Capitals’ Top Defensive Prospect Enjoying Solid Year In AHL

The Washington Capitals have been solid this season as they sit fourth in the Metropolitan Division and hold the top Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference. Despite a handful of injuries to several key players, the Capitals have been able to stay afloat as they look to make another run at the Stanely Cup with their veteran core. On the season, they are 27-20-6 and have 60 points but are still without top defenseman John Carlson who has been sidelined since December and is not expected back till at least April but possibly even later. While the Capitals are focused on winning this season, let’s look at how their future unfolds with their top defensive prospect, Vincent Iorio.

The 20-year-old right-shot defenseman has been solid in his first season in the AHL with the Hershey Bears. He was a 55th overall pick in the second round of the 2021 NHL Entry Draft by the Capitals and has played the last four seasons in the WHL for the Brandon Wheat Kings. He now finds himself one call-up away from playing in the NHL and being a regular in Washington’s lineup.

On the season, Iorio has recorded two goals, 12 assists, and 14 points in 43 games while maintaining a plus-9 rating. While these stats don’t jump off the board, they also don’t tell the whole story about Iorio’s skillset. He is an effective and intelligent two-way defender whose patience and poise make him a very good prospect in the modern game. For a 6-foot-4 defenseman, he is fantastic on the breakout, as he has elite passing abilities and complete body control with his skating. Watching him skate, he looks so relaxed before firing off laser passes, even for long three-line passes into the offensive zone hitting skaters in stride. This was showcased a lot during last year in the WHL when he finished with 11 goals, 33 assists, and 44 points in 60 games.

What makes Iorio such an important prospect for the Capitals is the fact they only have one defenseman under contract for next season, and that’s John Carlson. General manager Brian MacLellan does have around $17.8 million in cap space, so giving your top defenseman prospect a chance to prove himself on your third or second pairing is the most likely move. This is especially the case when he is still on an entry-level contract with a cap hit of $845,000, allowing MacLellan to spend that other money elsewhere.

Even though it is more than likely that Iorio will make his NHL debut next year, there is also no rush as he is still just 20 years old and still has plenty of time to develop still. He will be worth keeping an eye on down the stretch this season, as if injuries continue to pile up for the Capitals, fans could see Iorio make a few spots starts here and there or just be called up to the NHL as insurance.

The Washington Capitals return to play tomorrow, Saturday, Feb 11th, as they take on the Boston Bruins at TD Garden. Puck drop is set for 3:30 pm and will be both teams’ first game since before the All-Star break.

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Kevin Santangelo

Co Host of Cue' the Duck Boats Podcast Writer for Inside the Rink

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