Anttti Niemi shared for the league lead in wins. (Theryancokeexperience.wordpress.com)
By Chris Wassel and RotoRob
Today, we wrap up the 2013-14 RotoRob MLB Draft Kit with the release of our final cheat sheet. So while you wonder how hybrid icing will go over now that the games count, let’s review the top 35 goalies in Fantasy hockey.
Last but not least are the goalies and there will be lots to digest. Therefore, this will be very short and sweet. The goalie shockers come fast and furious as we have Henrik Lundqvist at three behind Antti Niemi and Tuukka Rask. The reason? The schedule sets up well for San Jose and Boston. Do not be surprised if Ryan Miller is traded and if the Calgary goalie situation becomes a mess in futility. Philadelphia may again have the same problem along with the New York Islanders. With all these situations in Fantasy flux, goalie runs are expected to be more common than usual.
Roberto Luongo is back in the top five and with defensive-minded John Tortorella as his coach, he could rise even higher. It will be interesting to see what the coach can do with a little more talent at all positions. That is not a knock on the Rangers but Lundqvist could actually have a higher goals against average than Luongo. Also, do not sleep on a guy like Brian Elliott. He could be late steal, and even Martin Brodeur could be a nice handcuff. Here are our Top 35 with a few hidden gems thrown in for good measure, because, hey, that’s the way we roll.
Last year’s rankings are in parentheses.
1. Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins (4): Last season, we went out on a limb by bumping Rask up to the top five in our Goalie Rankings, but clearly, we were bang on there, and now he’s moved to the absolute top of the heap. The ability to stay healthy remains a concern, but his record was much better last season while he trimmed his GAA. Rask is a big season the Bruins will again be a Stanley Cup favourite this season. Let’s just hope he doesn’t hurt himself while throwing a tantrum (see video below)!
2. Antti Niemi, San Jose Sharks (20): Niemi tied for the league lead in victories last season despite facing slightly more shots per game. After his career year in 2012-13, the Finnish netminder heads into this season riding high, and clearly any threat that we thought Thomas Greiss would pose to him last season never materialized.
3. Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers (2): Many experts have him No. 1, but as we discussed in the intro, we think Rask and Niemi get the edge based on their schedules. The King is one of the best goalies in the game and he proved it again last year, even though his GAA inched back over 2.00. What a stiff! Look for him to again log tons of action, probably around 65 games, a figure he topped five straight years before 2011-12.
4. Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings (1): Quick was expected to dominate last season, but he burned a lot of owners with his mediocre play. He gave up a half goal more per game, but don’t write him off. Quick remains one of the best in the world, so look for a major bounce back.
5. Roberto Luongo, Vancouver Canucks (23): How weird will it be this season for Luongo, all but out the door and now back to being the undisputed main man in the Vancouver net? He’s known for his sluggish starts, so bear that in mind if you draft him. The other thing to watch is how the moody Luongo handles the heavy workload after playing just 20 games last season.
6. Jimmy Howard, Detroit Red Wings (18): Howard helped the Wings get within a game of the Conference Finals last season even though he was a bit more beatable than he was in the regular season. Despite the shortened schedule, he nearly matched his 2011-12 shutout total. With a spot on the Canadian Olympic team on the line, Howard has incentive to play even better this season.
7. Mike Smith, Phoenix Coyotes (6): Smith is another netminder that was unable to duplicate his huge 2011-12 campaign last season. His win total was way down and he lost 20 points on his save percentage. This season, expect Smith to land somewhere between last season and the year before.
8. Corey Crawford, Chicago Blackhawks (22): Crawford would have easily recorded a third straight 30-win season had last year been a full campaign. He didn’t play quite as often, but part of that was simply the frenetic and truncated schedule that often called for four games in five days. Crawford, like Howard, will be shooting for a spot on the Canadian Olympic squad next year.
9. Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators (3): Rinne ruined a lot of Fantasy seasons in 2012-13 as he suffered through a losing year and had the worst save percentage of his career. He’s capable of much more and we expect to see some of that this season.
10. Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens (11): Price wasn’t great last season, yet Montreal had a very big year. His save percentage plummeted for the second straight season and he’ll need to establish more consistency to move up this list.
11. Craig Anderson, Ottawa Senators (24): Many experts are much higher on Anderson this season than we are. Last year, he was limited by injuries and he was dealing with “undisclosed” health issues this preseason (although it sounded minor). When he was active, Anderson played out of his mind last season, but we’re concerned about him getting off to a slow start this season given the time he missed early in the preseason.
12. Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus Blue Jackets (NR): Bobrovsky could have helped the goaltending poor Flyers last season as he put together a Vezina-winning campaign after Philly got rid of him. A 2.00 GAA? Who saw that coming? He was a major reason that the Jackets turned into a playoff contender last season.
13. Kari Lehtonen, Dallas Stars (9): The injury-prone Finnish netminder only managed 15 wins in 36 games last season as both his GAA and save percentage headed in the wrong direction. Lehtonen is nearly 30 and has appeared in just two playoff games – both in 2007.
14. Cory Schneider, New Jersey Devils (5): Schneider has finally escaped Luongo’s shadow, only to land in the shadow of one of the greatest goalies in the history of the game, Martin Brodeur. Still, Schneider should get at least 45 starts after starting most of the games for the Canucks last season. He’s looking brilliant in the preseason.
15. Niklas Backstrom, Minnesota Wild (28): Backstrom’s save percentage dipped 10 points last season, but he had a better record. He’s going to have to play better to avoid losing starts to Josh Harding this season.
16. Marc-Andre Fleury, Pittsburgh Penguins (17): Fleury lost his job in the playoffs, but there will not be a goalie controversy in Steel City this season – especially with Tomas Vokoun currently hurting. If MAF can avoid the bad goals, he can really bounce back nicely, but the fact that he was shaky in the preseason was not a great sign.
17. Braden Holtby, Washington Capitals (7): Holtby established himself as the starter last season even though he gave up more goals and had a slightly worse save percentage. His playoff showing proved he can be a money goalie.
18. Cam Ward, Carolina Hurricanes (15): Ward struggled with both injuries and ineffectiveness last season and early on this preseason, he was getting ripped. When he finally started playing well last season, the knee injury ended his campaign. The wonky knees remain a concern for Ward this season, so draft at your own risk,
19. Ryan Miller, Buffalo Sabres (21): One thing is clear from this preseason: Miller isn’t much of a fighter. The other thing we know is that he’s in his walk year, which means it will be a big surprise if he’s still with the Sabres by the end of the season, although team owner Terry Pegula really wants to keep the veteran netminder. Miller logged tons of action last season, but he had one of the worst campaigns of his career.
20. Devan Dubnyk, Edmonton Oilers (27): In relative obscurity, Dubnyk has gotten better and better each year. Last season, he trimmed 10 points off his GAA and enjoyed his best save percentage yet. Looking for an underrated option? Here’s your man.
21. Jonas Hiller, Anaheim Ducks (25): Hiller battled stretches of shakiness last season, and it cost him lots of action to upstart Viktor Fasth. Hiller started just over half the Duck’s games, but a strong finish buoys hopes that perhaps the six-year veteran can see a larger chunk of the action this season.
22. Jaroslav Halak, St. Louis Blues (14): The Blues have been knocking on the door the past couple of years, and it’s going to be up to Halak if they can finally make a real move in the playoffs this season. He only made 15 starts last season and this team is stacked in net, but he’s expected to be the main man this season. The former Canadien has taken his game to a new level in Arch City; now let’s see if he can duplicate the playoff success he had with the Habs.
23. Jonathan Bernier, Toronto Maple Leafs (34): Bernier earned the instant respect of Leaf Nation when he pummeled Miller in a preseason scrap. Bernier has apprenticed under Quick long enough, and now that he’s been dealt to Toronto, he’ll have a chance to play a bigger role. The No. 1 goalie role is the Quebec native’s to lose.
24. Ondrej Pavelec, Winnipeg Jets (19): Pavelec faced less rubber last season, but what he really needs is to find more consistency in his game. He was saddled with tons of losses last season, but did manage to bounce back, GAA-wise. Unfortunately, Pavelec’s save percentage has been in decline for the past couple of seasons.
