Dobber's offseason fantasy hockey grades – Washington Capitals
For the last 16 years (12 with The Hockey News) Dobber has reviewed each team from a fantasy-hockey standpoint and graded them.
The 17th 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.
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Gone – Nathan Walker, Riley Barber, Andre Burakovsky, Brett Connolly, Brooks Orpik, Matt Niskanen, Devante Smith-Pelly, Dmitrij Jaskin
Incoming – Brendan Leipsic, Garnet Hathaway, Richard Panik, Radko Gudas
Impact of changes – Another team with a summer of cap-cutting, or in this case ‘pro-active’ cap-cutting. The traded Burakovsky already knowing they couldn’t pay him his raise, and they let Connolly walk as a free agent knowing they couldn’t pay what he demanded. All these moves allowed them to keep Jakub Vrana, who is finally showing hints of becoming a star player soon.
The Capitals focused on cheap replacements for the depth scoring. Leipsic and Panik do not have the upside of Burakovsky nor Connolly, but they do have enough upside to replace the production that those players were giving Washington last season. So the key change here is the acquisition of Hathaway and Gudas. I interpret these two moves as buffer moves, strictly done for Tom Wilson. GM Brian MacLellan obviously noticed that Tom Wilson really broke out over the last 18 months with 60 points in his last 91 regular season and playoff games. Wilson can probably get 60 in 82 if he can play 82 games – that means not getting suspended. Wilson can probably do even better if he can cut down on the penalties. Enter Hathaway and Gudas. Those two can start mixing it up on Wilson’s behalf and hopefully Wilson can just play the game of hockey.
Ready for full-time – Ilya Samsonov is the Caps’ prospect fantasy owners most want to know about. One of the best prospect goaltenders in the world, fantasy owners have been waiting on him since he was drafted 22nd overall in 2015. A rare first-round draft pick goaltender. But expectations are always too steep for prospect goalies in fantasy hockey. It’s as if when a goalie is drafted in the first three rounds, fantasy owners expect him to win 40 games at age 20. But the truth is, the development curve is still going to be slow. If you drafted him in 2015 and expected any kind of return within five years, you were dreaming. But now we can see the light at the end of Samsonov’s tunnel. With Braden Holtby’s contract running out next summer, the Caps may give Samsonov some starts down the stretch to see if a potential Samsonov – Pheonix Copley combination can handle the load in 2020-21. If so, they won’t need to re-sign or replace Holtby (saving more precious cap space) and Samsonov’s rise to stardom arrives that much sooner. If that doesn’t happen or things don’t work out in a promising manner, Samsonov continues to be exempt from waivers until 2022 at the age of 25 – which is a common age for goalies to make the jump. We have a lot more on Samsonov here.
Jonas Siegenthaler got into 26 games last season and did well. But he’s a defensive rearguard and although he will probably make the team, he will not be a fantasy asset.
Washington Capitals prospect depth chart and fantasy upsides can be found here (not yet ready for mobile viewing, desktop only right now)
Fantasy Outlook – The Capitals finished fifth in scoring last season and I have them slipping to ninth for the year ahead (minus 19 goals from last year’s 278). Alex Ovechkin is showing no signs of slowing at 34 (Happy Birthday Ovy – turns 34 September 17). A generational player like him will not slow down for three years yet. And if Vrana joins the supporting cast of 54-point-plus scorers (TJ Oshie, John Carlson, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Nicklas Backstrom) then the depth is certainly there in the top six. On defense there is Carlson and his 65-plus expected points, but then it dips to Dmitri Orlov around 30. Goaltending is strong, with a bright future. The prospect pipeline is almost completely bare outside of goaltending and a couple of defensemen with reasonable fantasy-hockey promise such as Alexander Alexeyev.
Fantasy Grade: B (last year was B)
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2019 Offseason Fantasy Hockey Grades