The good folks at Fantasy Hockey Scouts asked me to be their Capitals expert again for their annual Bloggers Breakout Q&A. Each year they poll the blogosphere for team-related and league-wide analysis; my pick last season of Mike Knuble as breakout player earned high praise in retrospect, despite some initial doubts (“Really? You’re picking a 37-year-old for a breakout season?” Yes, really.).
They asked about the Capitals’ breakout player this season, who’s due for a fall back to Earth, and more, along with a few entertainingly silly ones. My answer to their “Taylor or Tyler?”: “Is this a ‘Twilight’ question? Which one’s the werewolf again?”
Check out my answers to Capitals Breakout of the Year, Best Value Fantasy Goalie, Stanley Cup Pick, and more from the Q&A on their site, along with the responses of other bloggers. In the meantime, here’s a taste:
Q2) Darkhorse Breakout on the Caps?
Marcus Johansson. The Swedish pivot was the Caps’ first-round pick in 2009 (24th overall) and captained Team Sweden to a bronze medal in the 2009 World Junior Championship. Johansson turns 20 next month, and it’s possible he’ll spend one more year in the Swedish Elite League. It’s equally possible he’ll be playing in the NHL this year—Coach Bruce Boudreau is “optimistic” that Johansson will crack the opening night roster.
After the September 16 Rookie Game vs. Philadelphia, Boudreau said that Johansson “was probably the most consistent player we had all night.” And if Johansson were to earn time later in the season as the Caps’ second-line center, well, it’s amazing what passing to Alex Semin can do for one’s point totals.
Q4) League-Wide Breakout of the Year?
Such a tough call… someone always comes out of the blue, and so many can’t-miss picks, well, miss. But keep an eye on Peter Mueller in Colorado. He had 20 points in his 15 games with the Avs last year before Rob Blake concussed him out of the lineup. Mueller just signed a two-year deal with the Avs, and has a chance to play with Paul Stastny. He won’t challenge for the league scoring lead, but he’ll make his mark this year.
Side note: Remember that the Atlanta Thrashers plan to play Dustin Byfuglien on defense. If you can draft Byfuglien and start him as a defenseman in your fantasy league, do it. Because you know Atlanta will move him to power forward during PP time, meaning a good chance for more points than your average d-man.
BONUS QUESTION) George McPhee & Europeans… fetish or addiction?
There’s a fine line between fetish and addiction… er, or so I’m told.
GMGM’s predilection for European players is a fairly recent development; traditionally, he’s drafted heavily from the Western Hockey League. Of the Caps’ first-round picks from 1997 through 2004, 6 were from the WHL, 2 OHL, and 2 Russian League (Ovechkin & Semin). Since 2005, McPhee has shifted first-round focus a bit, with 3 picks from Sweden, 2 Russia, 2 USA, and 2 from Canada.
In deeper rounds, for every Michal Neuvirth there are two guys like Matt Pettinger or Braden Holtby. GMGM is no Euro-addict… but he may go on a Euro binge now and then [I kid because I love]. Seriously though: combine McPhee’s poker-faced dealings at draft day & trade deadlines, majority owner Ted Leonsis’ enthusiastic and supportive approach, and the Caps’ excellent scouting team, and they’ve been able to build one heck of a hockey team from the ground up.
For those whose fantasy drafts are still pending, they produce a very solid Fantasy Scouting Report & Projected Stats, as well as a Breakout Bible, available here. Game on!