Washington Capitals HC Bruce Boudreau pretty much said today that Tomas Fleischmann has the inside track for the second line Center spot. Fleischmann, who just a month or two ago, was swirling in the midst of trade rumors to Vancouver or Edmonton, now is the clear front runner for the second spot.
[BLOCKQUOTE]“You look at the center ice position. You’ve got to believe Nicky [Backstrom] has got a job,” Boudreau said. “I’m giving [Tomas Fleischmann] the inside corner [for the No. 2 spot] but you’ve got Marcus Johansson, Perreault and Aucoin and Steckel and [Boyd] Gordon and Matt Hendricks who is a natural center – there’s a lot of competition there. I think we’ve got good centermen and good depth. I just don’t know who is going to be where.”[BLOCKQUOTE]
Flash is not a natural Center, playing most of the last three seasons on the Caps as a left wing. He began the conversion late last season with mixed results. Flash has been seen the brunt of criticism of many Caps fans despite putting up improving numbers each year, including notching his first 20 goal season last year, scoring 23 goals and 28 assists. He notched a career high last season in goals (23), assists (28), plus/minus (+9), and power play assists (13). This season, Flash faces a new test, proving he can center a line with Alexander Semin and likely Eric Fehr. With two goal scorer, Flash could once again see a new career high in assists. At least, in theory he should.
That leaves three players vying for the third center spot. 2009 first round pick Marcus Johansson, veteran Keith Aucoin, and Mathieu Perreault. Aucoin and Perreault are familiar to Caps fans, being part of the two time Calder Cup Champions Hershey Bears. They each saw action in Washington last season as well. Aucoin played in 9 games last season with the Caps scoring 1 goal and 4 assists. He was also the leading scorer in the AHL scoring 35 goals and adding 71 assists. Perreault played in 21 games for the Caps scoring 4 goals and 5 assists with a +4. Perreault notched back to back goals in his first two games with the Caps.
Johansson is the unknown. A phenomenal prospect, Johansson has yet to play in North America, playing in elite junior hockey in his home country Sweden. It is going to be a fantastic battle in camp, with the young prodigy, Johansson, having all the eye and Caps fans hope on his side. Johansson has a big task ahead of him though. With no AHL or any North American experience under him, he must prove he is ready for the big show with The Caps.