Michael Nylander will likely center left winger Overchkin with veteran Chris Clark on his right side. Highly touted Swedish rookie Nicklas Backstrom, 19, was the Swedish Elite League rookie of the year two seasons back and is expected to be a leading contender for the Calder Trophy this season. He'll center Alexander Semin and Viktor Kozlov. They're three big boys, but Backstrom will likely struggle to maintain weight during the grind of an 82-game season, at a time he needs to be adding weight. Coach Hanlon will be watching for fatigue.
Boyd Gordon, Washington's first pick, 17th overall, in 2002, had seven goals and 22 assists last year in his first full pro season. He'll likely center hard-checking Mike Pettinger on his left and rugged defensive right winger Ben Clymer. Brian Sutherby is very hard to play against, but his style takes a toll on his body. He'll center left winger Donald Brashear and hard-nosed Matt Bradley.
Alexander Semin led the Capitals power-play scoring with 17 goals and 38 points. Ovechkin was next with 16 goals and 37 points. Clark had nine goals and seven assists, while Pettinger potted four goals and added six assists. Pettinger and Clymer averaged over two minutes a game on power plays as did less-often used Tomas Fleischmann and Eric Fehr.
The addition of Kozlov, Nylander and Backstrom should free Clark and Pettinger from some or all power-play duties. They are excellent penalty killers, but it's tough to do special-teams double duty and skate a regular shift. Clark had four shorthanded goals, while Pettinger and Brooks Laich each three. Gordon had two and four shorthanded assists.
Up and Coming
The Capitals can ice an NHL-tested fifth line of Brooks Laich centering Eric Fehr on his right side and Tomas Fleischmann, 23, a proven AHL scorer waiting to take a regular NHL shift.
Michael Nylander -- Talented free agents who are 31 or older, like Nylander, are often in position to secure their financial futures. The opportunity to play for a Stanley Cup contender is another important factor. Nylander had the option of staying in New York and centering Jaromir Jagr or going to Edmonton, where he might have centered Fernando Pisani, or Washington to join Alexander Ovechkin. He picked Washington. At the races, when a top jockey has a choice of mounts, his selection is usually an endorsement, the right way for you to bet. Same here. By signing the contract, Nylander indicated he thinks Washington will be the strongest team in the near future. He intends to play a big role in making the Capitals a Stanley Cup champion.