As part of NHL.com's 31 in 31 series, our fantasy hockey staff is breaking down each team's landscape. Fantasy-relevant players are listed in order of rank in NHL.com's top 250. Today, we look at the Washington Capitals.
[CAPITALS 31 IN 31: Season preview | 3 Questions | Top prospects | Behind the numbers | More team fantasy previews]
Alex Ovechkin, LW -- The Washington Capitals captain covers goals, power-play points and shots on goal like no other player in the NHL. Even with his lowest goal total (33) in a full season since 2010-11 (32), Ovechkin finished 10th in Yahoo and was the only player with at least 30 goals, 25 PPP (26) and 300 SOG (313). After being moved to the third line because of hamstring and knee injuries in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, he could be drafted lower than usual (mid-to-late first round). But he remains a lock to finish among the fantasy top 15 if healthy on the top line and first power-play unit with Nicklas Backstrom.
Nicklas Backstrom, C -- Even with Ovechkin having a down season by his standards, Backstrom ranked fourth in the NHL with 86 points (23 goals, 63 assists) in 82 games. He led the League in PPP (35) for the second time in the past four seasons, joining Ovechkin among Yahoo's top 10 (ninth). Backstrom's average draft position should be higher than last season (33.9), but he could still fall to the late second round.
Evgeny Kuznetsov, C -- He's likely to produce a point total somewhere in between his breakout season of 2015-16 (77) and the underachieving one that followed (59). That said, Kuznetsov faces linemate questions after the departure of Marcus Johansson (traded to New Jersey Devils) and Justin Williams (signed with Carolina Hurricanes). He could bounce back if he plays with young forwards Andre Burakovsky and Jakub Vrana at even strength, but neither wing has had a full season of fantasy relevance. Kuznetsov could at least hit 20 PPP for the first time in his NHL career if he replaces Johansson on the first unit.
T.J. Oshie, RW -- He benefited from constant exposure to Ovechkin and Backstrom at even strength and on the first power-play unit, scoring an NHL career-high 33 goals on 143 SOG in 68 games (23.1 percent shooting). Oshie is likely to regress in the goals category, but could still shatter his career-best point total (60 with St. Louis Blues in 2013-14) if he plays a full season in those prime spots. If you draft Ovechkin or Backstrom early, Oshie is a great stacking option attainable outside the top 75.
Andre Burakovsky, LW/RW -- The 22-year-old has been behind Ovechkin and Johansson in the Capitals lineup for much of his first three NHL seasons, but is a glaring breakout candidate if he's elevated to Kuznetsov's line. Burakovsky, like the rest of the Capitals, was held scoreless in their Game 7 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference Second Round, but had four points (three goals, assist) with a plus-5 in Games 5 and 6 on the top line with Backstrom. With plenty of secondary scoring to replace (Johansson had 58 points; Williams had 48), Burakovsky is a safe bet for more than 50 points in an expanded role.
Video: WSH@PIT, Gm6: Burakovsky capitalizes on turnover
John Carlson -- He has been limited to 128 of a possible 164 games over the past two seasons because of injuries, but is tied for 15th among defensemen in points per game (0.59) in that span. Three seasons ago, he finished tied for fifth at his position in points (55) and has a high ceiling again after Kevin Shattenkirk signed with the New York Rangers. Carlson could be a bargain in fantasy drafts, especially if available outside the top 25 defensemen.
Dmitry Orlov -- Carlson has quarterbacked Washington's first power-play unit in recent seasons with Matt Niskanen filling in when needed. But Orlov could push for more time in those situations after finishing 154th in Yahoo (23rd among defensemen) with NHL career-highs in assists (27), points (33), plus/minus (plus-30), penalty minutes (51) and SOG (125). He had a limited power-play role (1:08 per game; six PPP) but outproduced Carlson (20 even-strength points) at 5-on-5 (27 ES points), and covered hits (1.5 per game) and blocked shots (1.1) well. The 26-year-old could be a late-round steal.
Video: WSH@PIT, Gm6: Carlson buries a one-timer for PPG
Braden Holtby -- On top of Shattenkirk leaving, the Capitals also lost defensemen Karl Alzner (signed with Montreal Canadiens) and Nate Schmidt (selected by Vegas Golden Knights in NHL Expansion Draft). These losses severely hurt Washington's chances of winning the Presidents' Trophy for the third straight season. Holtby, third in NHL.com's fantasy goalie rankings behind Matt Murray (Pittsburgh Penguins) and Carey Price (Canadiens), should still have at least 35 wins and get the Capitals back to the postseason, but their changes should hurt his peripherals and put his streak of three straight 40-win seasons in jeopardy.
Others to consider: Jakub Vrana (LW/RW), Matt Niskanen (D), Philipp Grubauer (G), Devante Smith-Pelly (RW), Tom Wilson (RW)