We're now just a month away from the most wonderful time of the year, so it's time to start making your list and checking it twice. This week, I will be counting down who you should consider the top 10 fantasy goalies. The word "fantasy" is the key here. We're not talking about which goalie has the sneakiest glove hand, which is the quickest post-to-post, or who is the most sound at taking the angle away from the shooter. We're talking about base statistical performance - Wins, Saves, Save %, and Goals Against Average. Fantasy hockey ain't care 'bout how many of the goals against were because of bad defensive positioning or a bad turnover. All that matters is that the puck went in the net.
Before we get into the list, I want to give you my general approach to fantasy goalies. Now trust me, I recognize that the very first bit of fantasy counsel I will ever publicly impart is unconventional and has high potential to confound you. But here is my philosophy in its rawest form: Having two good goalies is not as important as you think.
There. I said it. You read it. Now let the Internet spread it. You probably dismissed me with a guffaw, labeling me as some ding-dong who is just making up nonsense as he types. While that may be true (and it is), I have won my league 3 of the last 5 years, so I must be doing something right.
Now let me explain it. Don't get me wrong - goalies are important. Those two guys alone will be responsible for over 25% of your final score each week. If they don't perform well, you will lose. I recognize that. But goalies are up and down all of the time. And they get hurt all the time. Guys come out of nowhere and run hot for weeks, regardless of how good they actually are in real life (examples: Devan Dubnyk, Andrew Hammond, Michael Hutchinson).
My team last season is a perfect example. At the end of the draft, my starting goalies were Cory Schneider and John Gibson. Yes, that John Gibson. The one who got shellacked in the first game of the season, wore a baseball cap for the next 2 weeks because of said shellacking, then got hurt (in pre-game warm-ups, I think) and was out of the NHL for over two months. I took a gamble and it failed. It failed more than my boy Johnny Mac's short coaching tenure.
I obviously knew I had to find a second goalie, but the truth is, I was never really that worried. I knew that I'd stumble onto someone. And I did. Then when that guy began to falter, or I didn't care for his matchups that week, I would find another guy. In the end, I went through 7 different goalies to pair with Cory (Gibson, Ondrej Pavelec, Hutchinson, Cam Ward, Antti Raanta, Mike Smith, and yes, the one and only Martin Brodeur). The beauty is, I got all of these guys, except Pavelec, from the waiver wire. And all it cost me to get Pavelec was Chris Kreider. Even in the playoffs, I played a different second goalie in every round (Gibson, Smith, Pavelec respectively), and I was perfectly comfortable doing it. In the end, I was crowned champion and dubbed a fake hockey genius. Thank you very much and good day to you all.
So, what I'm saying is, when your draft comes around, I advocate that you get that one guy you know you can count on (meaning 1 of the 10 guys I'm about to talk about) and then not worry too much about the next guy until he is the best available player when your pick comes around. In other words, don't pass on a solid forward or defenseman option because you want to sure up your #2 goalie spot.
Now, with that out of the way, here is the Top 10 Fantasy Goalie Countdown. And yes, it is a countdown. From 10 to 1. None of that starting at 1 garbage that people do to spoil the fun. Spoiler: The Vezina winner is my #1. Sorry. It's a gimme.
Couple quick notes before we go. My statistical rankings only include goalies that started 30 or more games, which ended up being 37 total goalies. Also, when I say a goalie got skunked, I am referring to any game where they were yanked or gave up 5 or more goals in a completed game.
All right. Let's do this.
10. DEVAN DUBNYK
You're saying, "Cory isn't the 10th best fantasy goalie?!" I know. I know. He's pretty much all we got, but I wouldn't be doing my job if I used a bias to put him here. There is absolutely no room for drafting with your heart in fake hockey. I am truly sorry, everyone. Let's just bury our sorrow and move on.
