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Special to Yahoo Sports
The backbone of a fantasy roster, who you take in goal has a massive impact on how your season goes. Often, you’ll only carry three goalies at a time, so making sure these picks are as solid as possible will allow you to focus on improving other areas of your roster throughout the season.
Tiers are based on Yahoo’s standard scoring. Goalies in the same tier should be considered of similar value, though this is not a top-to-bottom ranking.
Tier 1 – No wrong answers
Ilya Sorokin, Juuse Saros, Igor Shesterkin, Andrei Vasilevskiy, Connor Hellebuyck, Jake Oettinger, Alexandar Georgiev
The key to a strong fantasy No. 1 goalie is workload and success. Every one of these seven goalies could play 60-plus games and win at least 30 of them. They won’t give up a lot of goals, but they’ll face enough shots to rack up fantasy points. There’s no clear standout goalie this season, but there are plenty of elite options.
Consider minor risks with Vasilevskiy and Hellebuyck as the oldest members of this tier, especially since their teams have mediocre backup options on hand to give them rest. The rest of these netminders are all in the best years of their prime and haven’t accumulated too much mileage yet, so they should be safe and steady options even as an early-round pick.
Tier 2 – Strong starters or tandems on winning teams
Linus Ullmark, Jeremy Swayman, Tristan Jarry, Stuart Skinner, Vitek Vanecek, Ilya Samsonov, Filip Gustavsson, Marc-Andre Fleury
If you miss out on the first tier, you may want to double dip here. It’s fair to question if the Bruins’ duo of Ullmark and Swayman will live up to their draft price, but since they’ll likely be a tandem, it could be worth it to have both of them. Likewise with Fleury and Gustavsson — an established veteran and a youngster on the rise make for a likely rotation between starts.
The others in this tier should see a majority of the starts for their teams, and they should have a good chance of racking up wins despite poorer ratios than the Tier 1 goalies.
Tier 3 – Workload high, results TBD
Thatcher Demko, Darcy Kuemper, John Gibson, Carter Hart, Jordan Binnington, Karel Vejmelka, Jacob Markstrom
All of the goalies here are also clear starters heading into the 2023-24 season. What sets them a level lower is their teams are likely to be middle of the pack at best, and some could be downright awful. Most of these goalies would be best drafted as No. 2 or 3 options. At a minimum, they should be useful for getting to games-played requirements each week. Among them, Demko, Kuemper and Markstrom likely have the most potential to outperform their projections.
Tier 4 – Tandems and hot seats
Joonas Korpisalo, Sergei Bobrovsky, Elvis Merzlikins, Ville Husso, Devon Levi, Cam Talbot, Philipp Grubauer, Frederik Andersen, Adin Hill, Logan Thompson, Pheonix Copley
Most of these goalies can be considered the favorite to start for their teams on a regular basis, but how long that lasts will likely depend on their performance. Bobrovsky’s numbers in Florida have been largely mediocre, Merzlikins is playing behind a weak team, Korpisalo is unlikely to match his performance from late last season with the Kings and Grubauer has been shaky despite light workloads for the Kraken.
Husso, Levi and Anderson all figure to have the heavier half of a fairly even split of time, at least to begin the season. The presence of viable backups in Detroit, Buffalo and Carolina makes all three of them risky bets to hold a starting role all season.
If you miss out on Boston or Minnesota’s tandems, consider the Kings’ duo (Talbot and Copley) or the Golden Knights’ pair (Hill and Thompson). Talbot and Hill are likely to carry the early momentum, but their fellow netminders should have no trouble carving out substantial roles of their own, to the level of a viable No. 3 in fantasy.
Tier 5 – Needs defensive help
Just like it says on the header — these goalies could be fine options with plenty of games played, but their teams’ defensive situations make for a very risky late-round pick. In essence, you shouldn’t need to turn to the Sharks, Canadiens or Blackhawks to fill out your goaltending depth on draft day. That said, they may be favorable streaming options once the season gets going and the dust settles on workload patterns.
Tier 6 – Backups with name recognition
Jack Campbell, Anton Forsberg, Antti Raanta, Semyon Varlamov, James Reimer, Jonathan Quick, Casey DeSmith
You’ve probably heard of everyone in this tier, but between age and performance, they aren’t going to be regular starters. Campbell and Forsberg likely have the best paths to playing time, but expecting any of these goalies to get more than 30 games is a long shot. Varlamov and Quick have the lowest chances of doing so behind Sorokin and Shesterkin. Raanta can be useful in short bursts when healthy, but the Hurricanes’ potential three-goalie rotation could make things very difficult for him to generate fantasy value. DeSmith’s last-minute trade from Montreal to Vancouver should clear up his playing time, but it won’t help his numbers much.
Tier 7 – Can these guys steal a starting job?
Joel Hofer, Joseph Woll, Pyotr Kochetkov, Akira Schmid, Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, Anthony Stolarz, Spencer Knight, Joey Daccord, Daniil Tarasov, Dustin Wolf, Lukas Dostal
If you prefer to draft with a little more risk, there are plenty of young goalies right on the NHL fringe who could compete for a job. Kochetkov is the future in Carolina, but that future may not be fully realized this year. Woll has looked good in limited NHL minutes. Luukkonen and Levi make for a very inexperienced tandem in Buffalo.
Stolarz and/or Knight could make a strong case to displace Bobrovsky from the starting role, if only for a few weeks. Hofer, Daccord, Tarasov, Wolf and Dostal are all young options that could at least earn a backup role this season, while Schmid should have one but may struggle to get playing time if Vanecek remains strong. Picking any of these goalies on draft day is a play for late in the season, not early on, but it could end up being a bargain if they play up to their potential.
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