Fantasy Hockey: Which goalies should you draft or completely avoid? (Puck Daddy)
- Updated: August 21, 2015
Dobber Hockey launched in 2005 and Dobber and his staff have hitched their wagons to Puck Daddy to preach fantasy hockey to the Yahoo! masses since 2009. As in real hockey, goaltending is the most important position in fantasy hockey. In many formats, goalies make up close 10 percent of your roster but account for 40 percent to 50 percent of your categories. If you get stuck with a below average group your chances of success are slim. I’ve been using a tiered system for years and most of the time goaltending has been an asset to my team. Sure, there are some years where injuries kill me and that just can’t be helped (thanks Craig Anderson). But if you employ a tier system and come away with three reasonably strong goaltenders, you can protect yourself against that. The main thing to remember when setting up your ‘Tiers’ is that it’s not just about skill and production. Often, it’s about opportunity and team strength. Jonathan Bernier is a talented goalie, but splitting starts with James Reimer on a team that will struggle for even 30 wins makes him next to fantasy useless. [ Yahoo Sports Fantasy Hockey: Sign up and join a league today! ] Never start drafting goaltenders until there is a chance that you will miss out on all of your Tier 1 goalies. Then make sure you get one. After that, go back to forwards and defensemen until there is a chance that the Tier 2 goalies will be scooped up. Whatever happens – make sure you have at least one from Tier 1 and one from your Tier 2 (or a second from Tier 1 if one of them falls too far). Or if you really want to protect yourself as I should have last year, get one Tier 1 goalie and two from the second tier. Tier 1 The cream of the crop. Posting 35-40 wins should be in the cards for this group as well as some great GAA and SV% totals. Unless something happens like a major injury, or they get traded to Arizona. Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators – Between his health (hip surgery) and a new coach, fantasy owners were wary of Rinne last summer. He played 64 games last season, tied for second most in his career, so those fears were definitely laid to rest. A safe bet for 35 wins and a good bet for 40. Jaroslav Halak, New York Islanders – After so many years of sharing the net in Montreal and St. Louis, Halak has emerged as the undisputed No.1 starter – and for a team that is now quickly moving up among the elite. If he can stay healthy, he’ll start close to 70 games. But he can’t, so bank on 60 (which could still mean 40 wins). Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens – The cream of the crop. The one goalie who is so good that you may want to break the ‘tier’ strategy above and just go ahead and draft him in the first round before anyone else can. Marc-Andre Fleury, Pittsburgh Penguins – Despite the Cup ring, Fleury is still trying to find his way in the postseason. That’s not the case in the regular season where he has 34 or more wins in seven seasons, and added 10 shutouts in 2014-15. Braden Holtby, Washington Capitals – The magic of Barry Trotz continues on this new team as he’s created another 40-win elite fantasy goaltender. Bank on Holtby to repeat, barring injury – it’s Trotz’s M.O. Ben Bishop, Tampa Bay Lightning – As a starting goaltender Bishop has averaged 62.5 starts and 38.5 wins per season over two years. That kind of success ensures that he’ll continue to be ‘the guy’ no matter how great the wunderkind (Andrei Vasilevskiy) is. Frederik Andersen, Anaheim Ducks – The Ducks removed any lingering doubt about Andersen’s status by acquiring Anton Khudobin. It essentially puts the star prospect John Gibson in the AHL for a full season so Andersen can do his thing. Tier 2 Many goalies from my Tier 2 could jump to Tier 1 if they can stay healthy. By the same token, it wouldn’t take much for them to slide down to Tier 3 either. Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins – A former Tier 1 – hell a former elite – goalie, Rask takes a bit of a tumble. A little of this is due to his subpar season. But the bigger part is due to Boston’s non-playoff season and subsequent offseason moves. Corey Crawford, Chicago Blackhawks – Crawford should be a shoe-in as a Tier 1 guy because Chicago is awesome and he’s the No.1 goalie. But backup Scott Darling was good enough to not only chase Antti Raanta out of town, but also steal a couple of playoff starts from Crawford. The concern here is how much Darling will cannibalize Crawford’s starts. Semyon Varlamov, Colorado Avalanche – His 28 wins on a mediocre Colorado team should push him to the third tier. However, Varly is just a year removed from a 41-win campaign so we know what he’s capable of. Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus Blue Jackets – The Blue Jackets are primed to take the next step. So if Bobrovsky can just stay healthy for a full season, he’d take a run at 40 wins. A big if. Roberto Luongo, Florida Panthers – What a great comeback year for Luongo. Though he had just 28 wins, his stats were stellar. If you subscribe to the theory that Florida is slowly getting better, then Luongo crossing the 32-win barrier for the first time in five years should be a snap. Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings – Coach Darryl Sutter has shown us time and again that he’ll play Quick 70-plus games if he’s healthy, no matter how good the backup is. That makes Quick gold. But the Kings are barely a 40-win team, which pushes Quick to the second tier. Devan Dubnyk, Minnesota Wild – I really like Dubnyk and have completely bought into him being the ‘real deal’. On my personal list, I’d probably push him up to the first tier. But since he’s only been this prodigy for about 10 months…I’ll play it safe with my public advice and call him a Tier 2 guy. Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers – The King has spent time on the IR in each of the last two seasons, which pushes him from being a safe guy you can count on 100%…to a guy you can probably count on and hope for the best. Craig Anderson, Ottawa Senators – Anderson had a nice bounce-back season last year. Too bad he was only healthy for half of it. The injuries are such a concern that many of you would (rightfully) consider pushing him down to the third tier. Depends on your risk tolerance. But don’t kid yourself into thinking that Andrew Hammond is a threat here. Injuries are a threat. Hammond is just a nice story. Tier 3 Here are a group of quality goaltenders who take a fantasy hit because they are either injury prone or they will be sharing starts. Great to have as your No. 3 goalie because they will have certain weeks throughout the year in which they are white hot. Karri Ramo and Jonas Hiller, Calgary Flames – This year will be interesting because both of these goalies are making a lot of money and both goalies could become unrestricted free agents next summer. Either one could seize the starting job. My money is on Ramo eventually taking it, but by the time it happens the two of them will have completely cannibalized each other’s starts. Eddie Lack, Carolina Hurricanes – I have Lack here and I’m not including Cam Ward because I think Lack is the better goaltender (by far). You can disagree, and slot Ward here as well, that’s your call. But Ward’s contract is up after this year so there is little incentive to keep starting him if he’s not winning. Antti Niemi and Kari Lehtonen, Dallas Stars – Another split-start situation in which I doubt either goaltender gets 50 starts. Maybe that works out for the team – and it might, because Dallas looks so much better for the season ahead what with Patrick Sharp and Valeri Nichushkin added. But it doesn’t help fantasy teams. Jimmy Howard, Detroit Red Wings – Howard could be a Top 12 goalie in terms of wins and stats, were it not for Petr Mrazek. The youngster stole the starting job from Howard late last season and into the playoffs. Howard’s contract should still ensure that he gets 50-plus starts, but that won’t be enough to put him among the top fantasy owns. Cam Talbot, Edmonton Oilers – The Oilers are going to be a much better team in 2015-16 and Talbot is probably going to be the runaway starter. How many more wins will they get? Will Anders Nilsson or Ben Scrivens outplay Talbot? Those two questions keep Talbot in the third tier. Cory Schneider, New Jersey Devils – Schneider had 69 starts last year and managed just 26 wins. In the season ahead, I can see him getting 72 starts or more…but he’ll be lucky to get 26 wins. The Devils are just that bad. Steve Mason, Philadelphia Flyers – I’m actually a believer in Mason and of all the Tier 3 goalies, he’d be the one I’d prefer to end up with. But he keeps getting hurt, and usually at the worst possible time (during a hot streak). Jake Allen and Brian Elliott, St. Louis Blues – As noted with the Dallas and Calgary situations above, this 1A/1B stuff is for the birds. In weekly leagues, all these types of goalies are good for are occasional starts when they’re hot or when their partner is sidelined with an injury. Martin Jones and Alex Stalock, San Jose Sharks – Unlike the other 1A/1B situations above, this one I think will result in a winner by December. And that winner will walk away with it, shouldering much of the load from that point forward. Who? If I knew, I’d put him in the second tier (and the loser would drop to Tier 4). Jonathan Bernier, Toronto Maple Leafs – Bernier’s numbers will improve this season, but his win total may not. That being said, like everyone else in Tier 3, he’ll have his useful weeks where you can activate him. Ryan Miller, Vancouver Canucks – The Canucks saw to it that Miller would be undisputed as the top goalie this year, electing instead to move the superior netminder Eddie Lack to Carolina. I don’t know if you like what the Canucks did this summer, but I sure don’t and I’ll be surprised if Miller matches the 29 wins he got last season. Ondrej Pavelec, Winnipeg Jets – Kudos to Pavelec for a career season last year. The timing couldn’t have been better for him as he has a pair of good goalies looking over his shoulder. Just 22 wins in each of the last two seasons. Tier 4 Here are a handful of goaltenders with the ability to enjoy an extended stay as the team’s No.1 goalie thanks to an injury to the guy ahead of him. Or from just plain outplaying him. If you have room for a fourth goalie, or you have little faith in your first three – then one of these guys will be around late in your draft and are worth sitting on. Robyn Lehner, Buffalo Sabres – The No.1 goalie in Buffalo is a No.1 goalie. But it’s Buffalo. Still, a great option to stick on your bench in a deep round. Cam Ward, Carolina Hurricanes – As much as I like Lack, the fact of the matter is that Carolina’s loyalties are with Ward so he’ll get first dibs. I think he’ll slip, but if he doesn’t he’ll obviously have a very productive year. That’s worth a depth pick for sure. Scott Darling, Chicago Blackhawks – Darling put a scare in Crawford owners late last season. Who says he can’t do it again? Petr Mrazek, Detroit Red Wings – Of all the Tier 4 goalies, Mrazek is the one I’d target. Not only because Jimmy Howard is a Band-Aid Boy, but because Mrazek has already shown us that he’s better. Ben Scrivens and Anders Nilsson, Edmonton Oilers – Nilsson is coming off a lights-out performance in the KHL and Scrivens is coming off a…light performance in Edmonton (but two years ago he was awesome). Either one could theoretically steal the job from Talbot. If I could get one as a fourth goalie with my last pick, I’d do it and then drop him in November when it’s clear that my gambit didn’t pay off. Andrew Hammond, Ottawa Senators – Because Anderson is so injury prone, Hammond has a lot of value as Ottawa’s backup. And who knows, maybe he has another 15-game unbeaten in regulation streak in him. Dobber launched DobberHockey back in 2005 and his 10th annual Fantasy Guide can be found here . That’s right – 10th annual. He’s been around the block. Follow Dobber on Twitter @DobberHockey. And to get up-to-the-minute – free – starting goalie information, look no further than Goalie Post .