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A New Year and a Fresh Start for Two Young Forwards

Despite offseason change, Graovac and Smith-Pelly look to make an impact for Capitals

by Ben Brown @benbrown04 /

As the Capitals start the 2017-18 season, Washington may have a few fresh faces in the lineup from night to night. Two of those new faces are forwards Devante Smith-Pelly and Tyler Graovac, both of whom made the Capitals this fall after playing elsewhere last season.

Smith-Pelly appeared in 53 games in 2016-17 with the New Jersey Devils, and signed with the Capitals as a free agent in July. Graovac skated in 52 games for the Minnesota Wild last season and was traded to Washington for a fifth-round pick in mid-June.

Given the fresh starts in Washington for Graovac and Smith-Pelly, the pair went into training camp with the mindset that they had something to prove.

"Nobody really knew my name at first," said Graovac. "I think my goal all summer in the back of my mind, I was thinking I'm going to come in and maybe there's no opportunity, maybe there's no open door for me, but I'm going to make my own."

Video: WSH@MTL: Smith-Pelly tips in awkward go-ahead goal

Both players bring their own unique skillsets that can help the Caps this season. Graovac stands at 6'5", 208 pounds, and possesses a dynamic blend of size and speed. Smith-Pelly brings some grit as a power forward who doesn't mind mixing it up in front of the net. Despite the fact that Smith-Pelly and Graovac went through a change of scenery heading into the 2017-18 season, they're both very confident in their game and what they can bring to the Capitals.

"I believe I'm a good player," Smith-Pelly said. "I came here with the intention of making the team, and I didn't think of anything else. I came here feeling good about myself and I worked hard this summer. I did everything I had to do in the summer so all I had to do was come in here and play how I know to play. There was a little bit of uncertainty, but in my head I came here to make the team and I wasn't thinking about anything else."

Video: Rinkside Update | Devante Smith-Pelly

With the team set at the forward position at the top of the roster with stalwarts such as Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie, the Capitals will be looking for Graovac and Smith-Pelly to bring strength and a scoring touch to their energy lines.

"I don't really set personal goals and I'm not really into personal accolades or accomplishments or anything like that," Smith-Pelly said. "All I try to do is play the best I can every single game, and if I'm playing the role I need to play and doing it well, that'll help the team and translate into team success. We know the top guys are going to do what they do, so it's up to the guys at the bottom of the lineup and penalty killers to do their job and everything will work out."

Video: NJD@WSH: Graovac quickly jumps on rebound and scores

Graovac and Smith-Pelly's determined mindsets heading into the preseason paid off, but now both players have set their sights on making a strong impact on the Capitals starting tonight and carrying throughout the rest of the season.

"The hard work is just beginning," said Graovac. "These last two weeks feel like a little bit of a month, and you put all of your sweat into it and your work into and you build off of it. It's a fresh start for everybody and for me I'm just getting started. I still have a lot to prove and I'm excited for that opportunity to show what I have."

Video: Rinkside Update | Tyler Graovac

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