As part of our summer countdown series, CSNwashington.com Capitals Insider Chuck Gormley breaks down his Top 25 impact players for the Washington Capitals’ upcoming 2014-15 season.
No. 19: Jack Hillen, Defenseman
2014-15 NHL Salary: $700,000 [$700,000 cap hit]
2013-14 stats: 13 games, 0 goals, 1 assists, 1 point, minus-4, 4 penalty minutes, 18:16 average ice time
Projected 2014-15 stats: 28 games, 2 goals, 3 assists, 5 points, plus-2, 8 penalty minutes, 13:45 ice time
Analysis: Entering the final year of a one-way, two-year contract, Hillen likely will enter training camp seventh on the Caps’ defensive depth chart, behind John Carlson, Brooks Orpik, Matt Niskanen, Karl Alzner, Mike Green and Dmitry Orlov. His 2013-14 season was pretty much a washout, beginning with a career-threatening broken tibia on Oct. 5 and ending with a March 25 open-ice collision with teammate Alex Ovechkin, who appeared to be going the wrong way on a one-way street. In between those injuries was a courageous battle back from a leg fracture near Hillen’s knee cap. Hillen said he will need a complete summer of strength training if he hopes to return to training camp at 100 percent. When he is healthy, Hillen is an effective, puck-moving defenseman who can push the pace of a game. He also has some familiarity with Barry Trotz, playing 55 games for him in Nashville in 2011-12. But since signing with the Caps before the 2012 lockout, Hillen has missed 94 of the club’s 130 games due to injury and his lack of size [5-foot-10, 190 pounds] can be exposed by bigger forwards in the corners and around the goal crease. That said, Hillen is a viable seventh defenseman behind the blue line corps currently assembled, but could feel some added pressure from depth defenseman Connor Carrick.