Pieter Laviollette’s First Lines for Training Camp

Washington Capitals took the shining ice early on for the second day of training camp on Friday. The first skating group was made up almost entirely of players expected to hit the ice in the first game of the regular season.

Coach Peter Laviolette He gave us a first glimpse of what his initials might look like within that group. The main points of interest come in where Connors is lined up on the list.

As we reported on Thursday, Conor Brown is getting a chance to book a top row spot with Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov while Tom Wilson is out recovering from off-season knee surgery. Brown is not new to a top six job and has said in the past that he is very comfortable with this exact scenario.

“I think it’s going to be easy,” Brown said of playing with Ovi and Kuzy in July. “There are two of the biggest talents in the league for a long time. I’ve been on the other side of it. Obviously it would be great to play with these two guys. This team has a lot of good players in the standings, so I don’t think there’s a bad place you can fall. I think I’ll have some time there and throughout the squad. When it comes to playing with these guys, they are world class players, fun to watch, and a lot of fun to play with.”

Other natural options on the list other than Brown for this role include TJ Oshie, Anthony Mantha, and Marcus Johansson. With Wilson and Niklas Backstrom’s injury cases, things should unravel completely in pre-season for him to be named with the top six, Laviolette said Thursday.

“Because of what we’re dealing with, with Tom and Nick, I’m not sure where it’s right,” LaViolet said. “So we’re going to try things out in practice, we’re going to try a few things in show games and see where it goes and what looks good with Kuzy and Ovi. If we can find the right mix in there it could be him. We’ll take a look at it and see.”

But the highlight of the inclusion from Friday morning was Conor McMichael taking the lead in the second line with Dylan Strom flanked to the left. Versatility is an important thing that Laviolette preaches and he prefers to have multiple players in his squad who can play central and wing.

“You’ll see him (McMichael) in both training camps,” LaViolet said Thursday. “There are two other players in the same position where they can play as a wing or a position. We will put the players in the matches and we will evaluate from there.”

When asked if Dylan Strom was in the same situation, the veteran coach quickly answered in the affirmative.

“He’s a guy for me who can play both positions,” Laviolette said. “I really like that even with Nick siding to the side at the moment, he can put five centimeters into the lineup, and I always like that because when a central man comes down now, you have someone who can move normally. It’s a little easier to replace a winger.”

Note that it also appears at the start of camp that Gabriel Carlson and Matt Erwin could initially be on Lukas Johansen for a place as an extra defensive man. If the Capitals only carry seven defensive men to start the year, the standings for the shortlist could be reduced to a competition between these two backguards.

The other competition to watch will be in the bottom six left wings. It looks like Marcus Johansson, Conor Sherry and Axel Johnson are all vying for one of the two spots out there.

Banner photo: Elizabeth Kong/RMNB

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