Since the Washington Capitals blew up their roster just a few years ago in 2003-04, a staggering number of players have donned a Caps jersey in our nation’s capital. It is easy to forget all of the names and faces, especially since so many of them played so few games, but I thought it might be interesting to see what they are doing these days.
This is the first part in what we hope will be a season-long series of posts about the Capitals who played in the dark years, many of whom have been forgotten. First in the series, and freshly recalled from San Antonio of the AHL, is Nolan Yonkman of the Phoenix Coyotes.
Nolan Yonkman is a hulking 6’6, 250 pound defenseman the Caps drafted in the second round of the 1999 Entry Draft (37th overall). He played a total of 50 regular season games for the Capitals between 2002 and 2006, posting 8 points. Yonkman played his first NHL game with the Caps on January 14, 2002 against Boston and he scored his first, and only, NHL goal on April 6th against Chris Osgood of the New York Islanders. He played a total of 11 NHL games in 2001-02, his first year out of juniors.
Yonkman missed most of 2002-03 with injury. He showed up in fine shape for training camp in the fall of 2003, just in time to break Michael Nylander‘s leg and force the Caps #2 center to miss most of the season. Yonkman ruined his own knee for the season the next month and was limited to just 1 NHL game and 4 AHL games in 2003-04.
In 2005-06, Yonkman saw action in 38 NHL games, posting 7 assists and a respectable +1 rating. After playing his last game in the NHL on April 18, the Caps bought out Yonkman’s contract in the summer. Yonkman joined the AHL Milwaukee Admirals and played there for the past 4 seasons, earning a gameless NHL call-up to the Predators this February.
Yonkman has carved out a respectable minor league career for himself and had taken on a leadership role in Milwaukee. Signed by the Phoenix Coyotes this past summer to provide minor league depth, his size is still intimidating, but that he hasn’t seen NHL action in 5 years is telling. With the way the Capitals’ defensemen are putting up points this season, it would appear the Caps do not miss him much. Now, if he scores a hat trick in Calgary on Wednesday, we’ll reconsider our assessment.