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“The system works very well for goal-scorers and works very well for defensive guys, too,” Ovechkin said. “You never know how many goals I’m going to score.”

Oates is careful not to come off as someone who has to re-teach Ovechkin how to play in the NHL. That’s not his intention. But he does think he can get through to him, based on his playing career.

“I think I can. But I am a coach now, so it’s different,” Oates said. “I think I can help him.”

And not just in the traditional ways like putting Ovechkin the right place on the ice. As Hull said, Ovechkin doesn’t always need to be skated hard in practice to get production out of him.

Oates learned that from his playing days.

“He knows what was right for Brett Hull. It might be a little bit different than the rest of the team, but he knew what was right for Cam Neely or a Peter Bondra,” McPhee said. “So he’ll know what’s right for our players. He’ll know what it’s like to get in after playing three games in four nights at 3 o’clock in the morning, and the guy’s played 27 minutes, what you can expect out of him the next morning. Is it the time to really push him in the weight room or is it the time to say, ‘Let’s back off a little bit, and we’ll do that in a day or so.’”

But Oates wasn’t just a star-maker, another reason those around him believe in his ability to coax the most out of Ovechkin.

“I think a big reason is Oatsey was a star. He didn’t deal with them, he was one,” assistant Calle Johansson said. “He knows what really, really good players want and needs to succeed. I think that’s a huge reason why he might be able to have everybody play at their best.”

Ovechkin wasn’t at his best when scoring 32 goals in 2010-11 or even 38 a year ago, a number boosted by a late-season resurgence. But the captain seems happier, and McPhee expects “another big year” from him.

That all starts with Oates.

Ovechkin is going to be like a kid again,” Hull said. “Oatesy’s going to make him so happy.”