Goaltending is an important position in both fantasy hockey and on the ice following the opening of the 2022-23 NHL season. You won’t lift your fantasy champion or the Stanley Cup if you don’t make the right decisions online. So after an offseason of fantasy hockey goaltending rankings and live draft results, we asked our experts to break down some of the league’s key goaltending situations to help you prepare for the draft.
In recent years, the Colorado Avalanche has had an excellent track record of starting goaltenders. Who do you think will be the best option this season, Alexander Georgiev (currently going in 14th round) or Pavel Francouz (20th round)?
Sportzshala Fantasy analyst Sean Allen: Give me Francoise. I really believe that if Francoise hadn’t lost a year and a half to knee and hip surgeries in his career, we wouldn’t even have this conversation. He has the skills of the best rookie player in the NHL, but he just didn’t have the right moment to shine. I think this is the right chance. He has done nothing in the NHL except wins. And all he did before joining the Avalanche in the 2018/19 season was the best goaltending record in KHL history. The only goalkeeper with the best save percentage of his Russian league career is Semyon Varlamov, but that total is marred by a minimal sample size of just 16 games. In 83 games over three seasons in the KHL, Francoise posted a .945 shooting percentage. This is better than the career ratings of Igor Shesterkin, Ilya Sorokin or Sergei Bobrovsky. Of course, Francoise did this when he was in his early 20s, but posting that kind of shot percentage over a long period of time is a skill. Georgiev could be great in the future and I have no doubt the Avs did their research before investing but I think Francouz will get at least 50-50 to start with and as he continues to accumulate winnings will start making even bigger chunks pirogue. The fact that Francouz comes even later in checkers is just gravy.
NHL host on Sportzshala Arda Okal: I’m actually wondering if, for the same reason Sean mentioned, Georgiev doesn’t earn a place in the starting lineup. He demanded a chance to shine as the No. 1 who was difficult to fight last season behind Shesterkin (who I still believe should have won the Hart Trophy, but that’s debatable when I get old and complain a lot more about hockey ), now he has a chance to compete for it with the reigning Cup champions. His performance is not as impressive as that of Pavel, but this does not mean that he cannot start a new life in Denver, attract attention and shine brightly. However, Francoise has a home advantage and several playoff victories on his way to a big win.
Sportzshala Fantasy Analyst Victoria Matias: I’d rather run with a guy whose team was looking to fill the hole left by their retired Stanley Cup winning player. At 32 years old, the Francouz has proven to be reliable as a reliable replacement to use the best option when needed. To date, its ceiling seems set and measured. But Georgiev is just gaining momentum, coming out from under the shadow of last year’s winner Vezina. He’s more of a fun fantasy variant, that’s for sure. Although I don’t play as either one or two players, Colorado’s most modern pick in clean appeals is the one that attracts the most with a big advantage.
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In Boston, Linus Ullmark (Round 22) and Jeremy Swainman (Round 17) split evenly, with both goalies starting 39 games each. Which one do you choose this season?
Allen: None of the options? Because I would prefer neither. I foresee another split season, but with stats that are a bit less useful overall. The impact of the absence of Charlie McAvoy and Matt Grzelczyk — first and third on the team in tied games last season — cannot be overestimated. Swayman appears to have the skills of the #1 goaltender of the future, but I feel like this team is still in an awkward transitional phase with him, thanks in part to the $5 million given to Ullmark. I would rather have Swayman on my team if I had to have him as I think the ceiling is much higher if he gets ahead this season.
Okal: Asking this question is absolute blasphemy because it implies that we, in whatever shape or form, would like to see the end of the goalkeeper’s cherished celebratory embrace. So I can’t dignify this with an answer. You either choose both or neither. This rule is.
In fact, for the reasons Sean mentioned above, I would try to avoid picking the Bruins goaltender in your draft as long as possible because it’s a tough pick.
Matthias: If I’m forced to choose, I’ll side with the guy who jumped into the larger Calder conversation last year. As with Francouz in Colorado, we know who Ullmark is: a solid teammate who clearly lacks the funds to thrive as an everyday starter. But one day Swaiman will be the rightful number one. Perhaps soon. I also don’t mind that he’s on an expiring entry-level contract. An extra kick under the hockey pants, if you like.
