Things have changed quite a bit with goaltending in the NHL since I started writing at Razzball. When I started, there were tons of workhorses with very few teams using a platoon. Now, more than half of the teams have a duo where the backup is getting at least 1/3 of the starts, if not a complete split. Among the few workhorses that we have left, there are only six that I completely trust to be a #1 goalie this year. I am breaking down all of the goalies in the NHL into tiers (and ranking them within in each tier), but be sure to understand how your league format can change the value of certain players. For example, if you’re in a head to head league, Marc-Andre Fleury is going to be more valuable than in a roto league because the volume should be there. In a roto league where you have a set number of starts, someone like Ilya Sorokin, who, barring injury, should start 35-40 games, gets a boost because the quality of starts matters a lot more than volume. If you have specific questions, ask them in the comments section, but I’ll have a quick note on everyone when necessary. Let’s get to it!
TIER ONE: THERE IS ONLY ONE
1) Andrei Vasilevskiy – I covered Vasilevskiy in my Top 20 post. If you pass over Vasilevskiy to take another goalie, I hope that you feel shame and are laughed at by the rest of your league.
TIER TWO: POMP AND CIRCUMSTANCE
2) Darcy Kuemper – Kuemper took the place of Grubauer in Colorado and shoots all the way up to second in my rankings. Grubauer was the #1 goalie last season playing behind the best team in the league during the regular season, and Kuemper is every bit of the goalie that Grubauer is. Kuemper is a bit of an injury risk so I can understand the hesitation, but the circumstance can’t be any better.
3) Connor Hellebuyck – Hellebuyck is as safe as they come outside of Vasilevskiy, and the Jets should be a bit improved this season. He’s a good bet to lead the league in starts as well. It’s hard to see any scenario outside of injury that Hellebuyck isn’t a top 10 goalie.
4) Robin Lehner – Lehner is also an injury risk, but the upside is through the roof with Fleury gone. No, Brossoit isn’t going to cut into his workload. Last season’s .913 is a worst case scenario, and we could see a GAA approaching 2. Give me all of the Lehner stock again.
TIER THREE: HIGH UPSIDE, SOLID FLOOR
5) Igor Shesterkin – Prince Igor had an okay season that saw him post a 2.62/.916. Even though I hated their offseason, the Rangers should be improved based on the growth of their young players. Additionally, the schedule gets a lot easier this season going back to the normal alignment. You can argue that all of the top teams besides the Islanders got worse over the summer and the Isles stood pat. He carries more risk than the usual #5 overall goalie, but this is where we are in the league right now. There’s a Vezina in his future at some point.
6) Juuse Saros – Saros carried the Predators into the playoffs last season with a whopping .927 save percentage. Rinne retired with Rittich taking the place as Saros’ backup meaning we could see Saros push 65 starts. On the other hand, Nashville looks to be a mediocre team this season. Their over/under for points is 83.5. I think that’s a bit low, but they clearly got worse in the offseason barring a breakout from some of the young players they acquired. In other words, the wins have a bit of downside, but the goals against average and save percentage should be elite.
TIER FOUR: PER-GAME MONSTERS
7) Semyon Varlamov – Varlamov was the #4 goalie last season despite playing only 60% of the games. I don’t expect a repeat of 2.04/.926, but Varly shouldn’t be far off. We know that the Isles will be a regular season powerhouse at the very least. The bad news is that 60% seems like a best case for this season. Ideally, you pair him with Sorokin (more on him later).
8) Philipp Grubauer – Leaving Colorado is automatically a downgrade for your outlook, but going to Seattle isn’t a bad alternative. One, their division is pretty soft outside of Vegas. Two, looking at the construct of their roster, Seattle should be a defensive team. I wouldn’t be surprised if they played a lot of low scoring games, especially when Gourde comes back. Three, Grubauer is a very good goalie and at the end of the day, that goes a long way. The downside is that Seattle really likes Driedger. The plan was for him to be their #1 until Grubauer fell into their lap. Therefore, I expect Driedger to get 25-30 games limiting Grubauer’s overall upside.
9) Jack Campbell – Campbell’s finish to last season was incredible and was given a vote of confidence by the Leafs to be their #1 this season. That said, Mrazek will get plenty of starts, and the division change is going to hurt a bit. I expect Campbell to be similar to what Andersen was in his best years. That is, a GAA that is a slight negative, but elite wins and a strong save percentage.
