Fantasy Hockey: How high can Ovechkin go?

How many goals can Alex Ovechkin score? Which player has been the most disappointing? Who's hot start is for real? We tackle these questions in this week's edition of the Fantasy Hockey 1-on-1.

Welcome to's Fantasy Hockey 1-on-1, where every Friday our resident nerds — er, experts — Jesse Campigotto and Jordan Shifman debate three hot topics of interest for poolies.

In last week's edition we argued the most overrated player. Now that the regular season is in full swing, we tackle these burning questions: How many goals can Alex Ovechkin score? Which player has been the most disappointing? Who's hot start is for real?

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All stats are through Wednesday.

1. How high can Alex Ovechkin go?

Jordan: With nine points in his first three games, the sky's the limit for Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals. Get this: AO is on pace for 139 goals and 246 points in an 82-game schedule. Not that I don't think he's capable of something extraordinary, but that might be a bit of a stretch — even for Alex the Great. I wouldn't be shocked if he actually ended up with around 80 points by the Olympic break, but it's hard to imagine Ovechkin continuing on such an unstoppable pace after playing his heart out for his country in February. One thing is for sure: if Washington's goaltending issues last throughout the whole season, the Capitals may need Ovechkin to notch three points in every game for the entire season.

Ovechkin: Shooting star

 Season Goals (rank) Shots (rank) %
 2005-06 52 (T-3) 425 (1) 12.2
 2006-07 46 (4) 392 (1) 11.7
 2007-08 65 (1) 446 (1) 14.6
 2008-09 56 (1) 528 (1) 10.6

Jesse: 139 goals? 246 points? Yeah, and 10 years ago I was on pace to retire with a full head of hair. But that got me thinking: what's the ceiling on Ovechkin this season? In 2008-09 he potted 56 goals and, believe it or not, he was actually a bit unlucky. Ovechkin's shooting percentage of 10.6 was easily the worst of his career and well below his career mark of 12.4. Sure, you can probably expect a drop in accuracy when you launch a whopping 528 shots — 156 (!) more than anyone else — but indulge me for a second: Say Ovie duplicates that shot total this year, but his shooting percentage gravitates back to his career average of 12.4. That would give him 65 goals, equaling his career high from 2007-08 when he "only" fired 446 shots but converted on a career-high 14.6 per cent of them. Sorry to go all Will Hunting on you there, but that's my prediction: 65 goals this season for Ovechkin.

2. Which player has been the most disappointing through the first week?

Jordan: There are several superstars that haven't made their anticipated contributions to their teams so far. That list includes underachieving forwards Pavel Datsyuk, Alex Kovalev and Vinny Lecavalier, as well as Roberto Luongo, who until he beat Montreal on Wednesday was the league's only 0-3-0 goalie. But the most worrisome of them all could be Zach Parise, who had no goals and just one assist in New Jersey's first two games. True, it's still very early, but the troubling thing about Parise's slow start is he's now playing under defensive-minded coach Jacques Lemaire. During his eight-year tenure in Minnesota, Lemaire's teams finished, on average, 24th in the league in scoring. Only twice did a player record more than 70 points in a season under Lemaire's watch. Add to that the loss of Brian Gionta to free agency and Patrik Elias's off-season groin surgery (he's trying to come back by the end of October), and you could have a recipe for Parise to underachieve.

Jesse: Ugh. Where were you when I picked Parise sixth overall in one of my leagues? I totally forgot about the Lemaire factor. Still, I think Parise will bounce back in the goals and points departments, and his low penalty minutes and good plus-minus will do me well. And just to emphasize: it's still early. Really early. Crazy early. Bass-fishing early. No team has played more than three games, and some have played only one. My advice? Don't panic. If Luongo went 0-3-0 during a stretch in January, would you consider trading him? Heck no. But everyone seems to put added weight on these outlier stretches — whether good or bad — when they happen at the start of a season. You can take advantage of that by floating a trade offer to jittery owners of slow starters like Luongo and Marty Brodeur (0-2-0).

Jordan: Where was I when you were picking Parise too high? I was drafting Henrik Lundqvist, Minnesota's Niklas Backstrom and Ryan Getzlaf in my own pool. I know it's early, Jesse, but if we're talking about low-end players like, say, Jonathan Cheechoo, it's never too early to push the eject button and pick up a player like Brandon Dubinsky or James Neal. You gotta go with the hot hand.

3. Which hot starter is most likely to be for real?

Jesse: Mixed in with the familiar names atop the NHL scoring race (Ovechkin, Backstrom, Semin) are a few surprises. Fellow Capitals forwards Brooks Laich and Philly defenceman Matt Carle are tied for fourth with six points in three games. Phoenix's Radim Vrbata, the Rangers' Brandon Dubinsky and St. Louis's Jay McClement (each with four points in two games) are also among the fast out of the gate. Who will maintain their torrid pace? I like Laich. He's tough, respected, and at 26 years old is just entering his prime. Plus he's coming off career highs of 23 goals and 53 points last season. Most important, though: he's getting power-play time from coach Bruce Boudreau. In the first three games, Laich averaged 3½ minutes with the man advantage. That's fifth on the team, meaning he's in position for plenty of scoring opportunities skating with Washington's big guns. If Laich is still available in your pool, snap him up right now.

Jordan: Who cares if Laich is respected? Respected doesn't put points on the board or dinner on the table. The man can flat out score. That's what I want on my fantasy roster. For that reason and that reason alone, he will continue to get points. And it helps that he's playing alongside Washington's big guns, including newcomer Mike Knuble. You mentioned another guy I think is for real, but I don't think Radim Vrbata should be all that surprising to poolies. Anyone who keeps their eyes open year after year for a great sleeper has seen his spurts of greatness before. In fact, he set career highs in almost every offensive category in his first stint with the Coyotes. In 2007-08, Vrbata scored 29 goals and 56 points with 16 power-play points and five game-winners. He could be a valuable addition to any deep fantasy roster. An old adage explains one reason why: someone has to put the puck in the net (other than Shane Doan).

Next week: How will the Habs' new faces fare?