Ovechkin

Looking Back at Alex Ovechkin and how he’s - somewhat surprisingly - becoming underrated in fantasy hockey.

This isn’t your older brother’s Alex Ovechkin.

Gone are the years of 50 goals and 110 points. Replaced with up and down goal totals to go along with a middling Washington team devoid of consistent secondary scoring. A downturn was inevitable, especially for a scorer entering his late twenties.

What has surprised me, though, is how far he has slid in the eyes of some poolies. While his numbers are far from ‘vintage’ Ovechkin, they’re only considered poor when compared against his own gaudy resume. When stacked up against his peers he is still arguably the most valuable asset in the majority of formats.

Take 2013-14 an example: first in goals and shots, eighth in points, and second in powerplay production. If you’re in a league that has instituted hits, he is one of a select few star players that actually contribute, finishing 22nd among forwards with 204. He is, to put it plainly – a machine.

And yet the rankings this summer don’t seem to reflect his dominate numbers. I don’t want to specifically call-out certain outlets, since I know firsthand how difficult it is to put together concise rankings. The second they are published people like me are rifling through them looking for inaccuracies. You really can’t keep everyone content. Suffice it to say, Ovechkin has been routinely left outside of the top four or five.

Yes, his plus minus was historically bad last year. Matching weather forecasts in the arctic circle. If your league includes it as a category he certainly hurt you. But it’s unfair to label him as a poor defensive forward based solely on one year worth of data. He’s the same guy that has recorded plus ratings of 28, 45, 8, and 24 at different times in his career. Plus minus is, by and large, a flawed statistic when evaluating individuals. It’s very useful when looking at teams overall, and Washington was not good at keeping pucks out of their own net.

So I wanted to use this week’s column to think back to a simpler time. When Ovechkin was unanimously regarded as the near perfect fantasy hockey specimen. It was a heck of a fun time to draft you’re your older brother remembers it well. Here are Dobber’s top 50 rankings from May of 2008:

 

Rank Player Team
1 Sidney Crosby PIT
2 Alexander Ovechkin WAS
3 Evgeni Malkin PIT
4 Vincent Lecavalier TB
5 Jason Spezza OTT
6 Joe Thornton SJ
7 Ilya Kovalchuk ATL
8 Dany Heatley OTT
9 Marian Hossa PIT
10 Pavel Datsyuk DET
11 Eric Staal CAR
12 Jarome Iginla CGY
13 Henrik Zetterberg DET
14 Daniel Briere PHI
15 Alexander Radulov NSH
16 Nicklas Backstrom WAS
17 Marian Gaborik MIN
18 Martin St. Louis TB
19 Marc Savard BOS
20 Daniel Alfredsson OTT
21 Brad Richards DAL
22 Anze Kopitar LA
23 Ryan Getzlaf ANA
24 Ales Hemsky EDM
25 Mike Ribeiro DAL
26 Zach Parise NJ
27 Patrick Kane CHI
28 Henrik Sedin VAN
29 Daniel Sedin VAN
30 Olli Jokinen FLA
31 Rick Nash CBJ
32 Paul Stastny COL
33 Thomas Vanek BUF
34 Mike Richards PHI
35 Jaromir Jagr NYR
36 Derek Roy BUF
37 Peter Mueller PHO
38 Paul Kariya STL
39 Alex Kovalev MTL
40 Corey Perry ANA
41 Patrick O'Sullivan LA
42 Shane Doan PHO
43 Scott Gomez NYR
44 Nikolai Zherdev CBJ
45 Petr Sykora PIT
46 Mats Sundin TOR
47 Alexander Frolov LA
48 Jonathan Toews CHI
49 Jeff Carter PHI
50 Brenden Morrow DAL

 

A couple quick notes on these. I sometimes forget just how highly ranked Jason Spezza was. Have to wonder how he and Heatley’s career arcs would have developed had they been able to grow old together.

The list didn’t strike me as THAT outdated, at least until I noticed Daniel Briere at 14th and Scott Gomez at 43rd. Both are strong reminders that things can change awfully quickly in fantasy.

Back to Ovechkin. In spring of 2008 he was in the midst of a 65 goal, 112 point, 446 shot season. It would be his second time surpassing 50 goals and 100 points over the course of three seasons. In fairness to Dobber, his rankings explicitly state they are for ‘points only.’ Which helps to explain why Crosby was able to hold down the top spot despite being noticeably less well rounded in multi-category formats.

I can remember our keeper league at the time legitimately considering whether a “no Ovechkin rule” was warranted. He was shooting one and half times more than the next closet guy and was a virtual lock for 50 goals and 40 powerplay points. We ultimately left him in the draft, reasoning that since ‘hits’ weren’t included the rest of us at least had a fighting chance of winning.

A lot of the talk this summer has centered on the fact that he is becoming increasingly reliant on the man advantage to pad his totals. And that’s true, to a degree. He’ll be 29 years old in September and isn’t quite the same dominating, physical force he was five or six years ago. But I almost look at his difficulties producing at five-on-five as an opportunity. He scored 51 goals with virtually zero help from his linemates, on a Capitals team that was 13th in goals per game. Can you imagine what his numbers would look like with a bit more puck luck at evens and a better supporting cast?

If Washington can improve, even modestly, in 2014-15, and Ovechkin’s linemates shoot at a percentage higher than 3.8%, then we could be looking at something special. Is 60, or even 65 goals possible? Maybe. There is plenty of room to push upward from last season.  

A scary thought if you don’t own the first overall pick.  

 

 

Looking Back...at April, 2003 Top Players      

 

Darren Kennedy (@fantasyhockeydk) is a contributor for DobberHockey and Mckeen’s. He’ll talk about anything and everything… except Kovalchuk. Never, ever, Kovalchuk.

 

 

 

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