After a slow start in the first half, the Caps rode a streaking Alex Ovechkin to the playoffs in the second half of the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season. The Caps were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs, but after a 10-14 start, just getting into the playoffs was a victory.
While Washington was able to pull it off last year, they are missing Mike Ribiero this year, who was a key figure in keeping the Caps respectable while they waited for Ovechkin to heat up. Ribiero was in the top three of all major offensive categories for Washington and his absence will leave a hole in the Caps' offensive attack. In an attempt to replace Ribiero, Washington signed Mikhail Grabovski to a one-year contract during the offseason to take over as the team's second-line center.
While the Caps may have been able to fill a void that surfaced during the offseason, they did not do much to improve last year's 27-18 squad that lost in the first round of the playoffs. Washington had to scrap to make it to the postseason in each of the last two years and they haven't developed much young talent or acquired any major free agents to change that pattern.
The Big Guns
Alex Ovechkin (RW): Ovechkin had a truly unique season. He tallied 32 goals in 48 games, including 23 in his final 23 contests, to become a three-time winner of both the Hart and the Richard Trophies. He also finished third in the League in points (56), leading the Capitals to a blistering stretch drive (11-1-1 record) in April and their fifth Southeast Division title in the last six years. Ovechkin was named as the starting RW on the NHL First All-Star team and was also named to the second team as a LW! -- The position he played for in each of his seven prior NHL seasons but for just a handful of games in 2012-13. Ovechkin remains a singular talent and a top four selection in any format.
Nicklas Backstrom (C): Backstrom scored just eight goals last season but ranked third in the league in assists with 40. He missed a considerable part of the 2011-2012 season with concussion issues and injuries are still a bit of a concern here. Keeping Backstrom healthy and fresh will be a major priority for Coach Adam Oates especially since this is an Olympic year and Backstrom can be expected to be a major part of Sweden's National Team. The ubiquitous GEICO pitchman remains a solid source of points but don't overpay, his highwater mark of 101 points way back in 2009-10 will be difficult to repeat.
Marcus Johansson (C): Johansson played in 34 of 48 games last season, despite being hobbled throughout the year by series of injuries. Still, he managed to rack up 22 points on 16 assists and six goals in those 34 games. Once healthy, Johansson closed out the regular season strong with three assists and a goal in the Cap's last six games. Johansson has real sleeper potential and could be a strong late-round pick up this season. At press time Johansson (a restricted free agent) remains unsigned. Monitor his contract situation closely.
On The Rise
Mikhail Grabovski (C): Grabovski played in 48 games with the Maple Leafs in 2012-13, totaling 16 points on nine goals and seven assists. He is only two seasons removed from back-to-back 50-plus point seasons, so he could contribute some scoring depth for the Caps this season. He may be a good under-the-radar-pick this year.
Martin Erat (RW): Erat played in 45 games last season, scoring five goals and notching 19 assists. He dislocated his elbow at the end of the season and opted not to have surgery and rehab the elbow on his own. He came to Washington in exchange for highly-touted prospect Filip Forsberg and played in just nine games. He has consistently been in the 45-points plus range for the last eight seasons and a down year in 2012-2013 may bump him down in drafts and make him a nice late round grab.
Two to Watch
Troy Brouwer (RW): Brouwer has scored 17-plus goals in each of his last four seasons. This feat is even more impressive given the fact the 2012-2013 season was just 48 games long. Despite the shortened season, Brouwer scored 19 goals, good for 16th in the league. Brouwer will be just 28-years old when the 2013-2014 season starts and should be considered as a slightly under-the-radar-pick to help fill out your forward depth once the big guns are off the board.
Braden Holtby (G): Holtby comes into the 2013-2014 season as the Caps' number-one choice in goal. His 23 wins were good for fourth in the league, and his 90 goals allowed put him 10th among NHL goalies. He struggled out of the gate, allowing three or more goals several times in the first month of the season, but he stepped up as the season progressed. He is not yet a top-tier goalie but is expected to get the majority of starts for Washington and would make a fine No. 2 for most fantasy teams. The Capitals defense was eighth in shots allowed when Holtby was in the net, which is concerning and may limit his win total this season.
Mike Green (D): While Green was once again hampered by injuries last season, he did manage to play in 35 of 48 games, notching 26 points on 12 goals and 14 assists. Green hasn't played a full season in three years but remains a fine offensive defenseman. Keeping him healthy is a major priority for Washington and one way of accomplishing this might be to reduce his ice time. Green did finish the 2012-2013 regular season strong, grabbing a point in seven of his last eight games. This was a reminder of what a healthy Green is capable of and you can draft him with confidence, just remember to have a solid backup plan in place if you decide to roll with him.
Brooks Laich (C): Laich played in just nine games last year after suffering a sports hernia early in the season. He had played in 70-plus games in seven consecutive seasons going into 2012-2013. He notched 40 or more points in four straight seasons and was close to returning to the Caps' lineup when they were eliminated from the playoffs last season. Due to the injury, Laich may be a nice under-the-radar grab in the endgame drafts of deeper leagues
Tom Wilson (RW): Wilson is as young as they come in the NHL. He saw three games last postseason at the ripe young age of 19. The Caps will test him during camp this offseason, seeing how well he matches up against larger and more experienced NHL players but the 6' 4” 210 pound winger should be able to hold his own. Fantasy managers will want to keep an eye on Wilson's status as their draft approaches since power forwards with offensive upside are always in demand. He is well worth a long look in keeper leagues but he is several years away from the NHL.
Andre Burakowsky (LW): Burakowsky is another young prospect that keeper leaguers should take note of. Burakowsky is a skilled offensive player but his intensity is a bit inconsistent. However, in a few years' time he should fit right in with Washington's offense-first mentality.