- The Washington Times
Friday, May 29, 2020

The Washington Capitals and 23 other NHL teams have some big decisions to make.

Teams that will compete in the modified Stanley Cup Playoffs later this summer will be allowed to carry 28 skaters and an unlimited number of goalies on their rosters when they travel to their assigned hub cities. Generally, teams can have an unlimited amount of players during the playoffs, and they can call up minor-leaguers whenever they need, but for 2020 the coronavirus forced some modifications to that system.

The Capitals are discussing bringing 2019 first-round draft pick Connor McMichael up from the Ontario Hockey League as one of their reserve players for the playoffs, general manager Brian MacLellan revealed Friday.

The 19-year-old Canadian center has yet to make his official Capitals debut, only playing in some preseason games last September. But after becoming the 25th overall pick in last year’s draft, McMichael turned in a breakout year at the major junior level, scoring 102 points (47 goals, 55 assists) in 52 games for the London Knights and being named to the OHL Second All-Star Team.

MacLellan said it would be an “invaluable” learning experience for McMichael to spend time around the big-league club.

“He seems to be a guy that can pick up things from good players, from watching them, being around them,” MacLellan said. “The feedback from him last training camp was, you know, he was engaged, he learned a lot from Nick [Backstrom]. He learned a lot from our veteran players. I think it would take a big leap for his development, just to be in that environment, to see how guys work, to see how guys practice, off-ice workouts, nutrition stuff, see our main guys doing it on a daily basis in a competitive environment.”

It’s far from a done deal yet. Teams will be limited to 50 personnel in the hub city, which encompasses players, coaches and other officials they believe need to be there.

MacLellan told reporters that Washington has formed its “initial list” of 50 while the coaching staff and front office discuss which players should make the roster.

“That goes along with black aces, too,” MacLellan said, referring to the minor-leaguers traditionally called up to be reserves in the NHL postseason. “How many black aces do we want to have with us, and with the 50-person limit, can we include in that? We had an initial list, and we’ll just continue to move people around and get to the right number as we go.”

Imagine: the 50th person on the Capitals‘ hub city travel list could come down to adding one more black ace versus a cameraman or a front office official. But the Capitals have two months to figure that out; the league recently said Phase 3, the training camp period preceding games, won’t begin until July 10, so the tournament might not begin until early August.

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