Fantasy Pool Look: Ovechkin picking up where he left off

Darryl Dobbs
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Alex Ovechkin ended last season with 36 points in 23 games, nearly vaulting him into the NHL’s scoring lead. It’s almost as if summer never happened.

If only the NHL had 52 games on the schedule in 2012-13 instead of 48 – Ovechkin would have probably caught and surpassed Martin St-Louis. But things didn’t work out that way, so instead the Russian superstar will set his sights on the scoring title for 2013-14.

In the three years since he posted between 109 and 112 points in three consecutive campaigns, Ovechkin has slipped. Especially in the eyes of fantasy enthusiasts. Some were – and still are – crazy enough to say that his 100-point days are behind him. Sorry, no. Ovechkin never lost his membership to my “Big 3″ club. His potential has always been the same as Sidney Crosby’s or Evgeni Malkin’s and kudos to those poolies who took advantage of panicky GMs.

Granted, circumstances could have continued where Ovechkin would fail to reach previous heights. The Capitals could have continued with their philosophy change of ‘defense first’ that was implemented after they were upset by a white-hot Jaroslav Halak and the Montreal Canadiens in the 2010 post-season. Ken Hitchcock or one of the Sutters could have become coach. But odds are against situations like that happening and the Ovechkin we know and love was bound to return.

It took half a season for the (Washington coach) Adam Oates philosophy to take hold, not to mention the adjustment to playing on the right wing. Last February, when OV8 had “just” 20 points in 25 games, was the pinnacle of the “buying low” philosophy for fantasy owners. With 42 points in 26 games since then, those poolies are feeling pretty good.

The domino effect has been tremendous as well. His linemates have been reaping the benefits in a big way. Marcus Johansson has 24 points in his past 25 regular season contests. He’s still not being taken seriously enough in fantasy circles – just 20 percent owned in Yahoo leagues and 75 percent owned in the more keeper-oriented Fantrax leagues. Center Nicklas Backstrom has 28 points in his past 22 games.

And it goes beyond just his linemates. Mikhail Grabovski is getting the Mike Ribeiro treatment. That is to say, while the opposition keys in on the Ovechkin line, Grabovski gets a little more space. The fact that he replaces Johansson on that line during power plays is a nice bonus.

A healthy Mike Green is good. A healthy Mike Green with the “old” Ovechkin back, well that’s Erik Karlsson-like. While a full 82-game season from Green is highly unlikely, if fantasy owners can get even 70 games out of him, he’ll be right up there with Karlsson among the defensemen scoring leaders.

Things aren’t all rosy when it comes to owning Washington forwards. Troy Brouwer and Brooks Laich have yet to find their way (pointless and minus-5 combined), while Martin Erat is stuck on the fourth line. Yes, that Erat. The one they gave up Filip Forsberg to get just six months ago. I don’t know what to make of this Erat demotion, other than he gets as streaky as anyone in the league and a hot streak could happen next month or next game. Laich and Brouwer are Grabvoski’s linemates so as long as he remains hot they should snap out of it as well. In the meantime, enjoy the hefty production from the five Capitals who are giving it.

The Habs…
Montreal has the pleasure of four quality offensive centers under its employ and it’s hard to put a finger on which one will come out on top in terms of points. But Lars Eller, who has been buried on a checking line the past couple of years, is emerging as the frontrunner. Alex Galchenyuk has shifted to the wing on Eller’s line and together along with Brendan Gallagher they have stepped up in a big way, posting a combined 12 points in the first two games. So far, Eller has been taking advantage of increased ice time.

…and Hab nots…
Because, temporarily or not, Eller has become the first-line center, the other pivots are suffering. David Desharnais seems lost out there without Max Pacioretty (sidelined with a wrist injury), while Tomas Plekanec is getting full-time defensive duties. As long as Eller continues, Plekanec will be stuck in a checking role. In a fantasy hockey sense, he’s being ‘”punished” for being the more well-rounded player. While Desharnais, who had a strong pre-season, will probably continue spinning his tires until his buddy Pacioretty returns.

Flying high?
I was just musing in my own blog yesterday that the Flyers will be firing their coach soon and when they do, the players (such as Claude Giroux) will respond. I mentioned that it is a great “buy low” opportunity if you can acquire these players before the firing of Peter Laviolette as opposed to after. But alas, we’re too late…

Injuries, from a fantasy hockey perspective
It’s looking more and more as though Pittsburgh winger James Neal is “week to week” with an upper-body injury. As a result, Beau Bennett moves back onto the Evgeni Malkin line and he’s certainly proven in the past that he can keep up. Jussi Jokinen is on the other wing…

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Darryl Dobbs’ Fantasy Pool Look is an in-depth presentation of player trends, injuries and much more as it pertains to rotisserie pool leagues. Also, get the top 300 roto-player rankings on the first of every month in THN’s Fantasy section. Do you have a question about fantasy hockey? Send it to the Fantasy Mailbag.

Want more fantasy insider information or to contact The Dobber? Check out dobberhockey.com or follow him on Twitter at @DobberHockey.