Dobber's offseason fantasy hockey grades – Washington
For the last 13 years (12 with The Hockey News) I have reviewed each team from a fantasy hockey standpoint, and graded them. My 14th annual review will appear here on DobberHockey throughout the summer. 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 – The NHL’s top team in the NHL last season somehow got better. And younger. Replacing Richards, Chimera and Latta with Connolly and Eller can only be seen as an upgrade. Connolly is the wild card here. A boom-or-bust player, the former sixth overall pick (2010) can put up the points, but each time he’s started to do just that…he suffered an injury that wiped away any momentum. Still only 24, Connolly can chip 40 points from the third line with a bit of PP time. He had 25 points last year.
The Caps have increased their already solid depth in terms of skilled forwards. And if Connolly or Eller falter, they still have Stanislav Galiev waiting for his opportunity. The 24-year-old Galiev spent most of last season in the press box, unable to get into the lineup very often and yet the team didn’t want to lose him on waivers. So obviously they care enough about his future to keep him around.
Ready for full-time – Galiev was part of last year’s crop of the ‘Forgotten Ones’ (i.e. those prospects who are not quite ready for the NHL yet can’t be sent down without clearing waivers where they would for sure get claimed). So much like Jordan Weal (Philadelphia), Jamie Oleksiak (Dallas), Dylan McIlrath (NY Rangers), Frank Corrado (Toronto – actually claimed off of waivers from Vancouver) and others – Galiev was in the press box for all but 24 regular season games. He was allowed to play five games on a conditioning stint in the AHL without hitting waivers, so at least he got that in. But in all he played just the 29 games. Not the greatest for a 23-24-year-old prospect with promise. And barring an injury, Galiev is the 13th forward once again. But this year, that should mean at least 50 games of action. That’s not going to help any fantasy teams, but at least it gives him the chance to prove himself and perhaps he can it into something more. (Read more on Galiev here)
Jakub Vrana won’t make the team out of training camp. But he would have, had he not missed half of last season due to injury. Instead, expect him to get several call-ups this year and perhaps he shows enough to stick in the second half. But at 20 years of age he’s already a point-per-game player at the AHL level so a definite must-own in all keeper leagues. (Read more on Vrana here)
Madison Bowey also won’t make the team out of camp. But the 21-year-old defenseman is starting to figure out things at the AHL level (29 points in 70 games to lead Hershey blueliners). He’ll be called up a few times in the season ahead and is no more than a year away. A future multi-category contributor. (Read more on Bowey here)
Fantasy Outlook – The Capitals were second in the NHL in scoring and Alex Ovechkin finished first in goals as the only NHLer to top 50 last season. I have them as a top three team again this season and the core of the team is relatively young so they’ll be doing this for a few more years yet. The prospect pipeline is probably about average, but there are a couple of gems there (Vrana and Bowey are the two best).
Fantasy Grade: A (last year was B+)