Now that the dust has settled from both the draft and the beginning of NHL free agency, let’s delve into the way too early fantasy hockey rankings for goaltenders for the 2016-17 NHL season. These are the first set of rankings that will come before the start of the regular season, but they certainly won’t be the last.
The rankings will change slightly over the next few months based on how the rest of free agency and the trade market play out and what kind of impact the World Cup of Hockey in September will have on how some goalies are viewed heading into the season.
There are quite a few interesting storylines that are lingering at the moment heading into the middle of the summer. Marc-Andre Fleury and Ben Bishop are both still with their teams despite the Penguins and Lightning’s perceived interest in seeing Matt Murray and Andre Vasilevskiy step in permanently in their places. Roberto Luongo is recovering from offseason surgery and the Panthers brought in 27-year old James Reimer on a five-year contract to back him up.
The Islanders, Senators, Coyotes, Canucks, Hurricanes, Red Wings and Stars all have goaltending duos and trios that have to be sorted out. Will any of these players be moved before the season, or more closer to the trade deadline before next June’s Las Vegas Expansion Draft? With all these questions lingering let’s take a look at the way-too-early fantasy hockey goalie rankings.
The Top 5
- Ben Bishop
- Braden Holtby
- Carey Price
- Martin Jones
- Cory Schneider
Quite the stacked list right there in the top-five, eh? The biggest surprise to many will be Bishop slotted in number one over reining Vezina trophy winner Braden Holtby. It is very close and when you take their stats at face value, Holtby wins the eye test:
— Jeff Skversky 6abc (@JeffSkversky) April 14, 2016
However Bishop overall had the better season. While Holtby led the league with 48 wins, an incredible feat, Bishop was better in the peripheral categories. Bishop led the league with a 2.06 GAA, Holtby was sixth. Bishop was second in the league in SV% behind Brian Elliott, Holtby tied for seventh. Bishop tied for second with six shutouts, Holtby was outside the top-10 with three. It is very close and with Andre Vasilevskiy getting his extension and expected to get more playing time in Tampa this year, that could hurt Bishop. This could change before the season but right now Bishop is the guy in fantasy hockey.
Before his injury Price looked on his way to defending his Vezina, and potentially his MVP, from the 2014- 2015 season. Through 12 games before he was shutdown for the season in late November the Habs netminder was 10-2-0 with a 2.06 GAA, .934 SV% and two shutouts. As long as he is healthy he’s a top-three goalie and potentially the top fantasy goalie before the season begins.
Jones had a breakout year in his first year as a starter for the Sharks. He finished third in the league with 38 wins, was top-10 in GAA and second in shutouts. He broke out in the playoffs and carried the Sharks all the way to the Stanley Cup Final. Expect much of the same from his next year.
Schneider was a top-five goalie before his injury and was rusty down the stretch for the Devils. With the trade of Adam Larsson the defense in front of Schneider could hamper him, but he has played well without great defense in the past and he should have a better offense in front of him which should lead to more wins.
Goalies 6- 10
- Corey Crawford
- Jonathan Quick
- John Gibson
- Matt Murray
- Pekka Rinne
This is where the debates can really begin. There are a clear-cut top seven or eight goalies for fantasy hockey and then anywhere from seven or eight all the way down to 15 could be interchanged. Crawford will always be fantasy-relevant thanks to the situation he is in with the Blackhawks. He is almost always a lock to finish near the top of the league in wins, tying for fourth in the league this year with 35. He led the league with seven shutouts and was top-five in SV%.
Similar to Crawford is Jonathan Quick. These two could be the only other two goalies that you could make the case right now to be in the top-five. Quick actually was in the running for the Vezina this season after a bounce back year. He cracked the 40-win plateau for the first time and finished second behind Holtby. He was just outside the top-10 in SV% and could see himself moved into the top-five conversation before the fantasy season gets underway.
The next three are all debatable. Gibson was fantastic as he split time throughout the season with Frederik Andersen. That all changed when Andersen was dealt to the Leafs in June and the team put their faith in Gibson between the pipes going forward. I covered that and what it means for both players and teams when the trade happened. Gibson will enter the year as a top-10 goalie on a legitimate playoff contender.
