Welcome to NHL.com's "Fantasy Faceoff," where our panel of insiders will dissect individual matchups to help determine which player carries more fantasy value. Torn between two players on draft day? Look no further than NHL.com for the edge on the most compelling positional toss-ups as your fantasy draft approaches.
Earlier this week, NHL.com fantasy expert Matt Cubeta debated the center position and NHL.com contributor Matt Sitkoff tackled left wing. Now we move on to right wing, where fantasy insider Pete Jensen weighs in on who he believes should be selected first, Alex Ovechkin or Patrick Kane.
Then, after a slow start and a position change under new coach Adam Oates, Ovechkin went on a multi-category outburst – making owners who passed on him regret their move. At the conclusion of the 2012-13 season, Ovechkin finished as the top-ranked Yahoo! Fantasy player.
But even with Ovechkin, 27, emerging as the favorite for top-ranked fantasy right wing entering 2013-14, Chicago Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane proved last season that he warrants late first- or early second-round consideration in your upcoming drafts.
Kane, like Ovechkin, bounced back from a subpar 2011-12 campaign with strong totals in nearly every category. But, unlike Ovechkin, Kane (C/RW-eligible) capped off this past postseason on a high note by winning the Conn Smythe Trophy and raising the Stanley Cup for the second time in his career.
All things considered, Ovechkin and Kane each make a strong case to be atop the fantasy right wing rankings. But, with all due respect to Kane, Ovechkin's past production and future potential puts him on a different level.
Here are a few reasons why Ovechkin carries rare fantasy value:
** Ovechkin is the only player over the past three seasons to total 200-plus points, 100-plus PIMs and 800-plus shots on goal. For those whose leagues categorize hits, Ovechkin has totaled 576 over the last three campaigns -- putting him among the League leaders in that department.
** His 65 goals in 2007-08 was the highest single-season total by a left wing in League history. If Oates' impact on him in year one is any indication, Ovechkin's move to right wing could help him rediscover that past goal-scoring prowess.
** Ovechkin has hit the 100-point plateau four times in his career and the 30-goal mark in each of his eight NHL seasons. If it wasn't for the shortened season (82-game pace in 2012-13: 376 SOG), Ovechkin could have had 300-plus shots for the eighth time.
** No player is more represented among the single-season shots leaders than Ovechkin, who has produced the second-, third- and sixth-highest outputs in history (528 in 2008-09, 446 in 2007-08, 425 in 2005-06).
** Ovechkin led the NHL in goals (32), power-play goals (16) and shots (220) in 2012-13. His points (56, T-3rd) and power-play points (27 PPP, T-1st) totals were also among the NHL's best.
** Of the seven players with 23 or more goals last season, Ovechkin had the most PIMs (36). He's had four seasons of 50-plus PIMs, with his career-best being 89 in 2009-10.
** Ovechkin currently ranks 11th among active players with 371 goals in 601 career regular-season games. The 10 players above him have each played 1,000-plus games.
So why are fantasy owners so hesitant to put stock in Ovechkin? Potential red flags include his point-production consistency, the Capitals' move to the Metropolitan Division and the offseason departure of power-play sidekick Mike Ribeiro.
Ovechkin's 2011-12 point-per-game average (0.83) fell to less than one per contest for the first time of his career. But his 2012-13 improvement (1.16) rewarded owners who stuck with Ovechkin (1.22 career average). To those who saw Ovechkin's Hart Trophy season as merely a great second half, his 53 points in his final 40 games after only three in his first eight refutes that argument.
NHL realignment could impact Ovechkin's value, but should not be considered an overriding factor. There is such competitive balance on a season-to-season basis and Ovechkin is very familiar with the teams in his new division. Ovechkin did serious damage last season against the Southeast Division (16 goals, 29 points in 18 games), but also had the same goal total with nearly a point per game (27 in 30) against the rest of the League. So, this divisional shift shouldn't worry fantasy owners too much.
Indeed, Ovechkin's elite-level numbers simply outweigh the aforementioned risks.
On the flip side, there are many positives surrounding Kane's value. He posted at least one point in 35 games (T-3rd in NHL) and touched on five of the six standard-league fantasy categories. Only his PIMs total in 2012-13 (8) could be considered subpar.
If you take Stanley Cup Playoff success into account when drafting, Kane (nine goals, 10 assists, 88 SOG in 23 playoff games) has the clear edge. Ovechkin, meanwhile, left something to be desired in the Capitals' 2013 first-round exit (1 goal, 1 assist, 30 SOG in seven games) against the New York Rangers.
Both are known to provide owners with category coverage, but Ovechkin stands at another level. Kane has never hit the 40-goal, 90-point, plus-20, 60-PIM, 40-PPP or 300-SOG plateaus, all of which Ovechkin has reached multiple times in his career.
Ovechkin and Kane were each drafted No. 1 by their current teams and have dealt with lofty expectations since entering the NHL. More importantly, each came out with a purpose in 2012-13 to reaffirm his placement among the League's premier fantasy assets.
Kane anchors a strong top-six forward arsenal in Chicago and should be treated as a top-15 overall asset entering 2013-14, but the bottom line is that Ovechkin's explosiveness gives him a much higher fantasy ceiling moving forward.
Don't make the same mistake twice. Once point-production extraordinaire Sidney Crosby goes off the board at No. 1, Ovechkin needs to be at the top of your wish list.
Follow Pete Jensen on Twitter: @NHLJensen
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