The Caps fell 3-1 to the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday, but that was not the big story of the night. With a lineup full of bubble players, this game was much more about the individual performances of players fighting for a roster spot. Here is who stood out.
Jakub Vrana: Vrana’s speed was on full display Friday. He caought a few Carolina defensemen by surprise more than once when he turned on the jets which drew a holding penalty from Justin Faulik in the second period. In an age where speed has become so important, he looks lke a player the Caps will need for the upcoming season. There are plenty of questions about Vrana’s mentality, but considering the other bubble players battling for a roster spot, Vrana is far and away the most talented of the bunch.
Devante Smith-Pelly: Smith-Pelly played like someone who knew what was on the line in this game. He played with plenty of energy in both ends of the ice, injecting himself into the action every time he was on the ice. He even added an assist on Matt Niskanen’s second period goal, showing good skill and vision to find Niskanen on the far side with a sweet backhand pass.
Nathan Walker: Get this guy on the fourth line already. The young Aussie continues to impress with his high energy and strong, relentless work on the forecheck. He totaled a game-high five hits and is someone the opposing team has to account for whenever he is on the ice. If you have the puck, you can bet he is going to come gunning for you. He was in good shape before this game and he did nothing to hurt his staning with his performance Friday.
Chandler Stepphenson: Did Stephenson make the trip to Carolina? Was he in the building? Apart from a nice feed for Walker in the third period which Walker hit off the post, Stephenson was largely invisible and registered zero shot attempts for the game. That’s a really disappointing effort considering what was at stake. With all the bubble players in the lineup, the coaches were looking for players to make an impact. Stephenson had none.
Alex Chiasson: Playing on a line with Nicklas Backstrom and Andre Burakovsky, Chiasson was given a great opportunity to succeed. Yet, this was probably his worst game of the preseason and it came at a real bad time considering the game Smith-Pelly had. With no contract, Chiasson is at a disadvantage. He doesn’t just have to prove he is worth putting in the lineup, he needs to prove he is worth signing. He made a strong case earlier in the preseason, but not on Friday.
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