As part of NHL.com's 31 in 31 series, the fantasy hockey staff identifies relevant players from each team for 2018-19. Today, we look at Washington Capitals players, listed in order of rank in NHL.com's top 250. For more fantasy coverage, visit NHL.com/Fantasy.
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Alex Ovechkin, LW (NHL.com rank: 1) -- He overtook Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid as NHL.com's consensus No. 1 player after Yahoo changed its standard scoring to include hits. Ovechkin is the only player in the NHL to score at least 49 goals and have at least 139 hits in a single season, and he has accomplished that eight times since entering the NHL in 2005-06. If Ovechkin, who turns 33 on Sept. 17, has a similar season to any of the aforementioned, he'll finish as the top-ranked player in fantasy hockey. He had 87 points (49 goals, 38 assists) in 82 games to lead the Stanley Cup champion Capitals last season.
Evgeny Kuznetsov, C (29) -- The 26-year-old finished second on Washington behind Ovechkin with 83 points (27 goals, 56 assists) in 79 games. He established his role as Washington's No. 1 center and formed chemistry with Ovechkin on the top line. Kuznetsov carried his regular season success to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, when he led the NHL with 32 points (12 goals, 20 assists) in 24 games. He should be available late in rounds two or three and can be selected as a standalone or form a high-end stack with Ovechkin.
Video: Evgeny Kuznetsov takes the No. 12 spot on the list
Braden Holtby, G (37) -- He had NHL career-worst peripherals (2.99 goals-against average, .907 save percentage) in 54 games last season. Despite the pedestrian numbers, Holtby was tied for seventh with Tuukka Rask of the Boston Bruins in wins (34). The 28-year-old regained his elite form in the playoffs, when he was 16-7 with a 2.16 GAA and .922 save percentage. Backup goaltender Philipp Grubauer was traded to the Colorado Avalanche on June 22, indicating Holtby likely will start 60-plus games this season. Holtby ranks first in wins (165) and is tied for first in shutouts (21, with Devan Dubnyk of the Minnesota Wild) since 2014-15, and he should be one of the first three goalies selected.
Nicklas Backstrom, C (62) -- The 30-year-old leads the NHL in assists since 2012-13 (324). Backstrom had his fifth straight season with at least 50 assists and third straight with at least 20 goals in 2017-18. Though he no longer plays with Ovechkin at even strength, he gains exposure to the left wing on the power play, where he has 186 power-play points since 2012-13, second in the NHL behind Philadelphia Flyers forward Claude Giroux (189). Backstrom will be available outside the top 50 but could finish as the top-ranked center on the Capitals.
John Carlson, D (70) -- The 28-year-old led NHL defensemen with 68 points (15 goals, 53 assists) in 82 games last season. His 32 power-play points were second at the position behind Shayne Gostisbehere of the Flyers (33), and his 237 shots on goal ranked fifth. Carlson's impressive category coverage led to an eighth-place finish in Yahoo among defensemen. He should be selected among the first 10 defensemen and has the security of playing on the best power play in the NHL during the past four seasons (23.2 percent; 227 power-play goals).
Video: John Carlson takes the No. 8 spot on the list
T.J. Oshie, RW (102) -- His 47 points (18 goals, 29 assists) in 74 games were down from 56 points (33 goals, 23 assists) in 2016-17, but his strong performance in the playoffs, with 21 points (eight goals, 13 assists) in 24 games, might be a better indicator of Oshie's ceiling this season. The 31-year-old was instrumental on Washington's top power-play unit (18 power-play points in 2017-18) and will be relied upon again in the same spot this season. He also gains value with 353 hits in 222 games with the Capitals (third among Washington forwards). If available outside the top 100, Oshie has the team security and category coverage to finish among the best 75 skaters.
Tom Wilson, RW (136) -- With the addition of hits to standard Yahoo scoring, Wilson is perhaps the biggest beneficiary on the fantasy landscape. He ranks 10th among NHL forwards in hits (1,144) since entering the League in 2012-13 and has valuable exposure to Ovechkin and Kuznetsov playing on the top line at even strength. The 24-year-old had an NHL career-high 35 points (14 goals, 21 assists) in 78 games last season playing with the elite duo and continued his offensive breakthrough with 15 points (five goals, 10 assists) in 21 playoff games. It's realistic to project Wilson for 40-plus points and more than 200 hits this season. He's worthy of a middle-round flier and could be stacked with Ovechkin or Kuznetsov.
Jakub Vrana, LW/RW** (194) -- The rookie had 27 points (13 goals, 14 assists) in 73 games but responded with two huge performances in Washington's run to the Stanley Cup. He had three points (one goal, two assists) in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Second Round against the Pittsburgh Penguins and scored the opening goal in Game 5 of the Cup Final against the Vegas Golden Knights. An intriguing part of the 22-year-old's postseason was the chemistry he formed with Backstrom and Oshie on the second line. With a likely top-six role under new coach Todd Reirden, Vrana can be considered a sleeper candidate this season and could return value if selected in the last round.
Other players with fantasy upside in late rounds or off waiver wire: Dmitry Orlov, D; Matt Niskanen, D; Andre Burakovsky, LW/RW**
*Potential 2019 unrestricted free agent
**Potential 2019 restricted free agent
INJ. - Injury concern entering 2018-19