with the Capitals during the 2019-20 season, he has shown potential as a team leader with the Hershey Bears. He finished the AHL season with seven goals and eight assists in 74 games played. If he needs to go in for a game or two he could fit well in a depth role. He wouldn’t play much, but used correctly he could be very effective.
Arguably the club’s best overall prospect, 19-year-old Connor McMichael had an amazing season in the OHL with the London Knights. Putting up 47 goals and 55 assists in 52 games played, McMichael is on track to do big things.
While unlikely to make his NHL debut under these circumstances, the chance to learn from veteran players like Ovechkin and work with Capitals’ coaches would allow McMichael to gain experience. Missing development camp due to the long break in the season will be a missed opportunity for McMichael and pulling him up for a playoff run will allow him to work on his game and show the Capitals that he’s ready for the NHL.
If he does get into a game or two, expect McMichael to bring a skill element to the game. He has “excellent vision and hockey IQ allowing him to make the correct play.” According to Last Word’s Ben Kerr.
Martin Fehervary, a second-round selection in 2018 is a solid choice to be a one of the Capitals Black Aces. After an impressive training camp in 2018, Fehervary skated with the Capitals during their season home-opener. Due to salary cap issues, the club sent him down to Hershey.
As a top-pair defenseman in the AHL, Fehervary has proved that he is NHL ready. His skating, ability to provide offence when needed and first to arrive/last to leave the rink mentality makes him a great asset to either organization. Unlikely to see game time unless there’s an injury, Fehervary could still serve the Capitals on the backend as early as the 2020-2021 season. Look for him to keep bubble players on their toes throughout the postseason as well.
A solid defensive defenseman for Hershey, Tyler Lewington has played eight games in the NHL. Pulled up whenever there’s an injury, Lewington has shown he has what it takes to play on a bottom pair in the NHL. At 25-years-old, he’s a dependable option for the Capitals defence if they suffer an injury.
Having a little bit of experience in NHL games may mean he is more comfortable if he is needed to play a role in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
In a minor league deal, the Capitals dealt Stanley Cup-winning defenseman Christian Djoos to Anaheim for forward Daniel Sprong. 23-year-old Sprong has had the opportunity to play in 97 NHL games for the Anaheim Ducks and the Pittsburgh Penguins during his career.
In just five games with Hershey this season, he put up six points, one goal, and five assists. He could be another consistent offensive power called up due to injury during this postseason. Another depth piece that has shown flashes of potential over his hockey career, Sprong won’t be the first option to draw in. However, if he does, he has a chance to help the Capitals in a big way.