TIER FIVE: WILD CARDS AND PLAYING TIME QUESTION MARKS
10) Marc-Andre Fleury – There’s no denying that Fleury was incredible in his age 36 season. That said, I’m not a fan for this season. I may end up dropping him quite a bit in this tier (which is massive) as time goes on. There aren’t many bigger drop offs than going from Vegas to Chicago as far as defensive teams go. I have long been driving the “Seth Jones is overrated” train and don’t see this team taking much of a step forward. Maybe MAF will cover up a bunch of Chicago’s mistakes. He could also go back to the 2.77/.905 he was two seasons ago, if not worse. The potential volume puts him here for now, but there’s a lot of downside.
11) Linus Ullmark – Few people have seen how good Ullmark is as a goalie between injuries and simply playing for Buffalo. Now, he moves to Boston, one of the best spots for goalies in the league. The injuries are obviously a worry and Swayman could work his way into a 1B this season, but I’m willing to gamble on the upside. Rask and Halak have been elite for years in Boston and I expect Ullmark to continue down that path.
12) Spencer Knight – Could this blow up in my face? Absolutely. Knight could also be a top 5 goalie. I’m all in on Florida this season between their offseason moves and Knight potentially being a massive upgrade over what they’re received from Bob since his arrival. I don’t expect a massive workload with Bob making $10m per year for another five years, but for Florida to get where they want to, it’ll have to be Knight. Quenneville’s willingness to go to Knight against Tampa in the playoffs makes me bullish on Knight’s workload.
13) Jordan Binnington – There’s some inception stuff going on right here, as 13-15th is a tier within a tier. The next three guys are the clear #1 on their team but coming off horrific seasons by their standards. I put Binnington first solely because his team is projected to be the best of the three, but I’m not going to quibble with the order. Maybe his rookie season will be an anomaly, but missing Parayko for half the season really hurt the Blues defensively last season. Their offseason moves should improve them defensively as well, so I’m expecting a bit of a bounce back, but everything is on the table.
14) Jacob Markstrom – Markstrom’s first season in Calgary was a disappointment on both a team and individual level. I liked the Coleman signing, but the Flames feel like a team in purgatory. Maybe they sneak into the playoffs, maybe they come close but miss. The volume should be among the biggest in the league, but Markstrom feels like he ends up as a #2 in fantasy.
15) Carter Hart – If you know what to expect from Hart this season, congrats on owning Grey’s Sports Almanac. Fun fact: that’s named after Razzball’s own Grey Albright! The Flyers brought in Martin Jones as his backup meaning Hart is going to get all of the starts he can handle. He could be a top five goalie again or he could be the worst player in fantasy hockey again. Hart is the ultimate wild card.
16) Cam Talbot – I was tempted to put Talbot in the tier ahead. He was very good in his first season in Minnesota, and all indications were that they were going to let Kahkonen go to Seattle. That makes it seem like they have a ton of faith in Talbot, even though Kahkonen was a very highly ranked prospect. By the time I do my top 200, Talbot may be 12th or 13th. I love the thought of owning both Wild goalies.
17) Anton Khudobin – I’m bullish on a Stars bounce back. I don’t think they’re as good as they were two seasons ago when they made the finals, and they’re not as bad as last season. Yes, the Stars signed Holtby with Bishop out, but this is Khudobin’s crease. There’s some real upside here, but he is aging as well.
18) Mike Smith – Smith was excellent last season after two years of being a dumpster fire. I have no clue what to expect from him at age 39. The wins should be decent regardless, but would it surprise you if he went back to be a 3 GAA /.900 sv% guy? Not me. He’s another big wild card.
19) Thatcher Demko – Despite the Canucks having the year from hell, Demko was actually solid with a .915 save percentage. I think I’m a little lower on the Canucks this season than consensus, although I do see a bit of a bounceback. I put Demko ahead of the rest of the guys in this tier because I can see a path to him being a bottom end #1, although I’m not betting on it.
20) Frederik Andersen – The injury risks of Andersen and Raanta both keep their ranking down. However, I love them both in Carolina and want to get that pairing in every roto league. We’ve seen what mediocre goalies have done for Carolina over the past few seasons. Andersen and Raanta are both better than that when healthy. I expect a full split though but if I had to pick one, it would be Andersen, which is why he ends up here.
21) Tristan Jarry – The Penguins will be missing Crosby and Malkin to start the season. Maybe that makes them play more defensive? I don’t have a lot to say about Jarry or Samsonov who comes next. They can be solid #2’s, bottom end #2’s, or #3’s. I don’t see the real upside.
22) Ilya Samsonov – see Jarry above.
23) Carey Price – Yes, Price was amazing in the playoffs last season. He also had a .901 sv% in the regular season. Add in that he hasn’t skated yet due to his injury and that Allen is going to plenty of starts, and I’m out on Price for the umpteenth year.
