Predicting the Washington Capitals taxi squad.
When the NHL announced the new division realignments and a 56 game regular season, they also announced some changes to how teams can manage their cap space and roster sizes with the addition of “taxi players.”
Each team is allowed four to six taxi players and one must be a goalie unless the team is carrying three goalies on the roster. Waiver rules and salary cap implications would still apply if the team wants to send them to the AHL.
Taxi squad players are permitted to travel, practice, and participate in team activities with their NHL team. Players can be recalled to the NHL squad on any day but must be done before 5 p.m. to play in that night’s game. Goaltenders can be recalled at any time if a team doesn’t have two active goaltenders to play.
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So this raises the question of “Who will be the Washington Capitals taxi players?” This rule change allows four to six of the Capitals’ top prospects to get the opportunity to see NHL action and with Peter Laviolette‘s tendency to test and build young players, we should see them used relatively often.
Based on the current roster there are two spots available before you get to the taxi squad. Most likely Conor Sheary, the former Pittsburgh Penguin who Washington signed yesterday will take up one of those. The seventh defensive spot is most likely taken up by Trevor Van Riemsdyk who the Capitals acquired in free agency this past off-season.
With the Capitals signing Sheary, this could bump Daniel Sprong down to a taxi squad or a scratch spot. Most likely Connor McMichael will be the last forward selected to the official roster after playing in his final World Junior Tournament for Canada.
Now the first taxi squad option is Martin Fehrevary. Fehrevary spent most of the 2019-20 season with the Hershey Bears in the AHL. During that time he was a staple player on defense and got a lot of playing time. He also earned two separate three-game stints with the Caps during the regular and a spot on Washington’s 2020 Stanley Cup Playoff bubble roster. Fehrevary improved greatly in the second stint and boosted his big league minutes. Fehrevary is easily the Caps’ best defensive prospect and will look to make the jump to the big leagues as a taxi player in 2021.
Another taxi squad spot is Paul LaDue. LaDue was acquired as a free agent during this past offseason. He has spent his years splitting time between the Ontario Reign of the AHL and the Los Angelos Kings. LaDue put up 27 points with nine goals and 18 assists in 48 games with the Reign. LaDue is a solid two-way defenseman with more NHL in-game experience than Fehravary and some other young prospects.
Now to add some offense to the group. The first forward up after McMichael is probably Brian Pinho. Pinho was with the team in the 2020 Playoff bubble making his NHL debut against the New York Islanders. He has also played two full seasons with the Hershey Bears. He will likely continue to be high on the Capital’s radar as an offensive prospect.
To finish out the skaters is the last available player that joined the Capitals in the 2020 playoff bubble, Phillipe Maillet. Maillet has played two full seasons with the Ontario Reign in the Los Angelos Kings farm system and one with the Hershey Bears. He has produced over 30 points in each of his seasons in the American Hockey League. Maillet will likely be added to the taxi squad as the Capitals showed their fondness for him when they added him to the bubble roster.
Lastly, Washington would likely add Pheonix Copley to the taxi squad as their single goalie. Vitek Vanecek was chosen to join the team in the bubble last year showing that he will likely assume the back-up role after Henrik Lunquist announced he will not be joining the Caps.
Obviously, no one really knows how the Caps are going to structure this roster or how many taxi squad players we choose to take especially with Laviolette now leading this team. There is also confusion on how the taxi squad will be used and if the Caps will want their best young prospects to stay in their respective leagues and gain as much experience as possible or join the NHL this year. Based on how the Capital’s organization has treated its prospects in the past, this seems to be most likely.