Capitals defenseman Christian Djoos was challenged: Coaches wanted to see the way he handled playing in back-to-back games.
Madison Bowey, meanwhile, got more work on special teams in the Capitals’ penalty kill and power play. Like Djoos, Bowey is a young defenseman fighting for a spot on the roster.
With the first game of their 2017-18 season just over a week away, the Capitals are using workouts and the last few preseason games to test their defensemen under a variety of situations.
After all, Washington needs to replace the production of Karl Alzner, Kevin Shattenkirk and Nate Schmidt. Alzner and Shattenkirk departed in free agency and Schmidt was lost in the NHL expansion draft. Particularly, the Capitals need to secure pairings for defensemen Brooks Orpik and John Carlson.
They have yet to find answers.
“As the camp has moved on, it’s been going pretty good so far,” Bowey said. “I’m just trying to learn and improve everyday. I think they give us a great opportunity to do that here.”
There’s not much separation between the remaining defensemen, even after the Capitals’ two rounds of cuts.
Washington narrowed its roster to 30 players Tuesday, releasing defenseman Jyrki Jokipakka from a professional tryout and delegating five players to Hershey.
At times, Capitals coach Barry Trotz has been frustrated with the lack of progress from his young defensemen. He admitted it was disappointing that players who need to step up haven’t yet done so in the team’s scrimmages and games.
“They’re sort of making their own bed,” Trotz said. “They’ll decide who plays and who doesn’t. We might have to get down to the nitty gritty on a couple of guys.”
After a 4-1 preseason loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday, Trotz said Djoos “was able to showcase his skills.” The 23-year-old previously struggled with puck possession and made mistakes in earlier games.
Djoos, a seventh-rounder in 2012, called his performance a step forward. The Capitals have praised Djoos for his hockey IQ, with Matt Niskanen saying Djoos had really good instincts.
Asked what his biggest adjustment has been, Djoos said “everything.”
“One turnover and it’s a scoring chance for the other team, you have to be more careful,” he said. “Be more perfect in the game.”
Djoos, though, passed the test of looking fresh on the second night of a back-to-back.
Not everyone has seized on the opportunities afforded in the Capitals’ training camp.
In the club’s first round of cuts, 2016 first-rounder Lucas Johansen was sent down to Hershey. Only 19, Johansen most likely needs another year to develop. Johansen hasn’t even played in the AHL yet.
“I’m sure they know how talented he is,” said Carlson, who was paired with Johansen. “I think he’s going to be a great NHL player.”
As for Bowey, the defenseman said he’s felt more comfortable this training camp. Bowey, 22, spent the summer rehabbing from a torn tendon in his ankle.
The injury initially happened in December and though he returned to the ice after, he didn’t feel the same. So, he focused his off-season on doing footwork drills and stretching to get his speed back.
Bowey has been paired with Orpik recently.
“If I can keep doing the simple things right and really play a consistent game … I think it can put me in a good spot,” Bowey said.