TIER SIX – LOW FLOOR, MEDIUM UPSIDE
24) Cal Petersen – If only the Kings would give him the vast majority of the starts. Like the rest of the guys in this tier, Petersen is on a team that is probably a year away from being a playoff contender, although I can see a path to the Kings making the playoffs this year in a bad division. Petersen is the exact type of G3 I want in a head to head league but he’ll still have value in roto leagues.
25) Alex Nedeljkovic – He might just be really good? I cannot understand why Carolina didn’t want to keep him. Detroit won’t be good this year, but I doubt they’ll be terrible either. I’m a huge fan in dynasties, but can see some value this year too.
26) John Gibson – It pains me to rank Gibson this low, and in all honesty, he probably should be lower behind the 1B goalies up next. I can’t bring myself to think he’s fallen apart this fast, and there’s also a chance he gets traded and becomes a top 10 goalie which gives him some additional upside.
TIER SEVEN – WEAK 1A’S AND THE BEST 1B’S
27) Ilya Sorokin – Eventually, Sorokin will be a top 10 goalie. For now, he’s stuck splitting with Varlamov. He should get 30-40 games depending on how things shake out, and he’ll be worth starting in every single game.
28) Petr Mrazek – Mrazek goes to Toronto to be the 1B for Campbell. I put Mrazek second in this tier because maybe Campbell was a fluke last season? I think there’s a bit more upside here than for the other guys ignoring injuries. The wins should be solid regardless.
29) Jake Allen – A poor finish really brought his numbers down, but Allen should be worth starting outside of the worst matchups. I expect close to an even split with Price as the Canadiens play it safe with him, although I think the end of the season could see them riding Price quite a bit. I think they’re far from a playoff lock.
30) Antti Raanta – Just stay healthy! If he does, Raanta should be quite good.
31) Mackenzie Blackwood – It sounds like New Jersey’s plan is to get Bernier plenty of action. If that’s wrong, then Blackwood definitely belongs in the tier above as New Jersey is in the same group of teams as those three goalies. He’s a much better goalie than last season’s numbers indicate.
32) Chris Driedger – I was going to be extremely high on Driedger, but Grubauer’s arrival ruined that. I’m still a fan, but it’ll take an injury to Grubauer for Driedger to be more than a streamer.
33) Sergei Bobrovsky – At the least, Bob should pile up a bunch of wins; he did last year despite a 2.91/.906. Maybe he’ll do better with Knight there as the pressure gets lifted a bit? I have no clue what to expect from Bob, but we’ve seen plenty of downside the last two seasons.
34) Jeremy Swayman – Given Ullmark’s injury history, Swayman could arguably be second in this tier behind Sorokin. I feel confident to say that Swayman will be worth streaming in every start this season, which is more than I can say about most of these guys.
34) Kaapo Kahkonen – He struggled down the stretch to finish with only a .902 save percentage, but it was only his rookie season. The Wild should be a good team again and there’s upside with Kahkonen in his second go-around.
35) Casey DeSmith – I think the Penguins give Jarry every chance to be successful again this season, but DeSmith could end up getting more starts than people anticipate. I admittedly may have him too low.
36) Vitek Vanecek – He was serviceable at times last season but I don’t see much more than an occasional streamer.
TIER EIGHT – MAYBE SOME VALUE?
37) Adin Hill – I’m intrigued to see what Hill can do given the chance to get regular starts this season. The problem is that the Sharks are going to be pretty bad. There’s at least a little bit of upside here.
38) Elvis Merzlikins – Columbus looks destined to be terrible but maybe Elvis can still put up respectable numbers. I don’t see any chance to being good at wins though which drops him out from the tier above. He could always be traded, although Korpisalo’s disastrous 2021 season makes that unlikely.
39) Matt Murray – He’ll start most of the games so he has that going for him. That’s about it.
40) Jaroslav Halak – My opinion is that the Bruins defense made Halak look better than he is the last few seasons, but that theory will get put to the test this season behind the Cancuks defense. There’s a path to him being fantasy relevant, but it’s far riskier than in the past.
41) Braden Holtby – Maybe the Stars will be good enough defensively that Holtby will be streamable? Don’t see any upside but could be a little value.
42) Jonathan Bernier – Bernier had a nice season on a terrible Detroit team. Maybe he can do that with the Devils? The volume won’t match what he received in Detroit, that’s for sure.
43) James Reimer – I expect nothing from Reimer but he’s worth mentioning because he’s not completely hopeless. What high praise!
44) Joonas Korpisalo – He could bounce back from last season’s .896 save percentage, but I’m not expecting a big one.
TIER NINE – NINE! AS IN NO!
Don’t take an Arizona or Buffalo goalie. Both teams are going to be dreadful. Maybe not as bad as their tankathon for McDavid/Eichel, but it’s going to be pretty bad. They will do more damage than good in fantasy so cross them off your lists before you even start drafing.