16th in GS (was a backup until he was dealt to Minnesota)
7th in W
27.5 Saves/Start (4th most of my Top 10)
2nd in GAA
2nd in SV%
Games skunked - 2 (both with Arizona)
YAYS of Dubnyk: What he did after being traded to the Wild is hard to argue as anything short of incredible. It was like the dude sold his soul just before leaving the desert. He ended up starting 38 straight games, winning 27 of those, while posting a 1.78 GAA and a .936 save percentage. He only gave up more than 3 goals one time in the entire 4 months of hockey after the new year. That's about as good as you get. And right when you need it most in fantasy, too.
NAYS of Dubnyk: Nothing in his past hinted towards him being that dominant. He was pretty not good everywhere he was before this, and it seemed like he was sort of on his way out of the league. Not only that, Minnesota has been host to a few goalie overachievers (Niklas Backstrom, Josh Harding, Darcy Kuemper, and to some degree, Ilya Bryzgalov) over the past couple years, so it's difficult for me to quite accept that what he did in 2015 is even close to realistic expectations.
My draft consensus: The Hockey News has him going at 92 overall, while ESPN has him at 51. I actually agree dead on with ESPN at 51.
9. SERGEI BOBROVSKY
To all of those hoping for a surprise 9 spot for Cory - Sorry again. It's not gonna happen.
22nd in GS (missed 6 weeks with an injury)
14th in W
30.6 Saves/Start (Most for my Top 10 by almost 3 shots/game)
30th in GAA
T-17th in SV% (with Jonas Hiller and Jonathan Quick)
Games Skunked - 7
YAYS of Bob: "You get an injury! And you get an injury! Everyone gets an injury!" That was pretty much the entire season for Bob and the Jackets. It was not good. I think you can chalk up the entire season as an unfortunate anomaly and trust that he is the goods and that the guys in front of him will be healthier and better. His 30.6 Saves per Start was the clear highest of all of the goalies I analyzed. That is mostly a bad thing in real hockey, but a very good thing in fantasy.
NAYS of Bob: Well, despite the fact that the Jackets were battered much of the year, Bob's numbers are still unflattering facts. He was 30th in GAA, which had Karri Ramo, Eddie Lack, and Cam Ward ahead of him. Those guys are not great fantasy company. He was also skunked in 7 games, which works out to almost once every two weeks. In fantasy, one bad game from one goalie can ruin all of your goalie categories for the entire week. You don't want that.
My draft consensus: The Hockey News has him going at 31 overall, while ESPN has him at 54. I'm looking at the 44 spot for him.
8. CORY SCHNEIDER
YES! YES! YES! Our beloved Cory is in the top 10, and it's legit. I wasn't blackmailed or bribed or nothing. And the truth is, before doing my research, I guessed he'd end up around the 12 spot, but as I looked at more and more numbers, it became apparent that he deserved to be on here.
3rd in GS
21st in W
27.0 Saves/Start (5th most of my Top 10)
10th in GAA
5th in SV%
Games Skunked - 7
YAYS of Cory: He's the only guy in town, and he's very good. In fantasy, you want a goalie who is playing every night, and obviously that will happen with him. Not only that, the Devils were 24th in the league in Shots Against, which means Cory is going to see rubber. That is also good. And despite all of the shots, he was still 5th in SV% (he should've been 4th - Talbot was better by .001 but played literally half the number of games). His 10th ranked GAA was only .02 from being 6th alongside Jonathan Quick. Despite being on one of the worse teams in the league, he was as solid as can be.
NAYS of Cory: Because the Devils stink, he's not going to get the Ws. Last season, he had 9 less than Kari "Lettin' Em In" Lehtonen (who had a 2.94 GAA and a 90.3 SV%) and the same amount as Jonas Hiller (who played 24 less games). That is very unfortunate. Another issue is that Cory tends to have really bad nights from time to time, as he was blown out 7 times last season. Like I said above, that can destroy your week.
My draft consensus: The Hockey News has him going at 33 overall, while ESPN has him at 70. I like the 39 spot for him. As your fantasy counselor, I can't recommend reaching much higher for him. As your fellow Devils fan, TOTALLY reach a little higher for him.
