Washington Capitals: Early 2019 predictions for Lars Eller

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 20: Justin Faulk #27 of the Carolina Hurricanes and Lars Eller #20 of the Washington Capitals battle for the puck in the first period in Game Five of the Eastern Conference First Round during the 2019 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Capital One Arena on April 20, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/NHLI via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 20: Justin Faulk #27 of the Carolina Hurricanes and Lars Eller #20 of the Washington Capitals battle for the puck in the first period in Game Five of the Eastern Conference First Round during the 2019 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Capital One Arena on April 20, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/NHLI via Getty Images) /
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Lars Eller has an eye for being one of the biggest playmakers in the Washington Capitals bottom-six this upcoming season.

On a different looking Washington Capitals team from the one that hoisted the Stanley Cup a summer ago, Lars Eller will be an integral returner. The third line forward from Denmark is the most experienced and will now have to adjust to life without his usual linemates Brett Connolly and Andre Burakovsky.

Eller finished last season with a career-high 23 assists to go along with 13 goals for 36 points in 81 games. Six of those assists went to Connolly. Eight of Eller’s goals were assisted by Connolly. After Connolly left in free agency to join the Florida Panthers, the Capitals signed Richard Panik from the Arizona Coyotes.

Don’t expect Eller to reach 20 goals in the 2019-20 season but he will be a big factor leading the bottom six forwards. To the other side of Eller will be Carl Hagelin, the kind of player that once was across the ice as an opponent in some intense playoff battles.

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Although Eller will have Hagelin next to him, his third line is now entirely different from the one that won the Cup one year ago. The bottom six as a whole could have just Eller as a Cup hosting returning, unless Chandler Stephenson and/or Travis Boyd beat out newcomers for the opening night lineup.

Eller averaged 16:32 of ice time per game, the most average time on-ice in his career. His ice time should remain around the same range this upcoming season as Eller will also be a big fixture on the Capitals penalty kill.

That unit in itself is hoping to improve from a horrendous season where they finished 24th in the NHL with just a 78.9% kill rate. Eller could also be used to create offense on the power play, on one of the second units.

Eller was the best Capitals skater possession-wise last season with a 51.09 Corsi-For percentage. The third line should be in good hands with the Hagelin-Eller-Panik line.

Though we haven’t seen Panik yet, Eller and Hagelin have had solid chemistry based on the small sample size we’ve seen from Hagelin’s arrival around the trade deadline. Eller and Hagelin’s Corsi-For percentage together in those final 20 regular season games was at an astounding 62.95% (via Natural Stat Trick).

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Prediction: Eller won’t score 20 goals but he’ll have a decent offensive season with 15 goals and 25 assists. He’ll be much quicker and a big component on an improving penalty kill unit.