When Coach Barry Trotz penned his “ghost rosters” for Washington’s eight preseason games, he left defenseman Tyler Lewington off the list. It made sense to Trotz, at least at the time. Lewington was still young, a seventh-round pick in 2013, and entirely expected to return to Medicine Hat for one more season of juniors. Let him earn experience during camp, Trotz thought, but with blue-line spots at a premium on the Capitals’ roster, Lewington was brushed aside.
“Quite frankly, I didn’t even have him in a game,” Trotz said, until Lewington became the most noteworthy standout during last week’s rookie game versus the Flyers, creating a buzz among Capitals brass for what Hershey Coach Troy Mann called a “meat-and-potatoes” style from a “stay-at-home guy.”
“During the week you probably don’t see that much but you bring it to the game, he was a kid who stood out for me on the back end as well,” Mann said after the Capitals had fallen, 3-0. “It was good to see guys standing up for each other, even when they went after the goalie there and took a penalty, I thought we stood up for guys. That wasn’t a problem there.”
And so Lewington found himself at Verizon Center on Sunday afternoon, soaking in his preseason debut, skating 24 shifts for nearly 18 minutes on the ice, paired mostly beside Mike Moore. Later, he earned more praise from Trotz.
“Young Lewington on the back end I thought was pretty solid,” Trotz said of the 19-year-old.
Lewington had attended training camp last season but played in no preseason games. This season, the Capitals haven’t discussed sending him anywhere but back to Medicine Hat, where Lewington has already played three productive seasons – including 38 points and 121 penalty minutes in 2013-14 – but it’s clear he’s continued to turn heads.
“You try not to think about standing out too much,” Lewington said. “You just try to play solid and work hard. I think good things will happen. Sometimes when you try to stand out too much, you do too much. I just try to stick to my game and go with it. It’s definitely a lot different. Coming in your first year, you’re a little nervous. This year, I have more confidence, little more used to the guys and the coaches. Definitely feel more comfortable, little more experience just with the drills.”
Observing similarly styled defensemen such as Brooks Orpik and Karl Alzner, Lewington said, has allowed him to pick up habits of seasoned NHLers, fuel for his return to juniors.
“I want to see where I can go here, but it’d be great to stick in Hershey,” Lewington said. “I do have one more year in Medicine Hat. Whatever they want to do with me, I’ll take the most of each situation.
“From being at such a high pace, you feel a little ahead of the game, you feel you’re at a faster pace, your confidence is up. Anytime you go from the NHL level back to junior, your confidence is higher. Your game is at the top of where it should be.”