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Washington Capitals fantasy hockey outlook

by Matt Cubeta / NHL.com

As part of NHL.com's offseason 30 in 30 package, fantasy hockey insiders Matt Cubeta and Pete Jensen will break down each team's fantasy landscape. They will look at the players at the top of the ranks, an undervalued player, an overvalued player, a deep sleeper (players likely ranked outside the top 200 overall players) and the goalie outlook for each NHL team.

Leading the way: Alex Ovechkin

Ovechkin should be the first player taken in every fantasy draft this fall, and deservedly so. His 53 goals last season were 10 more than Steven Stamkos (43); his 25 power play goals were six more than Joe Pavelski (19); and his 395 shots on goal were 91 more than Rick Nash (304). He led the league with 15 multi-goal games, 27 multi-point games and had at least one shot on goal in each of the 81 games he played in. In 2013-14, Ovechkin's major flaw was his minus-35 rating, but he certainly corrected that under new head coach Barry Trotz and finished with a plus-10 rating last season. And with T.J. Oshie potentially lining up alongside Ovechkin, he could end up with even better statistics this season. Over the past five seasons, Ovechkin leads the NHL with 206 goals, 85 power play goals, 1,671 shots on goal and his 366 points are second (Claude Giroux has 376). His 209 penalty minutes during that span are 33rd most. Anything outside of being Yahoo's top fantasy player next season would be a disappointment for Ovechkin. If you're lucky enough to land the No. 1 pick in your draft, you should select Ovechkin with confidence.

CAPS' FANTASY-RELEVANT PLAYERS

Below is a list of the fantasy-relevant players in the Washington Capitals organization. These players have been arranged by NHL.com's fantasy staff based on projected value and by position. These players range from top-tier assets to deep sleepers and should be on your radar in standard Yahoo leagues.

FORWARDS

Alex Ovechkin
Nicklas Backstrom
T.J. Oshie
Evgeni Kuznetsov
Justin Williams
Marcus Johansson
Andre Burakovsky

DEFENSEMEN

John Carlson
Matt Niskanen

GOALIES

Braden Holtby

* Red indicates newcomer to team

Undervalued: John Carlson

After a solid 2013-14 season, Carlson broke out last season with career-highs in goals (12), assists (43) and points (55). He finished the season as the 11th best fantasy defenseman in Yahoo leagues and I have him ranked 15th at his position this offseason. With Mike Green on the Red Wings, Carlson is the clear-cut leading offensive weapon on the blue line for the Capitals and a season much like last year is well within reach. Last season Carlson's 1:44 of power-play ice time per game ranked second on the team to Green, who had 2:45. Expect Carlson to get that extra time and with the Capitals possessing the League's best power play (25.3 percent last season), that could mean even better statistics for the defenseman. Carlson, 25, has seen his production steadily improve over the past four seasons and could be on the horizon of joining fantasy's elite group of defensemen this season.

Overvalued: Marcus Johansson

Like Carlson, Johansson set career-highs in almost every offensive category: his 20 goals, 47 points, plus-6 rating and 138 shots on goal all were new high points. However, despite all those career-highs, Johansson finished as the 168th most valuable fantasy player in Yahoo leagues. He averages nearly three minutes of power-play ice time per game which results in decent power-play production, but his low PIMs and SOG totals diminish his overall value. He can help owners looking for assists and power-play points, but other than that, Johansson is a depth player at best on any fantasy roster.

Deep sleeper: Tom Wilson

Wilson's offensive production hasn't been good in his first 149 NHL games (seven goals, 20 assists), but he still has the potential to be better. Wilson, 21, is already a contributor in the penalty minutes category (his 323 PIMs over the past two seasons are third most in the NHL) and needs to work on his offensive game, which coach Barry Trotz believes to exist. "I think he's got a great upside, but at the same time, I don't see him as a fourth line winger for the Washington Capitals. To me, he's better than that," Trotz told the Washington Post in May. Wilson found himself in the press box or on the fourth line quite often last season, but if he can find a stable lineup position somewhere among the top nine forwards, he could develop into a true fantasy sleeper capable of 15 goals, 35 points and 150-plus penalty minutes. Even without the lineup stability, his PIM totals makes him a fine gamble with your last pick on draft day.

Goalie outlook: Braden Holtby and Philipp Grubauer

Holtby saw his statistics improve dramatically from 2013-14 to last season, finishing with a career-high 41 wins and his best goals-against average (2.22) and save percentage (.923) since becoming a starting goalie for the Capitals. His nine shutouts were second most in the NHL and he led the League with 72 starts during the regular season before appearing in 13 postseason games, proving to be a true workhorse en route to a career year. But will that workload catch up to Holtby in 2015-16? The Capitals have a tremendous team in front of him and he should be capable of repeating numbers close to last season's GAA and save percentage. With the 23-year-old Grubauer expected to serve as Holtby's backup, I'm not so sure Trotz will let Holtby start as many games as he did last season. Justin Peters was supposed to be Holtby's backup last season, but Peters struggled immensely and was never really trusted by Trotz and his staff. Despite limited NHL action (20 career games), Grubauer has upside and seems to be a perfect fit as Holtby's understudy. Regardless, I expect Holtby to be among the leaders in goalie starts. Last season, he ranked 16th among all players in Yahoo leagues and third among goalies. I have him ranked 31st among all players and fifth at his position this offseason. Holtby, who could compete for the Vezina Trophy, should be off the board before the end of the third round.

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