Goalies can be notoriously difficult to rank and project for accurately. I give each starter projections but I might not bother trying to predict what kind of numbers a backup is going to offer unless I have reason to believe that they’re going to play enough to be worth owning. Most of the time, backups aren’t, but there have been some gems in the understudy group in recent years. Cam Talbot‘s stellar work behind Henrik Lundqvist last year helped ease the pain of the wounds Jimmy Howard’s 2014 campaign left me. Damnit, Howie! At any rate, Chad Johnson filling in for Tuukka Rask showed similar value. For the most part, though, backups are backups and largely worthless without a starter getting injured. Then we have the always wonderful goalie committees. Is there anything worse than goalie by committee? Yes, yes there is, but for the purposes of this post, no, no there is not. The Hurricanes look to provide a buttload of frustration for anyone willing to draft their way into that sad state of affairs again in 2015 with Anton Khudobin set for a bit of a regression and Cam Ward being, well, Cam Ward. On the flip side the duos of Brian Elliot and Jake Allen in St. Louis and Frederik Andersen and stud rookie John Gibson where if either guy is asked to go 60 starts their season would end up bleh, but limit them to around 40 starts a piece and they stay healthy and rested, the numbers stay sexy, and you stay happy with a cheap no. 2 tender. Anyhooze, lets get to the meat o’ the matter, Razzball’s 2014-2015 Fantasy Hockey Goalie Rankings:

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Dustin Byfuglien started at forward, shifted to defense and now it looks like he’s back at forward for the foreseeable future again. Leafs sophomore defenseman Jake Gardiner (1 G, 1 A, 2 SOG, even) has taken the opposite path, having shifted from wing to defense, but lets hope the comparison stops there and the back and forth that the Jets are forcing on Buff doesn’t end up happening to Gardiner. Regardless of what might happen, it was a good call to shift Gardiner because before the move he was a middle-tier forward at best, but on the blue line he’s got some serious offensive upside. What’s that sound I hear? The ring rang o’ the cash register, because this kid’s going to be money for fantasy owners very soon. Of course the big question is how quickly can he adapt to the new position at the NHL level? The answer is quickly! Even better, he already has! It helps that he was a good two-way forward to start, so he already had solid defensive chops or this experiment would likely have never taken place this late in a guy’s career, even though his NHL career has basically just started. But I digress, Gardiner is adapting quite well to his new role as evidenced by a solid rookie campaign back in 2011-12 when he put up 30 points (7 G, 23 A, -2) in 80 games. So far this season he has 16 points in 49 games and sits even with plus/minus. Not bad at all! When you project out over 80 games he’s looking at 26 points powered by seven goals, which is actually slightly lower than what he put up as a rookie, though I think he’ll have a minor surge sometime in the second half that gets his points total over his rookie season benchmark. The bottom line is this kid is good and getting better and he could be a top-four defenseman as early as next season, so if you are looking to plan ahead for your keeper league consider keeping Jake the Snake in your plans. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey last night:

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When the Ducks dealt Bobby Ryan to the Senators everyone wondered just what they were getting back in Jakob Silfverberg (1 G, 3 SOG, +1), the key player in the deal for the Ducks. Well, if last night’s return to action after missing 24 games with a broken hand is any indication, they might have something special. Jacke (swedish nickname for Jakob, just an FYI) scored a goal and picked up right where he left off back in October when he was matching Ryan point for point through most of the first month of the season. He wasn’t keeping that beautifully OCD parity with his goals and assists that Bobby likes to maintain, but despite missing those 24 games he’s on pace for as many goals. I guess he figures he needs to score a goal for every game he misses? What a work ethic on this kid! So what can he do for the rest of the year? It remains to be seen whether or not he pans out into a top-six forward or not, but he’s absolutely worth a flier in most leagues because the boy loves to score some goals and we love guys who love scoring goals. Jacke is mature for his age, strong, smart and a great skater with a solid set of technical skills. He has a nose for the net, as I’ve mentioned, but his shot lacks a bit of accuracy at this point in his young career. Still, he’s an immensely talented young player and worth a flier in most leagues. That’s the second time I’ve said so in this paragraph alone, so go get him! Anyway, here’s what else I saw in fantasy hockey last night:

