When the Capitals whittled down to the roster they’ll open the season with, any surprising story lines of camp faded away and the team looks awful similar to what everyone thought it would.
“The guys that are going to start are the guys that we expected to be here, so there really weren’t any surprises in that regard,” general manager George McPhee said Monday.
Cuts came Tuesday in the form of defenseman Dmitry Orlov and centers Cody Eakin and Mattias Sjogren, who were sent to the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League.
That means the Caps start with six healthy defensemen and John Erskine and that Mathieu Perreault was the winner of the battle for the final roster spot.
Perreault winning it should come as no surprise to anyone who heard Bruce Boudreau’s declaration Sunday.
“I think our best player all of camp was Perreault,” the coach said. “He played with the energy every night.”
And he led the Caps in preseason points (three goals, two assists). All along Perreault spoke with self-confidence about his chances of making the team, citing familiarity with the system and experience from last season.
And from what McPhee alluded to Monday, the Caps expected Perreault to make the team.
“We had real good competition for one spot, and the guy that’s going to end up getting it was the guy that we thought should get it if everything goes the way we expect it,” he said.
For Eakin and Sjogren, this is a chance for young players to get some seasoning in Hershey before taking a swing at NHL competition. Eakin looked like he needed to build some more body strength before taking on grown men at the elite level; Sjogren looked like he needed to improve his skating ability.
Orlov’s demotion came as somewhat of a surprise given the potential he showed in camp. But the “risk-reward” style of the 20-year-old seemed to bother the Caps’ decision-makers.
“You’re willing to say, ‘OK, listen, we have to take another look at this guy.’ There’s also flashes of, there’s things he needs to learn,” Boudreau said. “You get caught between the ‘Wow, that looks really good’ – between that and ‘Wow, he needs time to understand the game a little bit better.’ ”
At least initially, that understanding will continue in the AHL.