Earlier this week, we at the Hockey Writers took a stab at ranking all 31 starting NHL goalies. But what ranking would be complete without some fantasy analysis? During the process, we discovered some goalies that were sorely overlooked in fantasy drafts, meaning they would be significant values for those who were well informed.
If your league is yet to draft, these are the goalies you can target in the middle and later rounds, and if your league has already drafted, these are the goalies you should target in trades before their owners wise up. Let’s take a look at five of the best goaltender values in fantasy hockey.
Honorable Mention: Corey Crawford (ADP 124.3)
No one knows what the season holds for Corey Crawford, which is why he’s fallen almost all the way to the eleventh round of drafts. But if he can get healthy and play this season, there’s no reason to believe he won’t be the great goalie he has been his whole career (.919 SV% and 2.37 GAA).
It’s a huge risk, and you’d better draft a safety net, even if it means holding your nose and drafting Cam Ward. But head injuries are fickle and unpredictable. If Crawford makes a sudden recovery early in the season, you just drafted a top ten goalie in the eleventh round.
5) Matt Murray: Pittsburgh Penguins (ADP: 59.1)
This is a pick that depends heavily on the makeup of your league as well as how much risk you’re willing to take. Everyone knows that Matt Murray is a two-time Stanley Cup winning goalie. What everyone may not realize is that his play slipped dramatically last year. While battling injuries throughout the season, Murray was able to muster only 27 wins to go along with a .907 save percentage and a 2.92 goals against average. Owners who drafted him as one of the best goalies in the league were sorely disappointed.
Due to his inconsistency last year, Murray has dropped consistently into the fifth or sixth round of drafts, making him the 14th goalie off the board on average. Whether he’s a value in your league will depend on your league mates. If someone overlooks last season and drafts him as a surefire stud, he’ll probably be gone before the sixth round.
But, if he falls to you there, and you’re willing to take a minor risk, it’s highly likely that Murray will bounce back this season and climb closer to his 2016-17 numbers, when he collected 32 wins with a .923 SV% and a 2.41 GAA. With Marc-Andre Fleury now out of the picture, his win number in particular could climb even higher, which would make him a supremely valuable goalie that you might get as late as the sixth round.
4) Roberto Luongo: Florida Panthers (ADP 128.6)
The ageless wonder Roberto Luongo is the perfect compliment for you to nab late in your draft if you’ve already taken a high-win goaltender or two. In the past five seasons, Luongo’s GAA has only climbed above 2.50 once, and his SV% has never dropped below .915. The man’s play doesn’t ever seem to age, but it does limit how often he starts.
In the past two years, he’s started just 72 games. It’s better than a true backup, but it doesn’t compete with any of the league’s elite starters. With that said, he offers great supplemental stats for your goaltending core, and he even recorded three shutouts last year, if your league uses that stat.
Luongo shouldn’t be drafted as even your second goaltender, but he’s a huge value to grab in the 11th round if you’ve already drafted a couple of studs that will play more often and collect more wins.
3) John Gibson: Anaheim Ducks (ADP 52.2)
When we did our goalie rankings, John Gibson took the fourth spot; however, he’s the twelfth goalie off the board on average in this year’s fantasy drafts. That doesn’t make much sense, when you dive into the numbers. He’s had a SV% over .920 each of the last three seasons (since he became a consistent starter in Anaheim) and his GAA has never climbed over 2.50.
Meanwhile, he’s recorded 14 shutouts in that time, has recorded a quality start in 60.8% of starts in his career, and last season he had 25.30 goals saved above average, an advanced metric that tries to calculate the saves a goalie makes that other goalies don’t. That score put Gibson second in the entire league.
Additionally, Gibson plays for a team that is consistently strong, averaging 46.75 wins and 104.5 points in the past four years. Why Gibson remains the twelfth goalie off the board around the fifth round is utterly baffling. Pass on the bigger names like Jonathan Quick and Tuukka Rask and shoot your shot with Gibson. You won’t be disappointed.
2) Devan Dubnyk: Minnesota Wild (ADP 68.1)
Over the past three seasons, only one goaltender has won over 100 games while maintaining a save percentage of .920 or more. No, it isn’t Braden Holtby or Pekka Rinne. It’s Devan Dubnyk of the Minnesota Wild. It hasn’t yet been four years since Dubnyk was acquired in one of the more lopsided trades in recent memory, but ever since Dubnyk put on a Wild jersey, he’s been one of the league’s stoutest goaltenders.
Dubnyk is the x-factor that has bolstered the Wild into a playoff team for the last several seasons. And yet he’s under-appreciated. But that’s where you come in in fantasy drafts. If Dubnyk is still hanging around in the sixth round of your drafts, do not hesitate to pick him up. He’ll provide great statistical boosts, and as long as the Wild don’t collapse, he’ll provide a solid win total, too.
1) Antti Raanta: Arizona Coyotes (ADP 135.9)
In every great hockey player’s career, there is a breakout season where they stop being a hidden gem. For some, like Connor McDavid, that season happens when they are 16 years old, long before they are even drafted. For Arizona Coyotes’ goaltender Antti Raanta, that breakout season will come this year. Raanta was quietly one of the best goalies in hockey last year, but with the Coyotes struggling so terrible, especially early in the year, he flew under the radar. It won’t happen again this year.
The Coyotes must have known what they were doing when they traded for Raanta before the 2017 draft. His statistics last year were absurd – a .930 SV%, a 2.24 GAA, 24.82 GSAA and a .696 quality start percentage. Those are unreal numbers, particularly for a struggling team. If he posts anything like them again, the young Coyotes may make some serious noise in the Pacific Division. But the fantasy community hasn’t caught on.
Raanta is still the 24th goalie off the board, going near the end of the eleventh round, after Crawford, whom no one is sure will even play this year. You would be a fool not to target Raanta late in drafts, even if you have other goalies. He’s the league’s best-kept secret in net, but he won’t be that for long.
Most of these goalies are “values” for a reason. They’re either coming off bad seasons (Murray) older and limited (Luongo) or on teams that are thought of as bad (Raanta). But their ability to overcome those false perceptions is why they become great values for you to draft. This article is by no means a reflection on other goalies.
There’s a reason players like Andrei Vasilevskiy and Connor Hellebuyck go so high in drafts — because there is virtually no doubt about what they’ll produce. If you’d rather have that certainty, by all means go ahead. But if you’d rather draft a stacked attack and save your goalies for later, these are top candidates for you to nab.
There are landmines scattered all over the goalie landscape, but these guys are some of the safest picks in later rounds. Happy drafting, happy trading, and good luck in your seasons.
Stephen Ground is an author with The Hockey Writers and is co-host of the Two Guys No Cup Podcast. He enjoys studying the numbers and providing fresh looks at various stories.