Caps Projections for the Upcoming Season: Defense

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Posted December 22, 2020

John Carlson. (Caps Outsider)

With the 2020-2021 campaign just a few weeks away, the Washington Capitals are looking to make another strong playoff push. If the Caps have a postseason run in their future, it’s going to bank on their blue line. Led by Norris Trophy runner-up John Carlson, Washington’s overall success is bound to stem from the success on the blue line.

New faces like veteran Justin Schultz and Trevor Van Riemsdyk might just be the key to solidifying the back end with Michal Kempny out for the foreseeable future with an achilles injury.

With that said, let’s take a look at some projections for each defender in the shortened 56 game season.

John Carlson

Carlson is one of the best offensive defensemen in the National Hockey League. Finishing as the runner-up to Roman Josi in Norris Trophy voting this past year, Carlson was an offensive machine totaling 75 points in 69 regular-season games. To go along with those staggering numbers, he also led the Caps with over 24 minutes of ice time a game. The 30-year-old assistant captain is second to only Alex Ovechkin the most important part of this hockey team. Another solid season from Carlson would have him putting up 65 points and once again be a Norris contender.

Brenden Dillon

After being acquired by the Caps at the 2020 trade deadline, Dillon stepped into the role of the #1 LHD and was a perfect complement to Carlson on the right. He only played 10 games but that’s all he needed to gain the trust of Caps fans. He’s an experienced stay-at-home defenseman who isn’t afraid to stick up for his teammates and throw down with the opposition. Dillon will log plenty of time on the penalty kill and balance himself out with Carlson’s offensive tendencies. Even if his name doesn’t pop up on the scoresheet often, his presence will be felt this upcoming season.

Dmitry Orlov

Orlov has always been a defenseman that shows patches of stardom but never took the full leap to a top two defensemen. His numbers have been declining the past two seasons. He still is an extremely solid #2 guy on the left side, who you can bank on to get at least 25 points a season and close to 20 minutes of ice time a game. This year, with newcomer Schultz by his side, will Washington’s Russian defender leap back in the right direction? Orlov will likely hover around 20 points but does have upside with an experienced Schultz on the back end with him.

Justin Schultz

This one may be a tough pill to swallow for Capitals fans as former foe Schultz was brought along to be a core part of the defense for the next two seasons. He surely does know the Caps well as his former Penguins sent Washington packing twice. Schultz had an abysmal year in 2019-2020, but that can be attributed to the lack of overall depth on Pittsburgh’s blue line and a mountain of injuries. Schultz is a guy that if put into the right situation can churn out a solid season and quarterback the team’s second powerplay unit. His best days might be behind him, but that doesn’t mean the 30-year-old has nothing left in the tank.

After the solidified top four is where Washington’s D-core drifts slightly into the unknown. Despite that, Jonas Siegenthaler, Trevor Van Riemsdyk, and Nik Jensen are likely to battle it out for spots on the last pairing.

Jonas Siegenthaler

Siegenthaler is likely to once again crack the opening night lineup, as the 23-year-old has parts of two seasons under his belt as the Caps third defenseman on the left side. He also appeared in 7 of the 8 postseason games for the Caps in the Toronto bubble. He has been a staple on the Capital’s penalty kill and finished top 10 in the whole league with over 6 blocks/60 minutes. Siegenthaler is only 23 and will continue to develop and grow into a top tier lockdown blueliner.

Nick Jensen

Washington brought along Jensen to the squad two years ago to fill the always wanted position of a right-handed defenseman. Unfortunately, to this point, Jensen has been underwhelming, providing only 13 assists in 88 games so far through his tenure as a Cap. What he does bring to the table, though, is experience. And come playoff time, the experience is never a bad thing. He will spend the next few weeks battling with this next guy to be the Caps’ sixth defenseman.

Trevor Van Riemsdyk

Van Riemsdyk, brother of former 2nd overall pick James Van Riemsdyk, signed a one year $800k deal with the Caps this offseason in what many considered to be a steal. Similar to Jensen, he has that coveted right handed shot but he also has a winning edge. “TVR” was part of the Blackhawks 2015 Stanley Cup Winning squad so he knows what it takes to end up on top. His offensive numbers are slightly superior to those of Jensen’s totaling 22 points in his last two seasons. He is 29-years-old and he is a guy where what you see is what you get. A low ceiling, yet valuable right handed defenseman.

New Capitals coach Peter Laviolette will have a lot to digest this upcoming season with a slightly revamped defense, but the pieces are there to make Washington’s blue line one to be reckoned with.