The 2014-15 RotoRob NHL Draft Kit rages on today with the release of yet another cheat sheet. So while you wonder whether Justin Braun is worth the extension he just signed, let’s review the top 30 goalies in Fantasy hockey.
It’s almost here, folks: Cool weather, pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin pie (sorry, it’s currently 50 degrees Fahrenheit and we’re already in Thanksgiving mode) and Fantasy hockey! Whether you’re all about winning the offensive categories or stocking up on goaltending, every serious Fantasy hockey GM has a particular strategy heading into the season. For us, we pay special attention to goaltending as typically 40 per cent of the categories in the leagues we participate in revolve around the back-stopper.
Last year’s rankings in parentheses.
1. Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins (1): In recent years, Boston hasn’t really been known as a high scoring offensive powerhouse. However, a solid defensive corps and stellar goaltending have been the mainstays in Beantown the past several seasons. That hasn’t changed with the arrival of Finland’s Rask. In his first full season as Boston’s undisputed No. 1 goaltender (Tim Thomas kind of got in the way for a few years, didn’t he?), Rask posted career highs in wins and shutouts with 36 and seven, respectively, over the course of 58 regular season appearances last season. The addition of a 2.04 goals against average and a .930 save percentage helped him to his first Vezina trophy as the NHL’s top goaltender. The best part? At the still tender age of 27, Rask is only just getting started. Small wonder he was considered for the 2013 RotoRob Fantasy Hockey Stud of the Year Award.
2. Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers (3): A 309-195-62 record, a 2.26 goals against average, a .920 save percentage and 50 shutouts — what else can be said about the King? Draft this guy. Ever wonder why King Henrik became a goalie? Wonder no longer — the video below reveals all.
3. Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings (4): Touted as one of the best young goalies in the league, Quick proved it to the world with an incredible campaign in 2011-12. In an astounding 69 regular season games, the Milford, Connecticut native amassed 35 wins, a 1.95 goals against average, a .929 save percentage and 10 shutouts. The thing is, he wasn’t done — not by a long shot. In 20 postseason games, Quick added 16 wins, a 1.41 goals against average, a .946 save percentage and three shutouts in capturing the Stanley Cup and the Conn Smythe trophy as playoff MVP. The only man standing in the way of Quick and the Vezina was none other than Lundqvist mentioned above. Quick’s numbers have fallen off a bit the past few seasons, but he’s still a winner and was able to add another Cup to his credit. If Rask and Lundqvist are gone, we’re pretty sure you’ll be happy with Quick.
4. Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens (10): You know him, you love him (until he gets injured or loses his game). Price really is a solid goaltender and will log a lot of minutes when healthy. He’s an extremely solid pick up.
5. Ben Bishop, Tampa Bay Lightning (29): A native of Denver, Colorado, Bishop saw time with St. Louis and Ottawa before finally finding his niche in Tampa Bay. He found it alright. In 63 games last season, Bishop put up 37 wins, a 2.23 goals against average, a .924 save percentage and five shutouts. The tallest goaltender in the league at a whopping 6′7″, it’s more than Bishop’s size Fantasy GMs will be drafting — they’re selecting a quality netminder that is just breaking onto the scene.
6. Corey Crawford, Chicago Blackhawks (8): Aside from maybe the lockout shortened season, it would be hard to argue the Chicago Blackhawks are the product of the play of their goaltender. However, Crawford doesn’t exactly hurt the team’s chances, either. He’ll see a lot of time, and collect a lot of wins as a result. He’s a keeper.
7. Marc-Andre Fleury, Pittsburgh Penguins (16): Once a highly touted young goaltender, Fleury has struggled of late, particularly in the playoffs. Fortunately, Fantasy owners don’t need to worry about the NHL’s postseason. He’ll do as your No. 1 goalie.
8. Kari Lehtonen, Dallas Stars (13): If you don’t take the 2012-13 half-season into account, Lehtonen has been quietly posting some good seasons in the warm Texas winters. With a retooled Stars offense, the former second overall pick could be looking at potentially his best yet. We think he’s worth taking as a decent No. 1 goalie.
9. Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus Blue Jackets (12): You can bet the Flyers are missing this kid. At age 25, the Russian netminder already has three 20-plus win seasons and a Vezina Trophy under his belt, while the team around him only continues to prove to the rest of the league a blue coat rebellion is brewing in Ohio. Bobrovsky’s already giving the league’s elite a run for their money.
10. Jonathan Bernier, Toronto Maple Leafs (23): Hailed as a starter-worthy goaltender held back by Quick in Los Angeles, Bernier was finally iven a chance to shine with the Maple Leafs. He wasn’t bad, either, collecting 26 wins, a 2.68 goals against average, a .923 save percentage and a shutout in 55 regular season games. Bernier will look to improve upon that this season.
11. Semyon Varlamov, Colorado Avalanche (25): Bernier ahead of Varlamov? What, are we nuts? Just maybe, but we like to think not. Varlamov is a great goaltender, no question. However, he’s got two things going against him: (a) it can hardly be argued the club improved over the offseason; and (b) he’s quite beatable up top. If you look at Minnesota’s Game Seven overtime victory, all five goals scored against Varlamov were elevated. And, take it from a Minnesota fan, the Wild is hardly known as a bunch of lethal snipers. We just don’t see Varlamov putting forth as good a campaign as last season (41-14-6, 2.41 goals against average and a .927 save percentage). That said, he’s still a winner, so feel confident when selecting this guy as a low-end No. 1 goalie.
12. Cory Schneider, New Jersey Devils (14): The crown prince has taken the throne as goaltending giant Martin Brodeur finds himself without a contract. In 45 games with the Devils last season, Schneider may have only put up 16 wins, but he added an impressive 1.97 goals against average, a .921 save percentage and three shutouts. This is his team now.
13. Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators (9): The only thing holding Rinne back from being a top five goaltender in your Fantasy draft is how well he recovers from E. coli. If healthy, he’s more than capable of 30-plus wins while backstopping a newly revamped Predators squad. Rinne could easily be a draft day steal.
14. Ryan Miller, Vancouver Canucks (19): There’s no question Miller has the ability to be elite, but will he be enough to lift Vancouver back into playoff contention? We’re not so sure.
15. Roberto Luongo, Florida Panthers (5): Bobby Lou enjoys the Florida sunshine, but he’d probably love the Stanley Cup more. The Cats are still a long way from that, but there’s a lot of promise in their lineup. With Luongo in net, they’ll be mediocre at worst.
16. Mike Smith, Arizona Coyotes (7): Offense has never been the Coyotes’ forte; fortunately defense has been held up with the solid play of Smith. Climbing into the postseason will be tough, but Arizona and Fantasy owners can probably expect north of 30 wins for Smith this season.
17. Antti Niemi, San Jose Sharks (2): Like Crawford, Niemi is more a product of the team than anything. However, unless the Sharks go down like the Titanic, he’s worth a good 25-to-35 wins this season along with 4-to-6 shutouts. Not too shabby, but he’ll never dominate the save percentage and goals against categories.
18. Jimmy Howard, Detroit Red Wings (6): He may not be a No. 1 goalie anymore, but unless the Red Wings completely fall apart, Howard will always be worth taking a flyer on come draft day. Expect 20-to-30 wins.
19. Brian Elliott, St. Louis Blues (35): Unless Jake Allen has made major improvements over the summer, Elliott is the man between the pipes in St. Louis. Last season, Elliott split time in net with Jaroslav Halak and Miller, playing just 31 games. However, Elliott did manage 18 wins, a 1.96 goals against average, a .922 save percentage and four shutouts, making him likely your first choice in a No. 2 netminder for your Fantasy team. If you’ve already got one of the goalies listed above in the fold, you probably won’t regret taking Elliott as a mid-tier backup.
20. Steve Mason, Philadelphia Flyers (NR): After a rough beginning to his career with the Blue Jackets, Mason has been looking for a fresh start in the City of Brotherly Love. Well, we think he’s found it. In 61 regular season games with the Flyers last season, Mason put together a 33-18-7 record with a 2.50 goals against average, a .917 save percentage and four shutouts. Has Philly’s goaltender curse lifted? That remains to be seen, but this could be a big season for Mason.