Despite not being able to trade Marc-Andre Fleury after the playoffs, all signs point to Murray being the guy now in Pittsburgh. The rookie showed poise beyond his years backstopping the Penguins to the Stanley Cup. He arguably could have won the Conn Smythe for playoff MVP. Murray was 15-6-0 with a .923 SV% and 2.08 GAA in 21 postseason games and posted even better numbers in his limited 13 starts at the end of the regular season. He should be the guy going forward and look for the Penguins to try and move Fleury before next June’s expansion.
Defensively the loss of Shea Weber in Nashville will need to be seen before the full effect can be stated. It could hurt Pekka Rinne but offensively the team should pick him up and he showed signs late in the year and in the playoffs that he is still a top goalie. Despite his overall regression from last season, outside of his wins, if Rinne has a bounce back season with a younger and faster defense in front of him he should be in the conversation as a top-10 goalie.
- Jake Allen
- Brian Elliott
- Petr Mrazek
- Henrik Lundqvist
- Roberto Luongo
You can make the case that most of these should be top-10 goalies, but all come with question marks. From Murray all the way down to Luongo at 15 you can interchange all seven of these goalies but these all have big questions hanging over them.
Allen will finally have the chance to prove himself as a top starting goalie in the NHL. He had a very good season for the Blues last season and was rewarded with a four-year extension and the trade of Brian Elliott, allowing him to become the full-time netminder. However, he’s never played more than 47 games in a season and was passed over for Elliott in the majority of the playoffs this year. There is also the possibility that his best defenseman, Kevin Shattenkirk, could be traded this offseason or by the trade deadline next year. These all keep him from the top-10 until it’s seen how he responds.
Elliott is arguably one of the better goalies in the league and he would have been a top-10 goalie had he been the starter in St. Louis with no time-share. Elliott arrives into an decent situation in Calgary. The Flames will need to sustain their scoring, which finished 10th in the league, to take pressure off Elliott to have to go out and be perfect every night. The Flames have the defensive depth to be a playoff contender and Elliott could be the piece to take them over the top, but again the big question mark is the Flames offense staying consistent. Elliott immediately upgrades them to a legitimate playoff team.
Mrazek is in the situation that Elliott and Allen were in last season. He is the presumed starter but there is the overhanging question of Jimmy Howard. Howard was not moved, he has a limited No-Trade Clause, and he and his $5.2 million cap hit are still there. He could potentially be traded, and should be left exposed to the expansion draft next season, but as of right now he is getting paid a lot of money to sit on the bench. If he is not moved Detroit will be compelled to play him in more of a time-share to justify his contract and that will potentially hurt Mrazek’s fantasy stock. If you have Mrzaek in a keeper league or you intend to draft him, make sure at some point you get Howard to have the duo on your roster.
I may get some flack for having Lundqvist here and Rinne at 10. Both had a 2.48 GAA and Lundqvist had one more win and a better SV%. Both regressed last season. But where the Rangers stood pat and kept their defense the same, or got worse with losing Keith Yandle, the Predators got better. Lundqvist looked bad in the playoffs against the Penguins. Hank does get wins so he will always have fantasy value because of that, but his defense was not good in front of him last season and the pressure of performing at his best on a nightly basis will eventually catch up to him. He has seen a regression in GAA and with the same defense in front of him he has question marks going into next year.
Henrik Lundqvist is 1 of 2 goaltenders in NHL history with at least 50 playoff wins never to have won a Stanley Cup pic.twitter.com/dfV2lLjUdZ
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) April 19, 2016
Luongo was a top-10 goalie last season and easily could be there this year, but he has the question mark of offseason surgery looming over him. He had hip surgery after the season that was deemed “nothing major”, but it is still concerning every time a 37-year old goalie has surgery on his hip. As long as he is on track to play he will move up this list before the season starts, but with the signing of James Reimer and the acquisition of Reto Berra the Panthers could sit Luongo for more recovery time early into the season.
- Devan Dubnyk
- Marc-Andre Fleury
- Frederik Andersen
- Thomas Greiss
- Michael Neuvirth
It would have been hard for Dubnyk to duplicate his first half-season in Minnesota from the 2014- 2015 season, but this year was a very solid justification that he is a solid starting goalie in the NHL. He is borderline top-15 heading into the season after a year that he posted 32 wins, a 2.33 GAA and a .918 SV%. The wins were 10th in the league and his GAA was tied for 15th. If he can raise his SV% into the .920s, which presumably would drop his GAA, he could be a borderline top-10 goalie. Until then he is very solidly in the conversation for top-15.
