The Starting Six series comes to you to dive into the best player at each position all-time for every organization. The biggest and best at each position, with the most memorable moments in franchise history. Here is the Washington Capitals all-time lineup.
Starting Six: Washington Capitals All-Time Lineup
Centre: Nicklas Backstrom (2007-Present)
Since being selected fourth overall by the Capitals in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, all Nicklas Backstrom has done is produce. During his ten seasons in Washington, Backstrom has recorded 60-plus assists five times. He currently has 540 career assists, which ranks first all-time in Capitals history. The Swede is always dangerous, but is especially lethal on the powerplay. Backstrom led the league in powerplay points last year, and was also tops in that department during 2013-2014 season. In fact, Backstrom has ranked in the top five in powerplay points for the past four seasons.
Another reason for his dominance has been his ability to stay healthy. Other than the 2011-2012 season when he missed 40 games with a concussion, Backstrom has been injury-free. In his other nine seasons in D.C, he has played at least 75 games, with the exception being the lockout-shortened season.
Over his ten-year career, Backstrom has always been regarded as one of the top centres in the game. A big time point producer with game-breaking skill, it’s not hard to see why Backstrom is the top centre in Capitals history.
Left Wing: Alex Ovechkin (2005-Present)
Absolute no brainer here. No one comes close to matching Alex Ovechkin‘s dominance, production, and importance in Washington Capitals history. From the moment he took the ice as a member of the Capitals, he has been a star. He is the franchise leader in goals (558), points (1,035) , powerplay goals (212), and game-winning goals (95).
Ovechkin has won the Maurice “The Rocket” Richard Trophy a record six times and has recorded 50-plus goals seven times, including 65 goals in 2007-08. Ovechkin has also taken home a bunch of other hardware. He’s won the Hart Trophy and Ted Lindsay Award twice, the Art Ross, The Calder Trophy, and the Lester B. Pearson Award.
Not only has he been the star of the team on the ice, he has also been a huge part of the leadership group. At the age of 24, Ovechkin was named the 14th Captain in Washington Capitals history. He is the first European captain in Capitals history and the second-youngest when he was given the C.
It won’t be long before Ovechkin owns almost every franchise record. He is not only the best player in Washington Capitals history, he is also arguably one of the best players in NHL history. He has almost captured every individual accolade that a player can get. There is, however, one glaring trophy missing from his resume.
Right Wing: Peter Bondra (1990-2003)
While Alex Ovechkin seemingly owns every major goal-scoring record in Capitals history, the ones he doesn’t have belong to Peter Bondra. Selected in the eighth round of the 1990 NHL draft, Bondra is one of the best snipers in Capitals history.
Before Ovechkin, Bondra was the Capitals winger everyone feared. He ranks second in games played (961), goals (472), points (825), and powerplay goals (137). The two goal-related records he does own: short-handed goals (32) and hat tricks (19). He scored 30-or-more goals nine times, including two seasons of 50-plus.
The biggest accomplishment of his career may be leading the Capitals to their only Stanley Cup Final appearance. He lead the team in scoring during the regular season, with 78 points in 76 games. Bondra missed time in the playoffs, appearing in 17 of the 21 games, recording 12 points. He had seven goals, which tied him with three others for the team lead. He was never flashy, but Bondra always got the job done. He was the face of the Capitals franchise for a long time, and one of their all-time greats.
Defensemen: Calle Johansson (1988-2003)
It is always nice when the franchise leader in games played deserves to make the list. Calle Johansson appeared in 983 games for the Capitals, more times than anyone else. Traded by the Sabres to the Capitals midway through the 1988 season, Johansson would be a fixture on the Capitals blue line for the next 15 seasons.
Johnasson provided an offensive punch from the back end. The Swede netted double digit goals four times in his Capitals career. He also put up over 30 points in ten of his fifteen seasons in Washington. He ranks in the the top ten in franchise points leaders with 474, the most points by any Capitals defensemen. Being the highest scoring defensemen in franchise history and the franchise leader in games played, is an easy recipe to be included on an all-time line up.
Defensemen: Rod Langway (1982-93)
Rod Langway was an absolute stud for the Capitals in his eleven seasons. For a period of two seasons, Langway was the best defensemen in the NHL. He won back-to-back Norris Trophies. Langway won the first during his first season with Washington in 1982-83 and repeated in 1983-84. The Capitals blue liner is one of eight players to win the award back-to-back.
During those two seasons he also finished in the top five in Hart Trophy voting, finishing runner-up to Wayne Gretzky in 1984. He also was selected to two All-Star First Teams and was named the the Second Team in 1985.
Langway was known as a big, tough defensemen. Listed at 6’3″, 219 pounds, the Capitals blue liner was a tough match-up. He also provided a bit of offense from the back end. He had 20-plus points in five of his eleven seasons.
Goalie: Braden Holtby (2010-Present)
It is hard to believe, but in just seven seasons Braden Holtby is already the best goalie in Capitals history. Now, that says something about the quality of goalies the Capitals have had and how good Holtby is. Since he burst on the scene in 2010, Holtby has been one of the best goalies in the NHL.
Holtby ranks first in career goals-against-average (2.31) and save percentage (.922) with no other goalie in history having a save percentage above .920 (goalies playing in 100-plus career games). He has also posted 32 shutouts, second most all-time. The Lloydminster native has made 299 starts. He has also won at least 40 games in each of the past three seasons, leading the Capitals to back-to-back Presidents’ Trophies. The Capitals net minder took home the Vezina Trophy in 2016 and finished second in voting in 2017. All in all, it isn’t that hard to see why Holtby is the best goalie Washington has ever had.