Chasing fantasy goaltending points can be a painful exercise. In the early part of the season, such as now, you can easily feel like you made a poor choice by investing in, say, Carter Hart, Ilya Samsonov, Tristan Jarry or Darcy Kuemper. That feeling may prove to be correct, but it is way too early to know.
For context, Tuukka Rask led all goaltenders that played at least 1,000 minutes last season by averaging 4.39 fantasy points per 60 minutes (FPP60). Ben Bishop, Jordan Binnington and Andre Vasilevskiy topped that mark in 2018-19 with between 4.48 and 4.65 FPP60. In 2017-18, Curtis McElhinney, Pekka Rinne, Carter Hutton and Ryan Miller topped that threshold, with between 4.31 and 5.06 FPP60. And, going back even further, only Sergei Bobrosvky cleared that hurdle in 2016-17 with 4.55 FPP60.
That is to say, you can expect the best goaltender in the NHL to finish with somewhere in the ballpark of 4.50 FPP60. Because it’s so early, many goaltenders are destroying that mark, and many more are missing by a mile.
Anton Khudobin is posting a ridiculous 7.56 FPP60 to pace the league so far. Both goaltenders for the Carolina Hurricanes are on fire, with Petr Mrazek at 6.91 FPP60 through three games and James Reimer at 6.20 for his lone start. Marc-Andre Fleury has matched Mrazek’s mark through three games.
On the other end of the spectrum, Jarry has managed to score you -1.38 FPP60, effectively removing fantasy points from your team in his six appearances. Lehner has managed just 0.84 FPP60, while Kuemper has just 1.35.
But, as Reimer illustrates as good as anyone, a single game can make a big difference. By stopping 31 of 33 shots for a win in his lone appearance, Reimer has put up 6.2 fantasy points. A quick solid start here, followed by one more, can lift any goaltender from the bottom of this list to a respectable placing. We aren’t even a full three weeks into the season, after all.
However, these stats aren’t meaningless in the context of their teams. Many organizations have more than one goaltender they can lean on, which will limit the chances of goaltenders to stabilize their stats if they are forced to ride the pine.
Vegas Golden Knights (Marc-Andre Fleury [6.91 FPP60] and Robin Lehner [0.84]): The team has maintained an even rotation so far, but Fleury has been near-perfect in his three starts. Lehner will be better, but neither goalie has a chance to be among the top fantasy goaltenders this season if this will be an even-split of duties. In these situations for fantasy, you need to prop up your totals with another goaltender in the mix. The best target is a high-impact backup like Jack Campbell or James Reimer. But you can also just use the forecaster chart to target cheap starts from the free-agent pile. This week, for example, expect Andrei Vasilevskiy to get his first rest when the Bolts play two games against the Detroit Red Wings. That means Curtis McElhinney (if he’s out of the COVID protocol by then) or Christopher Gibson will be worth a start.
Minnesota Wild (Cam Talbot [3.40] and Kaapo Kahkonen [3.09]): Both Wild netminders are putting in serviceable fantasy production to date, with the 24-year-old Kahkonen taking over for the 33-year-old Talbot last week when Talbot was hurt. Kahkonen has now put in more total minutes than Talbot this season. What looked like the Talbot show during the first three games has quickly turned into what looks like a timeshare for when he returns. Given that both goaltenders have been turning in solid FPP60, they are a potential source of spot starts going forward.
Vancouver Canucks (Braden Holtby [2.18] and Thatcher Demko [1.62]): Neither goaltender has been fantasy friendly to date. And both have been propped up by spanking the Ottawa Senators over the course of three games this past week. If you take out the Senators games, in which the duo collected 28.6 fantasy points, they’ve collectively posted one good fantasy performance in the other seven games — Holtby with 3.6 fantasy points in the season opener. Avoid this crease for now.
Fantasy Forecaster: Feb. 1 to Feb. 7
We are getting closer to using current season data, but not quite there yet. The postponements — by my count nine of them so far — have meant that some teams (looking at you, Dallas) still haven’t played on both the road and at home. And we really should have more than a game or two of sample size before switching. But we’re close. I’ve used data from this season for parts of the forecaster’s calculations.
Speaking of postponements, you should have pivots handy for your Golden Knights and Sharks players. While no further cancellations have been announced, the Golden Knights would be the first team to miss only one game due to virus protocols. All other postponements have been a minimum of four games. It would be fair to anticipate the Golden Knights-Sharks series to be put off.
