Dobber's offseason fantasy hockey grades – Washington
For the last 12 years over at The Hockey News, I have reviewed each team from a fantasy-hockey standpoint and graded them. Now that I am no longer with THN, my 13th annual review will appear here on DobberHockey. This is not a review of the likely performance on the ice or in the standings, but in the realm of fantasy hockey.
Impact of changes – While the Fehr and Ward losses will be tough to fill, the playoff experience that Williams brings, as well as the continued development of Evgeni Kuznetsov and Andre Burakovsky, could do the trick. And by most accounts (including mine), Oshie is an upgrade to Brouwer. In the category of 'scoring goals', this is a better team.
The Caps lost some puck-moving ability on the blue line, but it won't be as bad as you think. With Mike Green off to the Red Wings, the Caps are missing one of the better quarterbacks in the league. However, with some shifting of roles, this can be easily compensated. John Carlson has really come into his own, and Matt Niskanen was just waiting in the wings for an opportunity like this in Washington. In fact, one could argue that he was brought in last summer to replace Green, but had to be brought in a year early because that's when he became available. In the seven-plus games that Green missed with an upper-body injury last year, Niskanen had six points. Very promising for what's ahead for him.
Ready for full-time – Burakovsky is as close to a lock as a prospect can get. As with all prospects, he could certainly play his way back to the minors. But the smart money is on him not doing that. I expect a quick start, much like last year, followed by the usual inconsistencies we see in young players – and subsequent ice time reduction that we tend to see when Barry Trotz is the coach. And then an injury will hit someone higher up in the lineup and Burakovsky will be back rolling again. The end result should be around 40 points.
Dmitry Orlov missed most of the regular season healing from a serious wrist injury. By the time he returned, he had pretty much missed the campaign anyway so the team just sent him to Hershey for three games. He's ready to go now and with 119 NHL games under his belt he should be a safe bet to make the squad. He is also a potential puck-mover and thus could shoulder some of the load left by Green. Pencil him in for 20 points in 60 games, give or take, and if he stays healthy he could give you more.
Goaltender Philipp Grubauer is capable of matching Braden Holtby's numbers if he was given the opportunity. But that won't happen unless Holtby gets hurt for the long term. He'll continue to play in the AHL, but expect him to get called up to the NHL for spot starts. And he'll be the guy over Justin Peters if and when Holtby ever gets hurt.
Connor Carrick could be a poolie's dream if he gets any kind of ice time in the NHL at all. Coming off an AHL season that saw him reach 42 points and 132 PIM, you can see the multi-cat potential. But I consider the 21-year-old more of a midseason call-up.
Fantasy Outlook – There was some skepticism that the Caps (read: Alex Ovechkin) could score at a prolific clip under a Barry Trotz system. But that was laid to rest after Ovechkin finished fifth in scoring, first in goals, while Backstrom was sixth. With Oshie on the scene and Kuznetsov and Burakovsky developing, things should continue to improve. From a fantasy standpoint, the prospects pipeline is average, with four forwards in my Top 100 prospects and two defensemen in the Top 20. Goaltending, of course, pushes this ranking even higher because Holtby is a Top 5 fantasy goalie.
Fantasy Grade: B+ (last year was B-)
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