The Washington Capitals have a plethora of skilled forwards. When you’re being compared to Andre Burakovsky, Riley Barber, and Jakub Vrana, it’s easy to get overlooked like Chandler Stephenson has. However, Stephenson has something that Burakovsky, Barber, and Vrana do not yet have: a very high hockey IQ.
Chandler Stephenson has faced a long road to get to where he is right now. He was drafted by the Washington Capitals in the third round of the 2012 NHL draft. He did not sign an entry level deal with the Capitals until just this year. Chandler attributes his commitment to defense as being a huge reason as to why the Washington Capitals like him.
“My first couple of years in the league I focused on my offensive play,” Stephenson said, “but making that step [to the AHL/NHL] you need a defensive part of your games and that’s something I took pride in and that’s something this year the coaching staff took a lot of pride in.”
I think Chandler Stephenson definitely has the right idea. His defense is what makes him stand out. His commitment to defense has shown, as he was a very important member of the Regina Pats’ penalty kill last season. He led the WHL in short-handed goals with eight. He also managed to have a very good season on offense as well, scoring 89 points (30 assists, 59 goals) in 69 games.
Chandler Stephenson has yet to unlock his true potential on offense. Consistent playing time should definitely help with that. I think Chandler has a unique upside. His defense-oriented game suggests that he’d be a very good fit as a third or fourth line center, but if his offense further develops, he could be a good two-way forward.
While I don’t know what Chandler Stephenson’s future looks like, I sure as heck wouldn’t bet against him. He’s smart enough to realize what he has to do to separate himself from everyone else. He’s overcome a number of obstacles to get this far and the Capitals have a head coach who loves defense, so I think he definitely has a future with the Capitals.