Forwards Garnet Hathaway and Brendan Leipsic will don the red, white and blue for the first time tonight while defenseman Bobby Nardella and forwards Connor McMichael, Aliaksei Protas and Joe Snively will skate in an NHL preseason game for the first time.
Leipsic and Hathaway were signed as free agents on July 1, and Nardella and Snively were both signed as college free agents last spring. McMichael (first round, 25th overall) and Protas (third round, 91st overall) were Washington draft choices in the 2019 NHL Draft.
All four of the young players making their preseason debuts against Chicago played at last week's Prospect Showcase tourney in Nashville, and all have obviously had three full days of camp drills, workouts and scrimmages as they head into Monday's game.
"I think I played pretty good at the Showcase," says McMichael, "so [it gives me] a little bit of confidence I think going into tonight's game. I think I'll be fine tonight. I'm looking to show everyone what I've got."
In a Sunday scrimmage at MedStar Capitals Iceplex, McMichael and linemates Chandler Stephenson and Damian Riat accounted for all three of their team's goals, showing some instant chemistry.
"Yeah, it was cool," says McMichael. "I got to know them a little bit more than I did before, so we should click well tonight, and I'm excited."
Video: Pregame Locker Room | September 16
Nardella also had a strong showing at the Showcase. A native of the Chicago area, he will be facing the team he rooted for as a kid on Monday night.
"I'm obviously very excited," says Nardella. "I think it helps that I was here [in Northern Virginia] for most of the summer. I'm kind of comfortable around the guys and around the staff. Hopefully in the game tonight my nerves will calm pretty early, and I can lock in on the game."
Snively hails from Herndon, Va., and played youth hockey in the area before starring for four seasons at Yale University. He's the first local product looking to crack the Caps roster in 20 years, since Jeff Halpern made the opening night roster off the campus of Princeton University in the fall of 1999, with a short stop at AHL Portland at the tail end of the '98-99 season. Snively has taken the same path so far; he acquitted himself well in nine games with AHL Hershey at the tail end of last season, scoring two goals and totaling seven points.
Playing By The Rules - At this time of the hockey calendar, it's worth reviewing the rules relating to preseason games in terms of how many "veterans" a team must dress for each exhibition contest. Here is how rule 15.4(c) reads from the current collective bargaining agreement between the NHLPA and the NHL:
A Club shall be permitted to dress a minimum of eight (8) veterans for any Exhibition Game. For purposes of this Section 15.4(c), a veteran shall constitute either: (1) a forward or defenseman who played in thirty (30) NHL Games during the previous season, (2) a goaltender who either dressed in fifty (50) or more NHL Games or played in thirty (30) or more NHL Games in the previous season, (3) a first round draft choice from the most recent year's Entry Draft, or (4) any Player who has played one-hundred (100) or more career NHL Games. The matter of Player participation in Exhibition Games shall be referred to the NHL/NHLPA Competition Committee for its consideration and recommendations, if any, in accordance with Article 22.
New Age - Among Washington's 20 dressed players for Monday's exhibition opener, all have yet to celebrate their 30th birthday. The greybeard of the group is center Nic Dowd, who turned 29 in May.
With 454 games worth of regular season NHL experience, Tom Wilson is the most experienced Caps player in tonight's game against the Hawks. Among the blueliners, Christian Djoos holds that honor with 108 games.
Video: Rinkside Update | Tom Wilson
Kid Hawks - As is typical for early preseason road games, the Blackhawks are bringing a youthful roster to the District for Monday's preseason opener. Most fans will remember veteran NHL forward Kris Versteeg, who played for Chicago's Stanley Cup championship teams in 2010 and 2015. The 33-year-old winger is back in the Hawks organization after splitting last season between Omsk Avangard of Russia's KHL and Vaxjo HC of the Swedish Hockey League; he signed a one-year deal with AHL Rockford - Chicago's top minor league affiliate - back in April.
With 643 regular season NHL games under his belt, Versteeg is the oldest and most experienced player in the Chicago lineup for Monday's game. The other 19 players expected to dress for the Blackhawks in the preseason opener have a combined total of 874 NHL games to their credit.
In The Nets - The Caps will dress netminders Pheonix Copley and Ilya Samsonov for tonight's preseason opener, and as was the case last season, Copley will get the start and is expected to go the distance.
"Pheonix Copley is going to play the whole game tonight," says Caps coach Todd Reirden. "We talked going into camp about taking a good look at everybody involved in the competition, and tonight we've decided that Pheonix will play the whole game."
As for Chicago, the Hawks are bringing Collin Delia and Matt Tomkins along to handle the goaltending duties tonight. Delia, a 25-year-old native of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., has 18 games worth of NHL experience, most of which he garnered in 2018-19. He owns a 7-5-3 lifetime record in the NHL, with a 3.65 GAA and a .906 save pct. Delia claimed one of those wins over Washington, coming out on the right side of an 8-5 decision over the Caps on Jan. 20 in Chicago.
Tomkins is a third-year pro who was the Hawks' seventh-round choice (199th overall) in the 2012 NHL Draft. To date, only eight of his 87 pro appearances have been at the AHL level. All of the others came with the Indy Fuel of the ECHL.
All Lined Up - Here's how we expect the Caps to look when they take the ice against Chicago for Monday's exhibition opener at Capital One Arena, followed by the Blackhawks roster for tonight's tilt:
Video: Two-Man Advantage | September 16
28-Leipsic, 72-Boyd, 43-Wilson
63-Gersich, 26-Dowd, 21-Hathaway
18-Stephenson, 24-McMichael, 94-Riat
47-Malenstyn, 59-Protas, 91-Snively
11 Brendan Perlini
22 Ryan Carpenter
28 Aleksi Saarela
32 Kris Versteeg
36 Matthew Highmore
45 Dylan McLaughlin
47 John Quenneville
57 Anton Wedin
64 David Kampf
67 Jacob Nilsson
92 Alex Nylander
95 Dylan Sikura
27 Adam Boqvist
39 Dennis Gilbert
41 Joni Tuulola
56 Erik Gustafsson
63 Carl Dahlstrom
68 Slater Koekkoek
74 Nicolas Beaudin
60 Collin Delia
90 Matt Tomkins