That’s all for now guys! We’re pushing 3,000 words with this bad boy. I’ll be back next Tuesday with my top 20 defensemen rankings, then top 40 later in the week. I’ll go through forwards the week after with a top 200 coming after that. As always, feel free to ask any questions, leave any comments, or give any suggestions below. Thanks for reading, take care!
wow great post very helpful! My league has 11 offense cats and 6 goalie including losses. It is a very odd stat to use because it pretty much counters stacking too many goalie appearances in a week. For this reason i am looking at Ulmark or knight as my #1 around pick 80-90. With these settings should i grab an earliee #2 like markstrom or just stream the backup spot based on matchups? What is ur recommended pairing. Thx Viz
Thanks my man! Yeah, that does change things quite a bit. What are the other extra categories for goalies? Just give me all 6 so it’s easier… Let me know and I’ll give you a good answer.
appteciate it W, L ,SV , GAA, SV % and SHO
So with saves being a category, I’m way more likely to chase volume to guarantee winning it. You can get lucky with losses if your goalies win a bunch of games, but you’re not going to win saves by being selective with starts. If you plan on only starting a handful of games and then your goalie gets lit up on Friday, you’re screwed because you can’t make the volume up.
thanks! With that in mind what tier would you recommend drafting my first goalie? Is it worth it to pay up for say a Saros or keep my initial plan on grabbing 2 goalies from around 11-20 range?
No problem! I think I would probably wait as you planned, but I’d want one of the two goalies to get volume, and if one of the top goalies fall in the draft, don’t hesitate to pull the trigger.
Good stuff Viz!
Take a look at how well Jarry and then Penquins played at home. If he goes as late as you have him he could be a good home streamer value.
I like what you said about Ranta, I would love to get him as a fourth goalie.
I am with you on Dallas bouncing back as a team as well as the Jets. I think the Central is going to be tough this year and I could see the Blues or even the Wild missing the playoffs. People are writing off Nashville but they make the playoffs every year so there is for a chance there. What do you think of the possibility of the Blues or Wild missing the playoffs?
Thanks! I definitely see the upside in Jarry, it’s just quite risky. I think he’ll find some middle ground between his massive 2020 and awful 2021 seasons but we’ll see.
I really like the thought of getting both Carolina goalies. Hard to say who they make the #1 or if there even is one, but both are on my radar.
Saros would have to be incredible for Nashville to make the playoffs. Losing Ellis and Arvidsson without getting much help now is a big step back. I would expect both of those teams to make the playoffs, but neither is a lock. The only two teams in the West that I think are playoff locks are Colorado and Vegas, I can’t even call Edmonton a lock because Smith/Koskinen could completely sink them. I think I’m a little higher on the Blues than consensus, getting only half a season from Parayko really hurt them, but there is downside there. Minnesota feels like an okay playoff team, but if Kaprizov isn’t signed, things get really dicey.
Good morning Viz!
1. Ullmark: I see him being a top-5 goaltender if the Bruins give him the starting job, but I worry about Rask coming back. I see Ullmark being a potential steal if he drops into the 8th round or so. But not if Rask starts when he comes back… your thoughts?
2. Cal Petersen: Aside from wins, I see Petersen being a top-10 goalie with regards to SV% and GAA. How badly do you disagree?? LOL
I think Ullmark is a steal around then, that I agree with, but I don’t see him as a top 5 goalie. Maybe in absolute best case scenario. The problem is that Swayman is still going to get plenty of starts even before Rask gets, and more importantly, Ullmark has a massive injury history. He’s probably the biggest injury risk for all goalies. I love the upside, but there’s a lot of downside too.
Umm, I can see the case for that, more so with sv% than GAA. I don’t think he’s top 10 in either, but it’s within the realm of realistic possibility. You can tell me that happened and I’d believe it. While Danault helps defensively, that blue line is still pretty ugly. Edler may help a little bit, but he also is near the top of committing penalties every season, a nightmare for goalies.
Yeah, I know you are right. I’m just trying to get my 2 starting goalies outside of my top 10 selections! Any thoughts?
If your league is the type of league where people don’t go crazy on goalies early, I don’t hate the idea. Generally, I’d probably plan on one in the top 10 and then waiting, but if you can end up getting A/B/Petersen as your three goalies, I think it can work. Something like Ullmark Demko Petersen
Good morning Viz!
Hey, do you have insight on a potential return date for Ben Bishop???
I don’t have an exact timeline, but from what I understand, it’s not going to be any time soon. That’s why they signed Holtby, and still have Oettinger behind Khudobin. I wouldn’t be drafting him.