We’ve reached the last position through the ranking process! I’m going to do the top 40 goalies in two separate posts before putting together a top 100 and 200 list by the end of next week. Just a quick refresher on my draft strategy with goalies: I do not take them in the first two rounds under any circumstance, and I better be getting good value in rounds 3-5 to pull the trigger. The reason is that goaltenders have much higher variance than any other position in fantasy sports (e.g. Carey Price). I will take my chances on hitting the next breakout guy(s) than paying such a premium for a proven commodity because the proven player can fall off at any time. Let’s get to it!
1) Andrei Vasilevskiy – This is the first tier. It goes from Vasilevskiy to Rinne. Let’s call this tier “In a realistic scenario, I can be the #1 overall fantasy goalie.” Sounds self-explanatory! A tough end to last season hurt Vasilevskiy’s numbers, but they were still strong with a 2.62/.920/44 wins slash line in 65 starts. There are a few reasons why Vasilevskiy is number one for me this season. One, the volume. I fully expect 65 starts again with Domingue as his backup. Two, the team. Tampa is arguably the best team in the league so big wins are a lock. Three, the division. You can argue three of the worst five teams in the NHL are in the division (Detroit, Montreal, Ottawa). Sure, Domingue will probably get his fair share of starts against those teams, but so will Vasilevskiy. The GAA isn’t elite, but it’s not impossible that it takes a step forward, and the safety of massive wins and a strong save percentage puts him on top of my board.
2) Sergei Bobrovsky – Boris was his usual elite-self last season finishing with 2.42/.921/37 in 65 starts. Bob is in a contract year, and with so much on line for the Blue Jackets this year, you can be sure that Torts pushes him to the max. Over six years in CBus, Bob is averaging 2.37/.923. That’ll get it done. He’s the safest goalie on the board in terms of being a plus in all three categories.
3) Braden Holtby – Holtby had the worst regular season of his career posting a 2.99/.907/34 in 54 games before leading the Capitals to the Stanley Cup. Holtby posted a .922 sv% in the playoffs, which is in the ball park I expect him to return to after being there for 5 seasons. The other good thing is that Grubauer is gone (more on him later) and Copley is now the backup. Copley had an .896 sv% last season in 41 games for Hershey. In other words, he was dreadful in the AHL. I think Holtby gets back to starting 65+ games, and that volume does wonders, especially in head to head leagues.
4) Connor Hellebuyck – Go back one year ago, and you can read about me being pissed off that the Jets signed Steve Mason to be their starter. Fast forward, and Hellboy ended up starting 67 games finishing as the #2 goalie in fantasy, tallying a 2.36/.924/44 line. The former elite prospect finally came into his own, as did the team in front of him. There’s no reason to expect major regression from Hellebuyck or the team in front of him, so he remains in the top tier of goalies for me. Again, the volume is massive and that shouldn’t change. Ride the fire!
5) John Gibson – Gibson remained a monster in net for the Ducks, posting a .926 sv% last season despite the team being wounded in front of him for the majority of the season. While their third pair is still going to be poor, it certainly won’t be as bad as Bieksa and Beauchemin being out there, and the top four is stacked. The wins will probably be slightly down to the guys in front of him, but the GAA and sv% are truly elite.
6) Pekka Rinne – Mr. Variance himself, Rinne finished as the #1 goalie last season with a 2.31/.927/42 in 59 games. There’s no denying that it could happen again, but I’m a little bit worried about the volume. Rinne is going to turn 36 years old soon, the Predators won’t have to push to make the playoffs, he’s in a contract year, and they have an extremely capable backup in Juuse Saros. I wouldn’t be surprised in Rinne starts 52-55 games instead of the 59+ he’s done each of the past four seasons. In roto, I’d probably bump him up to 3rd overall and would make sure to grab Saros as well, but my projected lower volume keeps him down at the bottom of the elite tier.
7) Tuukka Rask – This tier goes from Rask to Bishop. Let’s call this tier “I can be your #1.” Again, self-explanatory. If you miss out on the top tier, don’t panic, because these guys are all perfectly serviceable as your first goalie. I was close to putting Rask at the end of tier one, but he falls just short in my eyes. He’s a plus in every category, and the volume has been there before his injury last year. That said, I wouldn’t expect an elite save percentage as Rask has been between .915-.917 for three consecutive seasons. That’s just enough to keep him at the top of tier two.
8) Devan Dubnyk – A Razzball favorite, and by Razzball I mean mine, Dubnyk was his usual steady self last season, slashing 2.52/.918/35 in 60 starts. The GAA was elite in the past and fell to slightly above average, but Dubnyk is still above average in all three categories and is a lock to maintain volume. He’s not sexy, but he gets the job done. Insert joke here.
9) Jonathan Quick – Quick boosted his sv% from a plus to borderline elite, but the GAA rose and the win rate dropped back down. I’ve long been a detractor of Quick’s, but he’s done enough in three of the last four seasons to warrant being a #1. I don’t see the Kings being much better than last season, which means the wins won’t be good enough to vault Quick into tier one.
10) Ben Bishop – Bishop’s first season in Dallas was decent, posting a 2.49/.916/26 line in 53 starts. I’d expect that starts number to creep up towards 60, and I think we see an improved Stars team with Montgomery at the helm. Their blue line is full of young talent that should be improving as well, putting Bishop in position to get back to #1 goalie status.
