Last night, SI.com writer Alex Pruitt reported an entourage of Las Vegas scouts in DC. Pruitt, who’s one of the few covering the NHL’s 31st franchise on the national level, tweeted six Las Vegas officials were credentialed for the Capitals and Red Wings matchup. The heavy presence suggests they were scouting several players at last night’s 1-0 Capitals victory. Let’s take a shot at what players Las Vegas scouts kept an eye on.
Detroit Red Wings – Mike Green/Defenseman
The 31 year-old, right handed defenseman could be very appealing to Las Vegas scouts. Green is in his 10th season, and overall he’s been a very good player. He’s had some brilliant offensive stretches, including a combined 68 goals from 2007-2010. Very impressive offensive numbers for a defenseman averaging 3 shots a game during that run. However, “Greener” has tailed off over the past few seasons. Green offensively is known for his efficient slap-shot, and was affectionately nicknamed “Game over Green” by Washington fans. Green is in his second season with Detroit, and will have one more year remaining if the Knights select him. It would be a sizable $6mil cap big hit for Las Vegas, but if he’s available he’s worth the price.
Detroit Red Wings- Jimmy Howard/Goaltender
Just a few years removed from being one of the NHL’s elite goaltenders, the 32 year-old Howard is destined for the Expansion Draft. Detroit will most certainly continue to go with Petr Mrazek as their future net-minder. In fact, there are rumors that Howard could be traded this season. If that’s the case, the former Maine Black Bear could still be left unprotected by whatever team he lands with. Howard’s age, contract, and steady decline are mainly why a team would only use him as a post-season rental. Sure, Howard has had some good seasons, but I doubt he’ll be George McPhee‘s best option in 2017.
Detroit Red Wings – Henrik Zetterberg/Left Wing
The heart and soul of Detroit’s team could surprisingly both be exposed by the Red Wings next summer. He’s 36-years-old, but is still playing at a relatively high level as the Wings Captain. However, the Red Wings could play the system, expose Hank and be fairly confident he won’t be selected by Las Vegas. A $6mil cap hit until 2021, coupled with his age and it would be hard to see McPhee take on the Swedish forward. Plus, he’s a career-long Red Wing and should spend the rest of his career until he retires for the Hall of Fame. With the situations surrounding Zetterberg, Detroit knows it’s a long shot they’ll lose their leader. It’s a smart move to expose him, essentially creating an extra protected player for the Red Wings.
Washington Capitals- Dmitry Orlov/Defenseman
Both Orlov and Brooks Orpik will be two defenseman unprotected by Washington. The younger Orlov is the better of the two. Orlov is a slick skating defenseman, that can create offensive attacks. The Russian defenseman gets ahead of himself at times and can freelance into trouble. Some complaints are Orlov’s errant home run passes that can lead to odd man rushes for the opponent. He doesn’t get much time on the power play or penalty kill so his ice time can vary. Overall, he’s a 4th or 5th defenseman but McPhee will need to fill a lineup. Orlov is an RFA at the end of the season. Being in Las Vegas’s control makes him slightly more attractive.
Washington Capitals- Tom Wilson/Forward
Wilson is a beast. He’s big, he’s physical and he’s young. Wilson is an exciting player that loves firing up his team. Especially with a fighting major, although, the 6’4 Center is 0-2 this season dropping the gloves. More importantly, the slugger can put pressure on defenseman with his size and aggressive play. At 22, scouts think Wilson is full of potential. His TOI has been picking up as of late, moving up from the third line. He’s also staying out of the box more this season. Wilson is young, physical, and plays for a successful veteran team. Personally, I think the 2012 16th overall pick would be the perfect player for Las Vegas.
Of course there are more players Las Vegas scouts are watching. The Capitals have some very good players that could be exposed. Justin Williams and T.J. Oshie are two of them. Williams “Mr. Game Seven” is one of my favorite players. He’s incredibly valuable to a contending team like Washington. However, his contract is up at the end of the season and could pose a problem financially for the Caps. Oshie could cause the same stress for GM Brian MacLellan. Both will demand decent money, especially if both forwards have productive seasons. Backup goaltender Philipp Grubauer could be a possibility as a backup in Las Vegas.
One game, six Las Vegas scouts. Could one of these players be targeted? Who knows, your guess is as good as mine.