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Normally I take a wait and see policy on Russian prospects because they often come highly touted but fail to impress when given the opportunity (We’re all looking right at you, Nail Yakupov) but in the case of Dmitry Orlov (1 G, 3 SOG, +2), I think I can make an exception. Last night he may have locked up a roster spot after scoring his first goal of the season in a magnificent all around effort for the young defenseman. Since his debut Nov. 30th his TOI is hovering around 18 minutes a game and last night against the Panthers he was out there for a whopping 20:04 with 2:42 in OT, the most of any Caps d-man. Orlov was everywhere last night, deking his way through the offensive zone and creating scoring chances, and of course cashing in as well. When asked if he thought this was Orlov’s best game this season Caps head coach Adam Oates had this to say “Yep. I think so, but I still think we saw the offense, we see those plays he made in overtime. I’ve talked to him all along. I know that. You gotta do the job in our end.” That’s the one knock on Orlov to this point, he’s offensive minded to a fault. His penchant for over-reaching to push for an offensive chance makes him a liability in his own zone, but he is so deadly in the offensive zone that he’s likely to continue with the Caps moving forward. That’s a risky prediction on my part because he’s been sent down and recalled five effin’ times in the last month! Is the Caps front-office bi-polar or what? If Orlov stays up with the Caps this time he’s a risky add in standard formats unless he really explodes, and if last night’s game was any indication he has the potential to do just. However, Oates and the Caps want to win, and if his possession numbers skew too far into the negatives he’ll get sent back down like whoa. Or he’ll get sent down for no earthly reason. Honestly, I don’t know what the Caps will do at this point but the kid has made his case to stay this time around, that’s for sure. Regardless, he’s a special kind of player with the potential to post Mike Green-esque point-per-games seasons early on in his career, so he should be owned in all keeper leagues. Anyway, he’s what else I saw in fantasy hockey yesterday:

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Aleksander Barkov (1 G, 2 SOG, +1) scored a very sexy goal after stealing the puck in the offensive zone and has started his NHL career with the same type of success he’s had since he was 15 years old. Unbelievably enough that was just three effin’ years ago and Barkov turned just 18 years old on September 2nd of this year! That’s just days before the 2013-14 training camp was set to kick off. Despite his youth he’s already averaging 16 minutes a night and shows no signs that he can’t handle the speed and strength of the game at the NHL level. The rookie has points in back-to-back games and is on pace for 30 points with 12 goals this year. Aleks is wise beyond his years in hockey sense and has an uncanny ability to read situations quickly and make good decisions with the puck. He’s technically sound in almost every area and will can be an elite defenseman in the NHL as soon as next year. The Panthers have a rich crop of talented young defensemen and the 2nd overall pick in the 2013 draft is already the brightest star among them. He’s a must own in deeper/keeper leagues and will be relevant in most formats soon. Anyway, here’s what else I saw on a short night o’ fantasy hockey:

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Steven Stamkos (broken effin’ leg) is actually skating already. Yes, you read that right, just one month and three days after he broke his tibia Stamkos was back on the ice. He wasn’t practicing, nor did he wear any gear, but he’s on his feet and looks like he’ll actually make it back before the Olympic break.

Jimmy Howard (knee) has a grain-1 MCL sprain and will be out for 2-4 weeks. I’ve been telling everyone to pick up Jonas Gustavsson for weeks now, so I hope y’all listened! If not, he’s still owned in less than 50% of Yahoo! Leagues. Yar.

Shawn Thornton (assault and battery) was suspended for 15 games for his vicious attack on the Pens’ Brooks Orpik a week ago. That sounds about right.

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