For those new to the forecaster chart, here are some explanations: “O” (offense), which is on the left for each game, and “D” (defense), on the right, matchup ratings are based upon a scale from 1 (poor matchup) to 10 (excellent matchup) and are calculated using a formula that evaluates the team’s season-to-date statistics, their performance in home/road games depending on where the game is to be played, as well as their opponents’ numbers in those categories. The “Ratings” column lists the cumulative rating from 1 to 10 of that week’s offensive (“O”) and defensive (“D”) matchups.
Carolina Hurricanes: We pointed out how well the goaltenders have been playing above, and the schedule looks solid with two games against the Blackhawks and one against the Blue Jackets. Mrazek is still available in about one-third of ESPN leagues, but he needs to be scooped up ASAP. On offense, Vincent Trocheck, Martin Necas and Nino Niederreiter are the available best bets to get a piece of the offense. Note that one of them, likely Necas, would be bumped from the scoring lines when Teuvo Teravainen and others are out of COVID protocol.
Tampa Bay Lightning: The Lightning get the double-Detroit boost this week, playing the Red Wings twice. It’s been a somewhat subdued start by the defending champs, who most definitely are missing Nikita Kucherov. Without him, there isn’t a lot of depth to drive a wedge for fantasy purposes. The only real consideration among the available skaters is Alex Killorn, due to his role on the top power-play unit. Ondrej Palat has been added in too many leagues to consider as likely available and Blake Coleman hasn’t been piling up the hits like he has in the past. This could be the general story all season with a squad that is now extra top heavy with the absence of Kucherov.
Montreal Canadiens: The Habs have four games against the teams ranked 31st and 25th in goals allowed per games. Should be a good week for a team on a roll. There is a lot of fantasy love being thrown around here, and rightly so, for Tyler Toffoli and Nick Suzuki. That bandwagon has left the station, but there is more to love. Jonathan Drouin has seemingly found his elite playmaking form and is a long-term fantasy addition, while Corey Perry is hitting the right notes while filling in for Joel Armia and makes a good short-term addition.
Adam Larsson, D, Edmonton Oilers: Is this a new version of Larsson we are seeing? For reference, he blocked 82 shots in 49 games last season and 128 shots in a full 82 games the season prior. He’s currently on pace to block almost 200 in a 56-game season. He’s also on pace to match his previous years’ solid hits totals.
Sprinkle in some offense that simply comes from sharing the ice with some of the best forwards in the world, and it’s enough to put up 9.35 FPP60 or 2.67 fantasy points per game. Both marks are elite level production so far through nine games. In fact, he’s the top fantasy defenseman on a per-minute basis (if you don’t count Nate Prosser‘s highly impactful 13 minutes).
Nick Ritchie, F, Boston Bruins: It doesn’t need to in order for him to be worth adding, but Ritchie’s current pace of production is bound to slip when David Pastrnak returns. But will it slip by less than we might think? Ritchie has been very much enjoying life on the Bruins top power-play unit, scoring three goals and two assists there so far to account for five of his six points.
One might glance at the Bruins current unit and expect Ritchie to get the bump for the returning Pastrnak. But it’s actually David Krejci who is the odd man out. The Bruins use their big three and another winger to form the top power-play unit. For the past two seasons it’s been Jake DeBrusk. It looks like Ritchie has the role now. Add him.
So far this season, seven players have hit the ice and produced zero fantasy points. Their minutes range from six to 20. Morgan Frost leads the group with 20 minutes played and no contributions that are counted in the default ESPN.com game. Jack Roslovic is next, collecting nil in his first 14 minutes with the Blue Jackets.
I admit to having a Cinderella thought about Matt Murray in Ottawa this season. So much young, exciting talent is on this team that I thought maybe, just maybe, they could be stable enough for Murray to find a groove worthy of fantasy attention. Hard no. He’s managed -2.57 FPP60 through a damaging 341 minutes. For context, that’s enough to erase all of John Klingberg‘s fantasy points this season.
Just behind Leon Draisaitl and just ahead of Connor McDavid for FPP60 so far this season is Tyler Motte. The Canucks third liner is hitting everything that moves, collecting 47 so far this season, while also managing to bat in five goals. Obviously, the scoring drops off (23.8 shooting percentage), but with a base of hits and blocked shots (14 for a forward is pretty good), he could have longer term value.
Every time I see an Avalanche box score out of context, I feel some remorse for talking down Cale Makar this offseason. But, when I see the stats in context I do feel better about it. Makar is an absolute monster of a play-driving defenseman, but he’s not even tops on his own team for fantasy production — despite his scorching start. Makar will eclipse Devon Toews and lead the Avs in fantasy points this season, but the early returns are a reminder that other defensemen in the NHL have an advantage over Makar in fantasy thanks to more hits, shots and blocked shots. He’ll be top 10, but not among the top four such as his draft cost was. But damn he’s good, isn’t he?