7. MARC-ANDRE FLEURY
I have to admit that I've never really been a big fan of Fleury - in real life or in fantasy. He always seems to be one bad goal away from a meltdown, and his overall numbers aren't particularly amazing either, but here he sits in the 7 spot nonetheless.
T-7th in GS
T-9th in W
26.3 Saves/Start (7th most of my Top 10)
T-22nd in GAA (tied with Ben Bishop)
T-15th in SV% (tied with Ondrej Pavelec)
Games Skunked - 6
YAYS of Fleury: One of the big positives of Fleury is that he's on a perennial playoff team. Each night he enters the paint, he has a good chance of exiting it with a W. Plus, he's top 10 in the league in Games Started. The Pens didn't quite seem in sync last season, but some off season changes should give them a chance to return to their previous glory. I know additions of guys like Phil Kessel have nothing to do with defense and goaltending, but it does help with the Ws.
NAYS of Fleury: 15th in SV% and 22nd in GAA isn't exciting. He's one of those guys you draft and you get excited about until you really look at his numbers. That's what I'm doing for you now. If he wasn't on the Pens, I'm not sure I'd even have him on this list, but he is, so it must be considered. There seems to be a hype around Fleury that dissolves the fact that he's just sort of okay. And I, too, seem to be influenced by it.
My draft consensus: The Hockey News has him going at 46 overall, while ESPN has him at 30. I like him at 35, but truthfully, as the Devils fans we all are, just take Cory instead.
6. TUUKKA RASK
The Bruins missed the playoffs for the first time since 2007, but Rask's numbers were still really good. He has proven himself as bust proof.
4th in GS
T-9th in W
27.7 Saves/Start (2nd most of my Top 10)
T-10th in SV% (with Lundqvist)
Games Skunked - 4
YAYS of Rask: Consistency. You draft him with certain expectations and you can count on getting them. He was top 5 in starts (just 1 game behind Cory) and ended up 9th in Ws, despite being on a team that missed the playoffs. His 27.7 saves per start is a nice fantasy number that helped him grab 2nd in the league in Saves. I like Tuukka a lot.
NAYS of Rask: I think the only hit on Rask is that he's on a team that missed the playoffs and said team also seemed to be selling more than buying this offseason. I think his Ws are going to suffer for that, but the rest of his numbers will stay solid.
My draft consensus: The Hockey News has him going at 17 overall, which I think is inordinately high, while ESPN has him at 44. I like him at 29.
5. JONATHAN QUICK
The Kings net minder is sitting just outside the elite fantasy goalie group. If the Kings can turn it around after an off season (which I think they will), he'll be right back in the club.
2nd in GS
24.5 Saves/Start (least for my Top 10 by almost 2 shots/game)
6th in GAA
T-17th in SV%
Games Skunked - 5
YAYS of Quick: I always felt sorry for the backup goalies on the Kings. Both Jonathan Bernier and Martin Jones were clearly good at their jobs, but they weren't asked to do it too often. Quick started 71 games last season, which is awesome for your fantasy team. Not only did he play a lot, he played well, ending up 6th in GAA and 6th in Saves (despite facing a low amount of shots because of stingy defense).
NAYS of Quick: His Save % last season was not great, but that's pretty much the only hit here. The fact that he doesn't face a ton of shots is also unfortunate for your fantasy team, but like I said, he starts A LOT.
My draft consensus: The Hockey News has him going at 62 overall, which I think is markedly late, while ESPN has him at 38. I like him at 25, but if you miss him, the next 2 or 3 goalies on your list can be just as helpful to you.
4. BRADEN HOLTBY
He started 72 games, more than any other goalie last season, and he did it for a really good Capitals team. This season they will be even better.