11) Frederik Andersen – This is the start of tier 3. This tier goes from Andersen to Price. Let’s call this tier “realistic path to be a #1.” Andersen was the 14th best goaltender last season despite having a 2.81 GAA. It was his second straight season of having a .918 sv%, and 38 wins in 66 starts is great. I expect the GAA to be improved, but probably not to the point where it’s break even or an asset. Regardless, the wins will be massive and the save percentage will be above average. Add in that he’s a clear workhorse and Andersen is a nice option.
12) Corey Crawford – Crawford was an absolute monster last season when healthy, totaling 2.27/.927/16 in 28 starts. My guess is that Chicago ends up being just on the outside of the playoffs, which is where they were before Crawford went down last season. Crawford looks like a player who is going to be average in all three categories, but he’s good enough to carry the team when he’s on. I don’t see significant downside like others below him, so Crawford slides into 12th.
13) Matt Murray – Murray’s second season as the starter was a disaster with a 2.92/.907/27 in 49 starts. On one hand, we’ve seen Murray’s upside in 2016-17 where he was a top five goalie. On the other hand, Pittsburgh didn’t address their blue line, and if anything, it is worse now that Cole has been replaced with the corpse of Jack Johnson. My guess is that we see Murray slide somewhere in-between the last two seasons. He’s also a prime example of why I don’t like taking goalies high, because Murray was going in the second round last season and he torpedoed your season.
14) Martin Jones – Jones put up the most average stat line last season with 2.55/.915/30 in 60 starts. That’s what Jones is going to do: put up solid yet unspectacular numbers. There is some upside in wins with the Sharks improving, but I also think we see Jones stay at 60 starts instead of getting back to 65 with Dell playing well behind him. Jones is the most yawnstipating of goalies.
15) Marc-Andre Fleury – This might be a bit harsh for Fleury, who was the best goalie in the league on a per-game basis last season. I don’t see any chance of a repeat; the question is how far does Fleury regress? The team lost a lot of depth offensively (the bottom six is trash) and Schmidt’s suspension really hurts for the first 20 games. Vegas looks likely to be a fringe playoff team with Fleury being a generic fantasy goaltender.
16) Carey Price – I have no idea where to rank Price. He’s good enough to carry a team, but he also posted a 3.11/.900/16 in 49 starts last season. I assume this ranking will get me zero shares of Price, which is what I’m looking for. That’s not to take anything away from Price as a player, he’s carried Montreal for years (and they bomb out when he isn’t good). The problem is that the Canadiens blue line is dreadful, and that’s with Weber in the lineup. He’s going to miss the first few months of the season, so they will go from dreadful to almost AHL caliber. I just don’t see how Price can post quality numbers with this dumpster fire in front of him. If I see that he’s ranked in this range, I’m going to drop him even lower.
17) Antti Raanta – This tier goes from Raanta to Grubauer. Let’s call this tier “sexy time.” I’m a big fan of both of these guys and think they can be big values. I may slide them up a few spots if need be. Raanta’s first season as a starter was excellent. Raanta finished with 2.24/.930/21 in 47 starts despite starting the year dreadfully (3 goals on 6 shots in 10 minutes against Vegas). That was enough to put Raanta as the #4 goalie last season, although he was closer to 8th than 3rd. Arizona should be improved (although we say this every year) which gives Raanta a little hope for more wins. I don’t think GAA and sv% are on that level again, but both could be an asset. I’d be thrilled with Raanta as my #2 goalie.
18) Philipp Grubauer – I’ve long been a huge Grubauer fan and I’m excited for him to get an opportunity to be a #1. Yes, Semyon Varlamov is lurking, but I fully expect Grubauer to be the #1. The Avalanche blue line isn’t as bad as it’s been in the past, especially if Johnson can stay healthy as the guy playing the tough minutes. While Colorado can be expected to regress a bit from last season, they still look like an 85-90 point team, which should get Grubauer enough wins. The GAA will jump behind Colorado instead of Washington, but the save percentage should remain strong. I love him in dynasties, and the upside is even there for this year to be a #1.
19) Jake Allen – This tier goes from Allen into the top 40 of goaltenders. Let’s call this tier “Please don’t tank my season!” These guys should be fine, but the floor is quite low. We’ve seen the downside with Allen last season with 2.75/.906/27 in 59 games. He also had a strong season the year before, and I think he gets closer to that level again. The Blues did well in the offseason to strengthen their roster in front of Allen, and with Hutton gone, Allen doesn’t have a real threat to take starts from him. He looks primed for a bounceback.
20) Mike Smith – Smith was excellent in the first half, then suffered a groin injury and was never the same. Smith finished with a 2.65/.916/25 in 55 games which isn’t great. The Flames also traded Hamilton away, who is easily their best defenseman and leaves a massive hole on the right side of the blue line. The good news is that Peters’ system usually leads to great possession play which should bring Smith’s GAA down. I don’t love Smith, but I feel fairly safe about him being a bottom end #2.
That’s all for now guys. I’ll be back early next week with 21-40 for goaltenders. Be sure to check out Sven’s team previews and LDOM’s rankings as well! Look for RCL’s to launch next week too on top of my top 100 and 200 lists! As always, feel free to ask any questions, leave any comments, or make any suggestions below. Thanks for reading, take care!