Capitals' Top 25 impact players for 2014-15: No. 1: Alex Ovechkin

Capitals' Top 25 impact players for 2014-15: No. 1: Alex Ovechkin
August 22, 2014, 9:15 am
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(Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports)

As part of our summer countdown series, Capitals Insider Chuck Gormley breaks down his Top 25 impact players for the Washington Capitals' upcoming 2014-15 season.

No 1. Alex Ovechkin, Right Wing

Age: 28

2014-15 Salary: $10 million [$9.538 million cap hit]

2013-14 stats: 78 games, 51 goals, 28 assists, 79 points, minus-35, 48 penalty minutes

Projected 2014-15 stats: 80 games, 46 goals, 36 assists, 82 points, plus-3, 40 penalty minutes

Analysis: With his fourth coach in three years this will be another season of adaptation for the Caps’ captain, who will turn 29 in September. The focus under Barry Trotz will be to keep Ovechkin among the NHL’s top goal scorers while cutting back on the number of times he is on the ice for opposing goals. The key to making that happen begins with Trotz convincing Ovechkin to take shorter shifts, providing him the energy to quickly get back into the neutral and defensive zones to turn pucks over. So to adjust to a new way of playing, don’t be surprised if Ovechkin gets off to a slow start, much the way he did in his first year at right wing under Adam Oates. And you might as well start counting now the number of times Trotz says he’s more interested in the way Ovechkin is playing rather than the number of goals he’s scoring. Another catch phrase you’ll hear often is Trotz trying to take the “glide” out of Ovechkin’s game. Ovechkin has developed a tendency to ease off the gas when opponents have the puck and Trotz will be on him all season to hunt the puck down just as ferociously as he does when the Caps have possession. Trotz will need to do all of this without silencing the incredible offensive firepower Ovechkin possesses. No one in the NHL has a more powerful and more accurate shot than Ovechkin, who has led the NHL in goals in four of the last seven seasons. If Trotz can get to Ovechkin, look for his goals and penalty minutes to drop, his assists to increase and his plus-minus to improve dramatically. The key for Trotz will be convincing Ovechkin to judge himself not on the number of goals he scores, but on the number of ways he can help the Capitals win games. If Trotz can accomplish that, this will be a real season of growth for Ovechkin. If not, it will be a very long and tumultuous season in D.C.