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Let’s check out a couple of new faces in new places in Ontario. Matt Murray of Toronto and Cam Talbot of Ottawa will be selected in the 18th round. Who will have the best season?
Allen: I think Ilya Samsonov will be enough to give Murray less work than he needs to be super successful for fantasy managers. I also think that while the Senators’ offense has improved a lot in the offseason, the defense is still suspect at best. Talbot will certainly play the most, but I’m not sure the production deserves regular fantasy use since the Senators win a lot of games 5-4 and 4-3. On the other hand, I think the Maple Leafs are a good place for Murray and Samsonov to get back into shape in sync, diminishing the potential value of each in isolation from each other. All in all, I’d rather roll the dice with Murray. For Talbot to become a worthy fantasy goaltender this season, we’ll need 30+ wins and a .910+ shooting percentage, a feat accomplished at age 35 and over by the Hall of Fame’s elite roster of goaltenders. (and Tim Thomas). Consider me doubting if Talbot will join the team.
Okal: First, it’s crazy to think that Murray is 28 years old. It feels like he should be 37 with a career like that. The Leafs goaltender has been a hot topic for at least a decade, but especially this year there will be a giant microscope between the pipes – can Murray or Samsonov match Jack Campbell? On paper, Ottawa looks like a vastly improved team ahead of this campaign. Will it benefit Talbot from the victories? If I had to choose between the two, I would still choose Toronto, if only because we know the Leafs are an amazing regular season team. (I say this for fantasy hockey purposes, so as not to troll my hometown, which I love very much.)
Matthias: One of my favorite sleeper peaks this season. Talbot should have enough gas in his 35-year-old tank to run at least one serious campaign with an improved Senators team that seems poised to turn the corner. In addition, the veteran will no doubt feel inspired to join his former team in Minnesota after management instead decided to work with an even more experienced player in Marc-André Fleury. It’s hard to quantify what a little malice brings to the competitive equation, but I’m always happy with that extra boost.
Whereas after a rough patch of more than three seasons split between Pittsburgh and Ottawa, Murray has become a wild card. Especially in the pressure cooker at the Toronto Hockey Market. While I’m rooting for this guy, I need constant play from a Maple Leafs rookie before jumping on his fantasy bandwagon. Even if he plays for the best club.
Which Florida Panthers goaltender will have the best season: Sergei Bobrovsky (Round 18) or Spencer Knight (Round 22)?
Allen: Money speaks. The grid is still mostly Bobrovsky’s until injury or age catches up with him. Last season, he showed enough to quell worries about aging (after they started creeping in) by leading the NHL in wins. Thirty-four is old, but not too old. I know I was just avoiding Talbot because he’s 35, but Bobrovsky has Vezina under his belt and the list of quality seasons for goaltenders aged 34 and over is a little longer and overall a little less prestigious.
Okal: It’s the regular season, so definitely Bobrovsky. But I still think there’s gas in Knight’s tank. I’m not excluding him at all, I’m just choosing Bob to have another great year.
Matthias: In the 2021/22 season, the Florida veteran won 39 out of 53 starts, hitting .913% SV and 2.67 GAA. The Panthers are paying him another $12 million ($10 million AAV) to deliver the same performance in this round. Knight, only 21, will get his turn, but we haven’t arrived yet. Just a few months ago, Bobrovsky was one of the top ten fantasy networkers. Until it is shown otherwise, I expect a lot from the same starting from October of this year.
Who do you think is the best backup goaltender in the NHL and why?
Allen: The two assumptions I make in answering this question are that there must be someone who is a clear standby, and we need an answer that has to do with fantasy hockey. I find Antti Raant intriguing from a fantasy standpoint. Born the same year as Frederik Andersen, he has a better record in the NHL than Andersen, despite spending most of his career with the Arizona Coyotes. Up until the last two games against the Rangers, Raanta had a fantastic playoff run, and that’s far from the reason the Hurricanes didn’t make it out of the second round. In fact, his .922 shooting percentage was second behind Igor Shesterkin in the playoffs last season. Andersen deserved this starting role…