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Posted - 09/14/2021 :  20:52:31  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
In this week’s Eastern Edge, we’ll divide Eastern Conference goaltenders into tiers based on their fantasy hockey value. Keep in mind, there’s a fair bit of subjectivity that goes into these tiers, so think of them more as a guide for your own thinking than rigid rankings that you should stick to. I tried to share some thoughts for most of the relevant names, but I wasn't able to get to everyone. Feel free to share your own thoughts in the comments below!

Tier 1

Andrei Vasilevskiy – Tampa Bay Lightning

I don't think there's any argument here, right? Elite goaltender that'll see a high volume of start on an elite team – a rare combination you'd be hard-pressed to find in any other netminder across the league.

Tier 2

Igor Shesterkin – New York Rangers

Once a highly-touted prospect, Shesterkin has shown that his talents translate to the NHL – posting a .921 save percentage and 2.59 GAA through 47 appearances. The Rangers have a strong roster, with superstars like Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibanejad and Adam Fox, as well as young guns like Alexis Lafreniθre and Kaapo Kakko who as projected to take another step forward this year. As a good goaltender playing behind a good team, Shesterkin is a solid option in fantasy leagues this year. I don't think Alexandar Georgiev will give him too much competition for the starting job, so Shesterkin should get a lot of games this year.

Ilya Sorokin – New York Islanders

After posting some outstanding numbers in the KHL, Sorokin showed he could play in North America last year – posting a .918 save percentage and 2.17 GAA through 22 games with the Islanders. As a promising goaltender playing behind a strong defensive system, Sorokin is a highly valuable fantasy asset. His value is only limited by the fact that he'll have to split starts with Semyon Varlamov. He should post great numbers but may not rack up as many wins as some of the league's clear-cut starters, who'll benefit from a higher volume of starts.

Semyon Varlamov – New York Islanders

The 33-year-old netminder was excellent last season, registering a 2.04 GAA and .929 save percentage through 36 games with the Islanders. As the veteran, he'll probably see a slightly higher percentage of starts than his younger counterpart Sorokin. While he certainly benefits from playing behind a solid defensive team, I feel like he doesn't get enough credit for his individual ability. He's been a bright spot during New York's recent playoff appearances, posting a .922 save percentage through 14 games in the 2021 postseason and a .921 save percentage in 20 games during the 2020 playoffs.

Tier 3

Tristan Jarry – Pittsburgh Penguins

The beginning of the season may be tough as Pittsburgh will be without Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin early on. However, once the superstars return from what hopefully turns out to be short absences, Jarry will benefit from playing behind a strong Penguins team. Jarry's stats last year were brought down by a bad seven-game stretch to open the season but he was solid over his next 32 appearances. I think our perception of Jarry dropped because he struggled during last year's playoffs, but he's shown us significantly more good than bad over the course of his young career. In my opinion, Jarry is a good goaltender on a good team who will provide a lot of fantasy value this year.

Linus Ullmark – Boston Bruins

Despite playing for a bad team, the 28-year-old netminder posted decent numbers over the past couple of years. He'll benefit from playing behind a better roster in Boston and could provide a lot of fantasy value this season if he's able to stay healthy and rack up a high volume of starts. He'll have some competition from the up-and-coming Jeremy Swayman, but I think Ullmark will be the starter based on his experience and contract.

Jack Campbell – Toronto Maple Leafs

Campbell had an outstanding 2021 campaign, winning 17 of his 22 starts while posting a 2.15 GAA and .921 save percentage. He'll benefit from playing behind a star-studded roster in Toronto that is a lot better defensively than they have been in recent years. I personally think Campbell is a better goaltender than Petr Mrazek and will therefore get more starts this year. With that being said, Mrazek has the larger contract and the Leafs need to make every penny work for them. From a business perspective, there's more incentive for Mrazek to succeed. That obviously isn't ideal for Campbell's fantasy value and is the main reason I didn't put him in tier two.

Carter Hart – Philadelphia Flyers

An incredibly talented young goalie who had a really tough season in 2021. Hart's fantasy value has taken a huge hit because he was one of the first goalies off the board during last year's fantasy drafts, so expectations were high for him heading into the 2021 campaign. That made the 3.67 GAA and .877 save percentage he posted last year all the more disappointing. Young goaltenders often face adversity as they find their footing early on in their careers, so last year's performance isn't cause for major concern. Since many fantasy managers were burned by Hart last year, I think his fantasy value has fallen a lot further than it should – because many are reluctant to get burned again. I personally believe he'll bounce back next season, which is why I have him ranked higher than most lists. The Flyers also revamped their blueline during the offseason. Although goaltending was more of a problem than defense last year, any change from last season may be valuable in helping Hart reset.

Mackenzie Blackwood – New Jersey Devils

Blackwood is a talented young goalie on a Devils' team that looks much better this year than it did last year. New Jersey made a couple of smart additions by signing Dougie Hamilton and Tomas Tatar, but the team should also benefit from the development of young stars like Jack Hughes, Ty Smith and Nico Hischier. Blackwood posted solid numbers in his first two NHL seasons and the struggles he faced in his third year can be explained by his battle with COVID, which affected his conditioning and didn't let him perform at his full capabilities.

Tier 4

Spencer Knight – Florida Panthers

I think Knight eats into Bobrovsky's starts and outperforms his older counterpart this year. More logical and realistic projections may suggest that Knight sees 20-25 starts this season, but I'll go out on a limb and say he sees upwards of 35 starts. He plays behind a strong team in Florida that should help him rack up the wins. In addition, he's shown – albeit in a small sample – that his skill translates to the NHL level and he can put up good numbers.

