Dobber's offseason fantasy hockey grades – Washington Capitals
For the last 15 years (12 with The Hockey News, last year’s via pinch-hitter Cam Robinson) Dobber has reviewed each team from a fantasy-hockey standpoint and graded them.
The 16th 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.
Incoming – Sergei Shumakov, Nic Dowd, Juuso Ikonen, Coach Todd Reirden
Impact of changes – Player-wise the defending Cup champs did well to keep the team intact. They lose a bit of dressing-room presence with Beagle, as well as a top backup goaltender, but the on-ice product remains mostly the same. The main difference is off the ice with the coaching change.
Trotz joined a team in Washington that was coming off of 235 goals scored. In the four seasons under Trotz the Caps tallied 242, 252, 263 and 259. Not a noticeable difference but definitely an increase. Last season the goals were down for the team, despite tremendous growth in that department league-wide. So Trotz changed his philosophy and the most fantasy-relevant thing that he did was up the ice time of his superstars. This was in part because cutting their ice time didn’t work in 2016-17, but also because the third and fourth lines weren’t very good. But the bottom line is – this team won the Stanley Cup when Alex Ovechkin was getting 20 minutes per game, so it’s difficult to envision a scenario where that doesn’t happen again.
Todd Reirden takes the helm after apprenticing as Trotz’s assistant for the last four seasons. Before that, he was an assistant with the Pittsburgh Penguins. So as an assistant coach he has won a game or two. How his coaching style changes things is difficult to ascertain, but given that he just won a Cup under Trotz, it is likely that he won’t make too many changes. All this is just a long-winded way of saying that things are mostly the same with Washington.
Ready for full-time – Pheonix Copley signed a two-year contract a year ago and the second year (this one) is a one-way agreement. Ironically, he is coming off of his worst season in the AHL. That being said, he also played behind the weakest and least-experienced group of his AHL career. However, his purpose is to keep the bench warm and provide the odd spot-start, as Braden Holtby can shoulder a heavy workload. The hope is that Copley can hold his own and provide “The Golden Boy” with enough time to get used to North American ice and take over.
Ilya Samsonov is finally here. No, the Caps won’t anoint the 21-year-old goaltender as their starter this year and hand him 60 games, even if Holtby suffers a long-term injury. But he’ll get plenty of AHL action and will no doubt see several NHL games just to get a taste. Ideally, he’ll take to things well and then come up for 2019-20 as Holtby’s backup or possibly 1B. Holtby’s contract runs out after 2019-20 so things could actually align nicely for Samsonov owners.
An under-the-radar signing this summer was the Caps signing undrafted Russian Sergei Shumakov. This guy was 19th in KHL scoring last season with 40 points in 47 games, which is good but not phenomenal. There are a couple of reasons why this caught my attention. First of all, he’s 25 years old. That’s too old to sit in the minors for very long if at all, so the wait time for an answer on him (fantasy asset or bust) is short. I love that. Short wait times mean quick replacement if it goes sour, rather than hogging a bench spot forever. Second, he was actually 12th in points-per-game average. That kind of gets hidden when you scan down to 19th on the overall points list. He’s also improved in each year he’s played in the KHL and I love seeing steady progression. I also like the fact that Alex Ovechkin is on this team as well as Evgeny Kuznetsov.
Travis Boyd has produced reasonably well at the AHL level with 110 points in his last 137 games there. Now he has to clear waivers in order to be sent down, so the Caps will give him an extra-long look for one of their depth lines. If he doesn’t earn a spot though, he is likely to clear waivers just fine.
Riley Barber also has to clear waivers and is in a similar position as Boyd in terms of his track record at other levels. However, Barber has more competition as a winger than Boyd does at center (Shumakov among the rivals). If he makes the team, do not expect much.
Juuso Ikonen is a small (5-9, 169) Finnish winger who is coming off a fine season in the SHL with Brynas (26 points in 49 games). He’s only 23 and could use a year in the AHL. How he does in that league will better determine his fantasy upside.
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 ninth in scoring last year and it was seriously top-heavy. After the top four scorers at 68 points or higher, the total dropped to 47 and then to 38. The prospect group, with all due respect to Samsonov, just might be the worst in the NHL – at least for fantasy leagues. Looking at their entire roster and all the way through their farm system, I can name only seven players I would own on my fantasy team: Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Nicklas Backstrom, John Carlson, Holtby, Samsonov and Jakub Vrana, with possibly adding Andre Burakovsky, Tom Wilson and Christian Djoos to this list if they can take a big step forward this year. It seems odd to be hard on a team that just won a Stanley Cup and could very well win another, but this is fantasy hockey. I love the first two lines and the top defenseman, and I love the goaltending situation. The bottom just drops away awfully quick.
Fantasy Grade: B (last year was A-)
Other Offseason Fantasy Outlooks:
- Rambings: Trouba Trade Fall Out, Hayes Signs in Philly, Ristolainen, Niku, & Draft Week (June 19)
- Ramblings: Karlsson Signs; Eakins New Ducks Bench Boss; Jamie Benn's Season - June 18
- Fantasy Take: Trouba traded to the Rangers
- Fantasy Poll: Which Player(s) Will Never Again Match Their 2018-19 Production?
- Wild West Summer Series 2019: Calgary
- Eastern Edge: Further goaltender evaluation
- Fantasy Take: Flyers acquire Justin Braun
- Fantasy Take: Kevin Hayes Signs in Philadelphia