Fleury is a bit of an outlier but even in a time-share is a top-20 goalie. He had arguably his best career season this year for the Penguins despite missing a number of games at the end of the season with injury. In 58 games Fleury posted 35 wins, tied for fourth in the league, was 10th in SV% and just missed the top-10 in GAA. Fleury could still be traded before the season or the deadline next year, but with his No-Movement Clause the Penguins will have to protect him as of right now in next season’s expansion draft. A tandem of Murray and Fleury would be a lethal pairing that fantasy players should target if both are on the roster come fantasy hockey drafts.
Don't sleep on Marc-Andre Fleury: 35 wins, career-best 2.29 GAA & .921 save percentage in 2015-16. pic.twitter.com/p1Q1g0Zdi7
— John Toperzer (@JohnToperzer) June 13, 2016
Andersen will finally get the chance to be the guy and it comes with Toronto. A tough spot for him for fantasy purposes but there is upside there. His career 2.33 GAA and .918 SV% will be tested on a team that finished tied for 24 in the league last season in goals against. There is boom or bust potential for Andersen right now and he might not reap fantasy fruit for you this season, but he and the Leafs are trending up and he gives them a much better chance to perform than previous options. If he puts up comparable numbers to his time in Anaheim he is a steal with this rank.
Greiss and Neuvirth both had breakout seasons and together were two of the surprises of the fantasy goalies this past season. Greiss up-ended Jaro Halak and took control of the Islanders net and likewise Neuvirth forced his way into the Flyers net. Both look like the starters for their respective teams heading into next season, but with Halak and Steve Mason having past successes and bigger contracts that might dictate playing time early on in both situations and they should be drafted purely as time-share goalies at the moment.
- Tuukka Rask
- Cam Talbot
- Jaroslav Halak
- Andre Vasilevskiy
- Connor Hellebuyck
Rask is still capable of being a top-tier goalie but there are so many question marks in front of him and he has severely regressed over the last few seasons. He has seen his GAA go up .26 in each of the last two seasons. He went from 2.04 in 2013- 14, to 2.30 in 2014- 15 and all the way to 2.56 this season. His win total has gone down each year in this regression as well. Boston’s defense is not great and getting older while the offense has question marks up front as well. Rask could jump up a few spot and flirt with the top-15 but right now there are much better fantasy options out there.
Talbot is the goalie who could make a big jump next season. He thrived under Lundqvist with the Rangers and took control of the net in Edmonton. The Oilers put their faith in him with a three-year extension in the middle of the season this year. The Oilers defense got better with the additions of Adam Larsson on the blueline and Milan Lucic in their top-six. The offense will lose some luster with Taylor Hall gone but defensively the team in front of Talbot will be better. He was respectable in his first season starting this year, finished the year solidly and posted three months this year with a SV% above .930. He should take a step forward with that experience under his belt.
— Marty Klinkenberg (@globemartyk) March 13, 2016
Halak is the better of the goalies on the Islanders roster but after the way Greiss performed in the playoffs he could break camp as the backup. He will probably be given the chance to regain his net in training camp, but things could change with how he plays in the World Cup of Hockey. Greiss and Halak had similar stat lines this past season so it will be a coin-flip going into the year but you get the feeling the team and coaching staff favor Greiss at the moment.
Vasilevskiy and Hellebuyck are both top prospects who are blocked. Vas is blocked by #1 goalie Ben Bishop and Hellebuyck is in a numbers game with Ondrej Pavelec and Michael Hutchinson. Pavelec could be moved and only has one year left on his deal but Hellebuyck proved he could be the #1 goalie of the future in Winnipeg in his short time there this year and was the top-ranked goalie prospect in the world last summer. If he breaks camp with the team he should be the guy.
— Alex H (@alexhoegler) June 24, 2016
There will be much debate about lists like this and the rankings will change depending on what teams do in the trade and free agent market over the next few months. The only thing we know for sure is that this list is far from complete.