Fantasy Puck Preview: Washington Capitals

Scott Cullen
9/27/2008 1:53:02 AM
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After a strong push into the playoffs last season, the Washington Capitals are a team on the rise, with a lot of talent that will hold fantasy appeal.

First and foremost, both on the Capitals and throughout the league, Alexander Ovechkin is the premier performer in the league and his value as a fantasy performer is only enhanced by his position -- left wing -- having a relatively shallow pool of talent.

Second-year centre Nicklas Backstrom is on his way to stardom as well after a 69-point rookie season. He could use more goals (he only had 14 last year), but if he's playing with Ovechkin, a point-per-game seems like a safe projection.

It's tough to ask veteran Viktor Kozlov to match last year's 54 points and plsu-28, because few players start putting up a string of career-best seasons in their mid-30s, but Kozlov has to be considered as a depth option at the very least.

Looking for a bounceback season, Alexander Semin dropped from 73 points in 2006-2007 to 42 last year, but he does have big-time talent; he just needs to harness it on a more consistent basis.

Another Cap who can expect to be better this year -- provided he stays in Washington -- is veteran centre Michael Nylander, whose shoulder woes contributed to his going minus-19 in 40 games last year.

Even injured, though, Nylander put up 37 points and could conceivably double that total and get back to the kind of production he had in the previous two seasons with the Rangers.

As long as Nylander remains with the Caps, Sergei Fedorov isn't likely to be hugely productive, but the 38-year-old finished well with Washington last season, so he could have value at some point during the season.

A couple of blue-collar forwards have also shown a scoring touch in the past, so they bear watching.

Brooks Laich turned in a stunning 21-goal performance last year, including 13 in 32 games after the All-Star break. He's only of value in the deepest leagues, but should be on your radar.

Chris Clark had his 2007-2008 season ruined by injuries, but he's a gritty player who has 55 goals and 219 penalty minutes in 170 games since arriving in Washington.

The Caps also may have room for a young forward like Eric Fehr or Tomas Fleischmann to play in a complementary scoring role, but both are at the stage where they need to prove they can do it.

On the blueline, Mike Green ranks among the league's elite, rather suddenly after breaking through with 18 goals and 56 points last season.

His supporting cast, however, isn't particularly strong in terms of fantasy production.

Veteran Tom Poti went from 32 power play points with the Islanders in 2006-2007 to just eight in Washington last year, so he can be better.

Big Jeff Schultz was the next highest-scoring blueliner, with just 18 points, but if he continues to move into a more significant role, he may eventually score enough to warrant fantasy interest.

Jose Theodore seemed to be clinging to his career before he was handed the starting job with the Avalanche in January, then he played very well for the second half, making his value for this year uncertain.

Theodore should benefit from playing a on a strong team in a weak division, but it's difficult to put a lot of faith in him based on three months of solid play over the last three seasons. As a fantasy backup, he may be worth the risk but, rest assured, he's a risk.

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