News and notes from the Capitals’ first day of training camp at Kettler Capitals Iceplex:
Fehr at center: While Caps coach Adam Oates kept his top line of Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Marcus Johansson intact, he tinkered with several other forward lines.
Rookie prospect Chandler Stephenson served as a placeholder for visa absentee Mikhail Grabovski, centering a potential second line of Brooks Laich on the left and Troy Brouwer on the right.
But the real surprise was Eric Fehr centering a line with Jason Chimera on his left and Joel Ward on his right. Another line had Mathieu Perreault centering left wing Martin Erat and right wing Garrett Mitchell and a fourth/fifth line of Jay Beagle between left wing Aaron Volpatti and Tom Wilson.
Fehr has never played center in his NHL career but he earned big points last season under Oates, seeing increased ice time as the season wore on.
Room for Wilson?: Now that training camp has begun and the preseason is just a few days away [Saturday night in Bellville, Ontario against the Winnipeg Jets] the immediate future of Caps prospect Tom Wilson is about to go on trial.
“What indication is he going to give us?” general manager George McPhee asked. “At this point we don’t know. He’s going to have to play. Can we trust to put him out there every shift? Can we trust that he’s going to be good enough defensively and give us something offensively?”
Wilson, 19, has another year of eligibility with the Plymouth Whalers of the OHL. Oates said there is “absolutely” room for Wilson to make the 23-man roster but he hedged when asked if he thinks Wilson is ready now.
“We’re evaluating him all the time,” Oates said. “He’s going to be a great hockey player and we don’t want to slow him down. We’re just trying to figure the best course of action for him.”
Kuznetsov update: McPhee spoke with top forward prospect Evgeny Kuznetsov on Thursday and said the 21-year-old center/left wing is “probably” going to miss 4-6 weeks with an injury to his left shoulder.
McPhee said he spoke with Kuznetsov five days ago, which is when Kuznetsov suffered the injury. He said the Caps have “a great relationship” with the unsigned Russian star, who has one year remaining on his KHL contract with Traktor Chelyabinsk.
“It’s been consistent,” McPhee said of the contact between the Caps and their top prospect. “Once we draft them they’re part of our group and we stay on them, get to know them and work with them and try to help them be [NHL] players.”
Asked if Kuznetsov will be with the Capitals at the end of the KHL season, which concludes March 4, McPhee said, “We’ll see. We hope so, but we’ll see.”
Grabovski update: Mikhail Grabovski remains in Toronto, where he is trying to iron out immigration issues that have delayed his arrival in Washngton. McPhee said the paperwork should have taken 48 hours to process and is hoping Grabovski to be in camp by the end of the weekend.
Game time: Following the Caps’ preseason opener Saturday night in Bellville, Ontario, which will be televised on Hockey Night in Canada, they will return to Kettler for practice on Sunday, then head to Philadelphia for a preseason game against the Flyers, followed by a Tuesday night game in Baltimore against the Bruins, which will be televised by CSN.
The Caps will play their first game at VerizonCenter on Friday, Sept. 20 against the Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks. All of the Caps’ eight preseason games will be 7 p.m. starts.