Tom Wilson has been suspended 20 games for his illegal check to the head of Oskar Sundqvist during a preseason game on Sunday.
First of all, this suspension is worth discussing from a fantasy impact. Although Wilson himself will probably never challenge for the Art Ross Trophy, Wilson spent over half of his even-strength minutes on the Alex Ovechkin line last season. This deployment helped Wilson to a career-high 35 points last season. Although that point total won’t move the needle in pure points leagues, Wilson is a must-own in leagues that count penalty minutes (187 PIM in 2017-18, 2nd in NHL) and hits (250 HIT in 2017-18, 4th in NHL). The Caps are also committed to Wilson for the long haul, signing him to a six-year contract worth just over $5 million per season.
It’s fair to say that the Stanley Cup champions didn’t miss Wilson at all in their season debut, pasting the Bruins by a score of 7-0. Here’s how their lines looked, according to Frozen Pool:
#1 28.9% BACKSTROM,NICKLAS – OSHIE,T.J. – VRANA,JAKUB
#2 23.2% BURAKOVSKY,ANDRE – ELLER,LARS – STEPHENSON,CHANDLER
#3 23.2% CONNOLLY,BRETT – KUZNETSOV,EVGENY – OVECHKIN,ALEX
#4 17.4% DOWD,NIC – SMITH-PELLY,DEVANTE – WALKER,NATHAN
The most obvious benefactor of the Wilson suspension was Brett Connolly, who was held without a point in spite of taking five shots on goal as well as second-unit power-play time (Wilson earns virtually no power-play time, so we’ll end the power-play discussion right here). Assuming Wilson’s suspension is upheld at 20 games, Connolly makes for a decent pickup in mid-sized to deep fantasy leagues for the duration of the suspension. But don’t bother with Connolly if he’s not on the Ovie line.
There are more names of interest here. For example, Andre Burakovsky could find his way into the top six, although he was on the third line in this game. Those who believe that Lars Eller is legit because of his playoff scoring (18 points in 24 games) will also take note. Eller continued that scoring on Wednesday with the Capitals’ seventh goal of the game (although following a celebration near the Bruins’ bench paid the price, taking a couple of Brad Marchand rights to the head).
Down on the farm, Sergei Shumakov is also a name to store in the memory bank, as he could make his NHL debut if the Capitals suffer an injury or two. The 26-year-old Shumakov was CSKA Moscow’s co-scoring leader (along with Kirill Kaprizov) with 40 points in 47 games last season. With a strong showing for the Hershey Bears of the AHL, Shumakov could even find himself in the Capitals’ top 6 before too long. You can check out Shumakov’s Dobber Prospects profile here.
For more fantasy hockey information, you can follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.
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