1st in GS
T-2nd in W (Tied with Rinne)
26.2 Saves/Start (8th most of my Top 10)
5th in GAA
7th in SV%
Games Skunked - 4
YAYS of Holtby: He started a lot. 72 times a lot. That's priceless in both real and fake hockey. Thanks to a lot of starts and being on a good Capitals team, he was tied for 2nd in Ws and had more saves than anyone else in the league. Last season's numbers put him into the elite fantasy goalies club. I think he will play just as much in the upcoming season because his backup is... ummm. Hold on, I have to look it up. Eh, it doesn't matter.
NAYS of Holtby: It's difficult to find negatives for the top goalies, but I think it's reasonable to have concerns about whether Holtby can replicate what he did in 2014-15. It helps that the Capitals got even better in the off season by adding T.J. Oshie, a terrific two-way player.
My draft consensus: The Hockey News has him going at 29 overall, while ESPN has him at 26. I think once the top 3 goalies are off the board you'll want to jump on Holtby right away, so take him in the 2nd round with pick 18. In other words, immediately after this next guy on my list.
3. PEKKA RINNE
He's an elite stud goaltender on a solid defensive team. Draft him and feel good about your life decisions.
T-7th in GS
T-2nd in W
26.1 Saves/Start (9th most of my Top 10)
3rd in GAA
9th in SV%
Games Skunked - 2
YAYS of Rinne: He's simply terrific. He ended up being 7th in starts despite missing almost a month because of a knee injury. Plus, he was tied with Holtby for 2nd in Ws and he did it in 8 less starts. He was only skunked 2 times last year, which shows how consistent this guy is.
NAYS of Rinne: There really isn't much, except that injury. He came back and played last year and seemed fine, but most sports fans are aware of how problematic knee injuries can be. I don't think you have to worry about it, but, you know, remember it.
My draft consensus: The Hockey News has him going at 30 overall, while ESPN has him at 23. I think you look to get him at 17. If you're really concerned about getting an elite goalie, I'd take him earlier if my #1 and #2 are picked already.
2. HENRIK LUNDQVIST
King Henrik's injury last season makes it difficult to analyze him against the rest of the league, but his previous seasons make it pretty easy. He's one of the best.
T-24th (Tied with Pavelec)
T-15th in W (Tied with Bobrovsky)
26.7 Saves/Start (6th most of my Top 10)
T-7th in GAA (Tied with Mason)
T-10th (Tied with Tuukka Rask)
Games Skunked - 4
YAYS of Lundqvist: None of the above stats matter much because of his extended injury. He is good. His team is good. Everything about drafting him is good. The other bonus is that Cam Talbot is gone, so there is little choice but for the Rangers to start the King every night.
NAYS: He is getting older, so a drop off is a possibility, as well as increased chance of injury woes. Plus, some of the already good teams in the Metropolitan have gotten even better.
My draft consensus: The Hockey News has him going at 13 overall, while ESPN has him at 17. I think you look to get him in the 2nd round at 14.
1. CAREY PRICE
The goalie groups last season were as follows: Useless, Good, Elite, and Carey Price.
5th in GS
1st in W
27.6 Saves/Starts (3rd most of my Top 10)
1st in GAA
1st in SV%
Games Skunked - 3
YAYS of Price: I'm not going to get creative here. He was 1st in most fantasy categories and I'm confident he will be again.
NAYS of Price: I don't know, he's on the Canadiens and I don't care for the Canadiens? That's about all I can think of.
My draft consensus: The Hockey News has him going at 9 overall, while ESPN has him at 8. I'll one up them and say you take him after the Crosbys, Tavareses, and Seguins are off the board, so 7th.
Well, there you have it. My exceptionally long breakdown of the top 10 goalies. Were any of my in/exclusions insulting to anyone? Is my philosophy on fantasy goalies idiotic? I'm curious to hear. Please leave your comments or Tweet me @MattMowrerSays. Next week I will be breaking down the top 15 defensemen. Will any Devils be on there? Tune in next week to find out that the answer is assuredly no.