25. Semyon Varlamov, Colorado Avalanche (8): Varlamov is coming off a rough season, but he remains the projected starter. Last season, he played in a higher percentage of his team’s games, but posted the worst GAA of any NHL goalie that played at least 30 games. Yuck.
26. Viktor Fasth, Anaheim Ducks (NR): Part of a very strong Duck goaltender tandem, Fasth had a tremendous rookie season, chalking up a .921 save percentage and playing more than expected as Hiller struggled at times. The Swedish veteran has earned himself a job share this season.
27. James Reimer, Toronto Maple Leafs (31): Reimer can’t seem to catch a break, playing well last season (.924 save percentage) only to see the Leafs acquire Bernier. A platoon is expected at first, but Bernier will likely emerge with the lion’s share of the starts. Either way, this situation could be Fantasy anathema.
28. Martin Brodeur, New Jersey Devils (16): Brodeur enters this season with a heavy heart, having just lost his father. This will likely be the final season of Brodeur’s career of over 20 years, but he looked good last season, trimming his GAA.
29. Ben Bishop, Tampa Bay Lightning (NR): The American goalie is expected to be stuck in a platoon with Anders Lindback to begin the season, but contrary to some, we prefer Bishop, who looked very good in Ottawa before getting dealt to the Bolts.
30. Evgeni Nabokov, New York Islanders (29): Despite rumours he was headed home to play in the KHL, Nabokov is sticking with the Isles after enjoying a better second season in New York. Now that the Isles finally swallowed the ugly Rick DiPietro deal, Nabokov is their undisputed main man.
31. Ray Emery, Philadelphia Flyers (NR): If Emery isn’t better than his first stint with the Flyers, coach Peter Laviolette could find himself looking for work. Emery is looking strong in the preseason, but we’ll see what happens when the rubber really starts flying at him in Philly.
32. Karri Ramo, Calgary Flames (NR): Calgary’s new No. 1 man takes over from compatriot Mikka Kiprusoff, who retired. Ramo has been out of the NHL since 2008-09, playing in the KHL since, so it’s hard to get a read of what to expect even if he played very well in Russia.
33. Jacob Markstrom, Florida Panthers (NR): The Swedish youngster was expected to be the starter for the Panthers, but Tim Thomas has been signed and will likely see the lion’s share of the action, at least to start. Markstrom was exposed when he faced more shots last season, so there’s reason to be concerned about his ability to log major action.
34. Tim Thomas, Florida Panthers (NR): The Panthers signed Thomas to a one-year and he’s expected to start, but we slightly prefer the younger Markstrom over the course of a long season. Thomas sat out last season, but had logged a heavy workload in the two previous seasons. After not playing in 17 months, how rusty will the veteran be?
35. Brian Elliott, St. Louis Blues (13): Elliot’s been the main man for the Blues come playoff time the past couple of seasons, but ultimately he is a backup, albeit a damn good one. He’ll get enough action to be Fantasy worthy, even if he started a slightly lower percentage of games for the Blues last season. Elliot won’t ever be as good as he was in 2011-12 again, but he could probably do better than he did last season.
Five Diamonds in the Rough
1. Jake Allen, St. Louis Blues: The Blues sure are stacked in net, so this top prospect will start the season in the AHL.
2. Reto Berra, Calgary Flames: The rookie has made a case to stick with the Flames this season.
3. Antti Raanta, Chicago Blackhawks: The Hawks recently recalled Raanta to serve as a backup in the final preseason game, but keep an eye on this talented young Finnish netminder.
4. Petr Mrazek, Detroit Red Wings: This 21-year-old has impressed everyone this preseason with his composure. Mrazek will begin the season as the Wings’ backup, and may not give the job back once Jonas Gustavsson returns from his latest injury.
5. Philipp Grubauer, Washington Capitals: The former Belleville Bull will start the season in the AHL, but we expect him to see at least a few games in the NHL at some point this season.
Now it’s your turn. In the comments below, tell us who we missed or how seems ranked too high or low.