21. Jaroslav Halak, New York Islanders (22): Just why the Blues were so keen on acquiring Miller last season is beyond us — what? Halak’s 24 wins, 2.23 goals against average, .917 save percentage and four shutouts were not good enough for them? Anyway, after Halak was traded from Buffalo to Washington, the former Canadiens hero added another five wins, a 2.31 goals against average, a .930 save percentage and a shutout in 12 games. This season, he’s looking for a fresh start with an Islanders squad that could actually do some damage. We’re suggesting you give him a fresh start, too.
22. Braden Holtby, Washington Capitals (17): Speaking of the Capitals, Holtby is also looking for a better season as Washington failed to make the playoffs. With Varlamov, Halak and Michal Neuvirth gone, this is Holtby’s team and he’ll be expected to help lead the Caps back into contention. We wouldn’t draft him as our No. 1 goaltender, but he’s a decent secondary option nonetheless.
23. Anton Khudobin, Carolina Hurricanes (NR): Oh, Dobby, how Wild fans miss you. A former seventh round pick, the Kazakhstan native has been brilliant in limited action with Minnesota, Boston and, most recently, Carolina. This season, he could make a serious push for the No. 1 job ahead of Cam Ward. Keep your eyes on Khudobin, because there’s a good chance he slips through the cracks to the waiver wire on draft day.
24. Craig Anderson, Ottawa Senators (11): A relatively inconsistent netminder, when Anderson is on, he’s most definitely on. Still, Robin Lehner is rising through the ranks and Ottawa has struggled lately. Anderson may still have No. 1 potential, but not in 16- or even 20-team Fantasy leagues.
25. Jonas Hiller, Calgary Flames (21): Anaheim has moved on from Hiller, and he’s hoping for a second chance with Calgary. Considering the direction the Flames are going, it may not be pretty, but at least they’ve got a legitimate backstopper in net now. Hiller makes a solid second goalie in deeper leagues.
26. Ondrej Pavelec, Winnipeg Jets (24): Ugh. The only reason we’re recommending Pavelec is because of the workload he’s bound to receive from the Jets. He’ll get wins, not in impressive amounts, but at least they’re wins.
27. Frederik Andersen, Anaheim Ducks (NR): Anaheim is looking pretty solid on paper, but goaltending could be the big issue. Andersen will see a good amount of time in net, meaning he’ll probably be a decent No. 2 Fantasy option.
28. Michal Neuvirth, Buffalo Sabres (NR): Buffalo may be a legitimate contender for Connor McDavid next June, but it’s also a team swiftly on the rise thanks in no small part to exceptional drafting. Matt Hackett is likely the netminder of the future, but Neuvirth is more than capable of backstopping the club in the meantime. Neuvirth will at least see a lot of action, making him another quality secondary goaltender in Fantasy leagues with at least 14 teams.
29. Niklas Backstrom, Minnesota Wild (15): Arguably a top five goaltender his first three seasons in the league, a couple changes in coaching and recent injuries have prevented the Finn from getting back into the league’s upper echelon of goaltending. However, taking him late in the draft or even plucking him off the waiver wire is the definition of a low risk/high reward gamble worth taking. Keep in mind, Minnesota’s other legitimate NHL goaltenders either have multiple sclerosis (Josh Harding) or have 32 career regular season games under their belts (Darcy Kuemper). Backstrom stands to see a lot of time in net for a team that is close to taking the NHL by storm.
30. Ben Scrivens, Edmonton Oilers (NR): Scrivens is a solid goaltender and Edmonton has all the talent in the world — it just can’t put things together. Still, if Taylor Hall says this is the best team he’s ever played on (on paper, at least), then maybe there’s hope.
Finally, here are a few more goaltenders we think you should watch closely: Harding – Minnesota (when healthy, he can be a top five NHL goaltender); Kuemper – Minnesota (could steal the No. 1 spot in St. Paul as early as this season); Antti Raanta – Chicago; Lehner – Ottawa; John Gibson – Anaheim.
Now it’s your turn. Let us know in the comments below what you think of our goaltender rankings. Who’s too high or low and who’s missing?