Hey guys! We are on our second-to-last stop here for 31 in 31: the reigning Cup Champs, the Washington Capitals! Over the next month, I will be taking a look at each team’s players to watch out for going into the 2018-19 fantasy hockey season: The 31 in 31 daily segment. This analysis features everything from surefire studs, to sleepers, to prospects that may make an appearance at some point this season. Please let me know if you guys enjoy this type of material!  Reminder that the stat totals are from last season.

Forwards

Alex Ovechkin – 82GP 49-38-87. First off, congrats to Ovi on finally getting his Cup! Though he is a consensus top-five pick in fantasy, I have a feeling Ovi’s 87-point explosion will be hard to repeat. The Caps are off to a high-powered start thus far, but I think he regresses back to around 75 points.

Nicklas Backstrom – 81GP 21-50-71. Continually one of the NHL’s most underrated players, Backstrom is good for a minimum 70 points in my book. Likely a third, maybe even fourth round pick if you want to grab him!

Evgeny Kuznetsov – 79GP 27-56-83. The 26-year-old seems to just keep getting better and better every year. Though I’m probably the low guy on Kuz just because of the small sample size (you will see this with a lot of younger guys in my articles), there is no doubt he will have another killer year. I won’t be drafting him, but I’m sure he will make someone else happy in the third round or so.

TJ Oshie – 74GP 18-29-47. There is no question we are starting to see 31-year-old Oshie regress, but so long as he is within this deadly Washington top-six he still holds some fantasy value in later rounds!

Jakub Vrana – 73GP 13-14-27. 22 years old and plenty of room to jump up into a more prominent role with Wilson’s recent suspension, look for the young Czech to smash his rookie-season point total. Certainly considered a sleeper in my book with the recent boost in ice-time.

Defence

John Carlson – 82GP 15-53-68. I had been waiting for Carlson to break out, and what better year to do so than his contract year. Now that the man is paid, I expect him to be an offensively dominant minute-muncher for the Caps. I’d seriously consider taking him as a #1D, but I have seen him also slip to #2 in some leagues!

Dmitry Orlov – 82GP 10-21-31. Likely to be passed up in some leagues, Orlov munches minutes despite not being paired with Carlson. More minutes will hopefully mean more scoring opportunity, as the 27-year-old appears primed to break out in his fourth full NHL season.

Goalie

Braden Holtby – 54GP 2.99GAA 907SV%. Though Holtby’s numbers were a little uncharacteristic last season, he will continue to win games and thus earn fantasy points with this offence in front of him. He is historically one of the first five goalies off the board, but he seems like a safe pick to me given the team in front of him.

Rookies/Prospects

Brian Pinho – NCAA: 40GP 12-20-32. Pinho is a sixth-rounder that came way back in 2013 for the Caps, as he just finished his final year at Providence (NCAA). Pinho will likely take the year to transition into the AHL, but brings with him a tremendous nose for the net and ability to finish. With decent size and shot, he may even be ready to compete for a bottom-six NHL role come next year.

Riley Sutter – WHL: 68GP 25-28-53. Showing a sizable improvement from season-to-season, Sutter appears primed for a big fish small pond year with Everett (WHL), already tallying six points in his first six games. A third-rounder in the most recent draft, it surprises me that the 6’3” power forward has already been signed by the Caps. Look for him to have a big year and maybe even get the nod for the WJC.

Garrett Pilon – WHL: 69GP 34-46-80. Looking to make the jump from major-junior to the AHL this season, Pilon is a 2016 third-rounder that possesses an ability to create all kinds of open space for himself, or bust past a defender to be a pass option. He possesses the killer instinct that allows him to finish off plays with conviction, and might have all the tools to be a prolific scorer down the road. I will be keeping my eye on him as he transitions this year to Hershey (AHL).

Alexander Alexeyev – WHL: 7-30-37. With arguably one of the most annoying names I have ever tried to say out loud, the Capitals took Alexeyev with their 2018 first-round pick. Likely a shoo-in for Russia’s WJC team on the back-end, the big-bodied D is off to a great start with Red Deer (WHL) this season. Likely to earn a roster spot with the expiration of Orpik’s contract next season, hopefully we see this kid shine in major-junior this season.