Frederik Andersen – Carolina Hurricanes

I probably have him ranked lower than most, but I'd prefer to avoid Andersen in fantasy leagues as a result of his recent injury history. To me, there's too big a risk that either (a) he can't return to form as a result of recent injuries or (b) he misses more time with injuries this season. Andersen's numbers over the past two seasons aren't very impressive and It's been a while since he was on top of his game. I just don't see the need to waste an early pick on so much uncertainty. He's being drafted in the top-50 of your average Yahoo league, which is way too early for my liking. With that being said, Carolina is a very good team so I wouldn't be surprised if Andersen enjoys some success this year – I just don't think it's worth it at his current price.

Ilya Samsonov – Washington Capitals

Petr Mrazek – Toronto Maple Leafs

Tier 5

Elvis Merzlikins – Columbus Blue Jackets
a talented goaltender who has put up solid numbers across his two seasons in the NHL. I think he's done enough to separate himself from Joonas Korpisalo and should therefore see a higher volume of starts this year. Columbus may not have the most impressive roster in the league, but I think they'll outperform expectations this year. It'll be important to see what kind of system Brad Larsen implements as the team's new head coach. John Tortorella emphasized defense, which theoretically benefits a goaltender's numbers. A system with more offensive freedom may help the team win more games but may make Merzlikins' job slightly more difficult. With that being said, if there is a change, I don't think it'll be too drastic. Merzlikins is going outside the top-150 when he's drafted in your average Yahoo fantasy league – going undrafted in many others. Given the low cost, I think Merzlikins could provide a fair bit of value to your fantasy roster this year.

Carey Price – Montreal Canadiens

Let me preface this by saying that I'm a huge fan of Carey Price, but for the purposes of this list, I have to put that fandom aside and consider the facts. Firstly, Price is a 34-year-old netminder who has battled serious injuries in recent years and just had knee surgery a couple of months ago. Secondly, he plays behind an 'average' team in a stacked division, so wins may be hard to come by this season. Thirdly, Montreal will be without a couple of defensive stalwarts this season following the departure of Phillip Danault and injuries to Shea Weber. You can talk about Christian Dvorak and David Savard filling those holes, but I'd still argue there was a net downgrade in defensive ability. Price finished the regular season last year with a lackluster 2.64 GAA and .901 save percentage. I don't see any concrete reasons why those numbers would improve significantly this year. He's being selected among the top-65 in your average Yahoo fantasy league but I think that's too high a price to pay. The way I see it, Price's fantasy value is inflated due to his heroic performance in the 2021 playoffs. I'm not saying that Price doesn't have any gas left in the tank – because I think he does – I'm just not convinced that he's going to be a top tier goalie during the 2021-2022 regular season.

Jeremy Swayman – Boston Bruins

The young netminder certainly has the talent to be a valuable fantasy hockey asset, but I just don't think he'll end up seeing a high enough volume of starts to have a huge impact. Swayman was excellent last year, winning seven of his 10 starts and posting a 1.50 GAA and .945 save percentage in the process. I believe he'll continue to post good numbers when called upon this season, but I think Ullmark gets more starts based on experience and contract value. With that being said, Ullmark does have a history of injuries and isn't really an established starter, so there's certainly potential for Swayman to take over.

Sergei Bobrovsky – Florida Panthers

The Panthers have an excellent roster and look like they'll sit near the top of the standings this year, but I just can't behind Bobrovsky. The 32-year-old netminder hasn't given us much to be optimistic about during his time in Florida and I don't see any reason why that would change next season. His massive contract guarantees he'll see a large volume of starts this year, but he'll certainly have some competition from the young and talented Spencer Knight.

Tier 6

Alex Nedeljkovic – Detroit Red Wings

While Nedeljkovic's .932 save percentage and 1.90 GAA last year were outstanding, they came in a small sample of 23 games. More importantly, he posted those numbers behind a strong roster in Carolina. I had a lot more faith Carolina's blueline last year than I do in Detroit's current defensive corps. Although the downgrade in team quality and small sample of success have been well-documented, I don't think they've been properly factored into his fantasy value. When Nedeljkovic was traded for the small return of Jonathan Bernier and a third-round draft pick in the real world, media coverage of the trade painted Nedeljkovic as an underappreciated and undervalued asset. As such, I feel like that narrative extends to fantasy hockey and our perception of Nedeljkovic's fantasy value. As more managers look at Nedeljkovic as a low-risk/high-reward target they can target late in the draft, his draft ranking may start to increase. All of a sudden, you're overpaying for an inexperienced goaltender on a lackluster team.

Antti Raanta – Carolina Hurricanes

Jake Allen – Montreal Canadiens

Matt Murray – Ottawa Senators

Alexandar Georgiev – New York Rangers

Casey DeSmith – Pittsburgh Penguins

Vitek Vanecek – Washington Capitals

Brian Elliot – Tampa Bay Lightning

Tier 7

Thomas Greiss – Detroit Red Wings

Jonathan Bernier – New Jersey Devils

Filip Gustavsson – Ottawa Senators

Joonas Korpisalo – Columbus Blue Jackets

Tier 8

Martin Jones – Philadelphia Flyers

Craig Anderson – Buffalo Sabres

Aaron Dell – Buffalo Sabres


Written by Brennan Des of

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