Photo: Jordan Bondurant/NoVa Caps
On Thursday, Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin spoke to the media on the first day of training camp. He discussed heading into his eighteenth NHL season.
On the new roster ahead of the 2022-23 season, Ovechkin said, “It’s hockey. It’s a business. Obviously, you make a friendship and it’s hard to see your friend go…I wish everybody luck and I’m looking forward to this year.”
The Capitals will be without two core players to start the season: center Nicklas Backstrom (hip, underwent resurfacing surgery on June 18, recovery timeline unknown) and right wing Tom Wilson (torn ACL, underwent surgery on May 25, expected to return early December). Ovechkin called them “key players to us,” but noted that the newest additions in Washington have “experience and skill.” “We’re gonna work hard too and welcome them…we’re gonna play good.”
One of those new faces will be Stanley Cup Champion goaltender Darcy Kuemper. “Obviously, we didn’t play a lot against him, but he’s [a] Stanley Cup Champion from last year. When you have a solid goalie, it gives you more chances to win.” He also added it’s nice to “have experienced guys on your team.”
Regarding the offseason, The Great Eight said it was “good,” mentioning that he spent time with his family, went on vacation, and played some soccer. He said the summer went by quickly, but he’s “happy to be back.”
Ovechkin didn’t do a whole lot of new training during the offseason. “Every year we try to do something different—something more—but right now I’m pretty happy with what my shape is…you have to be ready 100% for training camp.”
The 37-year-old finished last season with 90 points in 77 games, which included 50 goals. He’s “at that age when personal goals are nice,” but understands that each year is closer to the end of a career. Ovechkin still expressed determination to carry that success from last season into this one: “I wanna win. I wanna be in the playoffs and fight for the Cup.”
However, the Capitals captain reiterated his day-by-day approach heading into his eighteenth season: “I’ve always said it’s day-by-day. You can look forward to March. Today we finished our skating test—It’s a good thing. Tomorrow’s gonna be hard practice, so we’ll start from there.”
Ovechkin did not comment on who would replace Wilson as the top-line right-winger or who would fill Backstrom’s spot at center, mentioning that it would all be up to head coach Peter Laviolette. He said there will be a “big opportunity for different guys to step up and take the spot.”
The Capitals have suffered four consecutive first-round exits in the playoffs since winning the Stanley Cup in 2018. On that sense of urgency for the postseason, Ovechkin said having healthy players is key. He also explained that “the first twenty games are important” in terms of gaining points for those occasional slumps teams can encounter during the season. “You don’t want to only play for six months. You want to play eight months and fight for a Cup.”
Washington selected left wing Ivan Miroshnichenko with their first-round pick (#20 overall) in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft back in early July. Ovechkin called the young Russian a “great pick” for the team and a “young player who can be.” [a] superstar and can be good.” He hasn’t spoken to Miroshnichenko yet, but according to Ovechkin, “We can talk to him anytime.” He wishes him luck and hopes Miroshnichenko can be in DC next season.
By Della Young