Capitals

The 25 Most Important Players for the Caps: No. 3 Alex Ovechkin

Every player on an NHL team plays a role.Some, of course, play bigger roles than others.

In the coming weeks, Tarik El-Bashir and JJ Regan will rank the 25 most important players in the Caps’ organization, from least to most important, weighing factors such as past production, future potential and intangibles.

Today’s player: No. 3 Alex Ovechkin

Surprised to see Alex Ovechkin at No. 3? No, his production is not going to fall off a cliff. While his 50-goal seasons are likely behind him, I believe he will score more goals than last year and finish in the 35-40 goal range to lead the team. But goals are not the sole determining factor when it comes to gauging a player's importance.

Soon to be 32 years old, Ovechkin is at a crossroads in his career. The mantle of leadership no longer falls squarely on his shoulders. Now there is T.J. Oshie, Nicklas Backstrom, Matt Niskanen and Braden Holtby. Plus, a new core of players is starting to come into their own. Players like Evgeny Kuznetsov and Andre Burakovsky on the offense will be expected to take a bigger role on the offense going forward.

There's been a lot of talk this offseason about the offensive production the Caps lost in the summer—Justin Williams and Marcus Johansson scored a combined 48 goals last season—but notice that no one is talking about how much pressure Ovechkin is under to make up for that loss. Instead, the team will look to players like Kuznetsov, Burakovsky, Jakub Vrana and Tom Wilson to start hitting the back of the net and rack up the goals.

It's not just about Ovechkin anymore because it can't be.

Ovechkin is no longer in his prime. Even if he was, that's not enough to win in today's NHL. Not only have the Caps failed to get past the second round of the playoffs in the Ovechkin era, but look at the teams that do win. The Pittsburgh Penguins are not the two-time defending champs because of Sidney Crosby. They are the two-time defending champs because of Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Matt Murray, Phil Kessel, Kris Letang (the first year), Jake Guentzel (the second year), etc.

Ovechkin is still the captain, he will likely still lead the team in goals and will be a very prominent figure in the team's success or lack thereof this season. He comes in third on this list not because his production is about to drop off or because he's no longer a leader on the team, but rather because the Caps will look for more from their other players both offensively and in the locker room. 

Check out the full list of the Caps most important players as it comes out here and check out previous player profiles below.

— No. 25 Aaron Ness
— No. 24 Chandler Stephenson
— No. 23 Riley Barber
 No. 22 Pheonix Copley
— No. 21 Devante Smith-Pelly
— No. 20 Taylor Chorney
— No. 19 Nathan Walker

 No. 18 Philipp Grubauer
 No. 17 Christian Djoos

— No. 16 Madison Bowey
— No. 15 Jay Beagle
— No. 14 Brett Connolly
— No. 13 Tom Wilson
— No. 12 Lars Eller
— No. 11 Jakub Vrana
— No. 10 Brooks Orpik
— No. 9 John Carlson
— No. 8 Dmitry Orlov
— No. 7 Andre Burakovsky
— No. 6 Matt Niskanen
— No. 5 Evgeny Kuznetsov
— No. 4 T.J. Oshie