Training camp mailbag: Hockey is back!

J.J. Regan
NBC Sports Washington

Hockey is finally back.

On Thursday, the defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals will converge on MedStar Iceplex for physical exams and tests and then on Friday they hit the ice for the start of training camp. That means it is time to say goodbye to my wife and son until spring and say hello to my winter family, the Caps and their fans.

So, let's kick things off with a pre-training camp mailbag!

Peter S writes: Do you like Nathan Walkers' chances for making the roster? He was great in Game 6 against Pittsburgh!

The problem for Walker is that there just may be too many bodies.

An NHL roster will consist of four forward lines of three players plus one or two extras. That means there are a maximum of 14 forward spots available.

Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Tom Wilson, T.J. Oshie, Nicklas Backstrom, Jakub Vrana, Andre Burakovsky, Lars Eller, Brett Connolly, Devante Smith-Pelly and Chandler Stephenson all look like locks, barring an injury or unexpected trade. That's 11 players.

That leaves only three spots left for Walker, Travis Boyd, Nic Dowd, Riley Barber, Liam O'Brien, Sergei Shumakov, Shane Gersich and any other players who might emerge from camp.

Let's also remember that both Boyd and Dowd were signed to one-way contracts in the offseason which means the team clearly envisions both players as having NHL roles this year. I have to assume when the season starts, both those players will be on the roster.

At the most, there are three spots available for Walker to compete for, but more realistically there is maybe one open spot and that's only if the Caps carry two extra forwards instead of one.

On a related note….

Pete Deitos writes: Who will be the fourth line center?

Most likely it will come down to Boyd or Dowd. There is a level of familiarity with Boyd and he has shown off a lot of skill so far in the informal skates. I think both players make the lineup, but I would give Boyd the edge at 4C for now.

There is a potential wildcard to this, however, and that is Chandler Stephenson. Stephenson found a home on the third line in the playoffs as a wing, but he came into the league as a center. What if a guy like Shumakov comes in and lights it up this preseason? Suddenly you have to move a winger down. If Stephenson gets bumped to the fourth line does he suddenly end up in the conversation to center the fourth line or does the team view him strictly as a wing?

Tina Lewendowski writes: More exciting play, Ovi one-timer or LeBron dunk?

The slam dunk is the most overrated play in all of sports. In a game in which 200 points are going to be scored, I'm supposed to go crazy 6-foot-8 player can dunk on a 10-foot basket for two points? Does anyone still play defense in basketball anymore?

Give me the one-time all day long. One goal means a heck of a lot more in hockey than two points do in basketball.

Steve Farmer writes: Why is Andre Burakovsky still here? Why hasn't the team traded him yet? He's inconsistent and always injured.

First off, for a team that tried to keep its roster together for another run at the Cup, trading away the guy that scored two goals in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final would be a pretty big departure from that strategy. Second, you would think that his Game 7 performance and his four points in five games in the Stanley Cup Final would buy him a little more leeway from the fan base, but I guess not.

Burakovsky is a top-six talent who has dealt with inconsistencies and injuries through his career which is something the general managers of the other 30 NHL teams will be well aware of. When you make a trade, you need to make sure you are at least getting equal value in return. For everyone out there who wants to trade Burakovsky, think of all the reasons why you do. Everything you just thought of, every general manager will be aware of if the Caps try to trade him.

If the Caps can't get equal value for Burakovsky in a trade, it's a nonstarter. Even if they could, his ceiling is high enough that I believe it would be wise to give him another season to see if he can finally have that breakout year we've all been waiting for.

Don F. writes: With the dumpster fire garage sale in Montreal, shouldn't the Caps have tried to go after Alex Galchenyuk or Max Pacioretty?

No and no.

Mark Shrader writes: Will Alex Alexeyev be playing in Hershey next season?

Nope. In fact, it is far more likely he plays in the NHL this year rather than the AHL. I'll explain.

Alexeyev currently plays for the Red Deer Rebels of the WHL. The NHL and the Canadian Hockey League (which includes the WHL as well as several other junior leagues) have an agreement that says 18 and 19-year-old prospects cannot play in the AHL.

Alexeyev could technically play in the NHL and play up to nine games without even burning a year of his contract, but he won't be in the AHL this year because he can't.

T Chandler writes: Pineapple on a pizza, yea or nay?

I'm guessing you are a fan of Capitals Overtime and my frequent debates with Neil Greenberg.

Pineapple is a delicious fruit, but keep that crap off my pizza. There is only one place where a pineapple pizza is acceptable and that's the garbage can.

Lauren Gettel writes: When is training camp schedule going to be release to the public?

The schedule is supposed to be released sometime on Wednesday.

Reilly Evans writes: Hey there! I was wondering, what is every players' favorite type of pasta? Let's go Caps!

…Ok. Well this is a new one.

We already know about Alex Ovechkin's love for Mama Lucia, but after the playoffs last season I would have to say the Caps love a healthy portion of Tortorella.

See what I did there?

 

Want to have your question answered in the next mailbag blog? Send it in to CapitalsMailbag@gmail.com!

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