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2010-11 RotoRob NHL Draft Kit: Goalie Rankings

September 3, 2010 | By Mike Chen | comment on this post
Henrik Lundqvist has become one of the top goalies in the league for the New York Rangers.
Henrik Lundqvist should benefit from an improving Ranger squad.

The 2010-11 RotoRob NHL Draft Kit continues today with another of our cheat sheets. So while you’re wondering how this latest Ilya Kovalchuk deal was approved, let’s turn our attention to the top goalies in Fantasy hockey.

In Fantasy leagues, goaltending stats can vary as wildly as Dominik Hasek flopping around the crease. Some leagues penalize you for losses while others may put the emphasis on saves rather than wins. In this case, we’re going to use the default criteria as given by Yahoo!’s Fantasy hockey game since it’s the most widely played in the world. To that end, the focus here is on single-season performance with no regard for keeper leagues. Based on this criteria, the most important number to look at is starts, with wins and saves as other primary variables.

Last season’s rankings are in parenthesis.

1. Ryan Miller, Buffalo Sabres (10): The Team USA hero is also a Fantasy hockey hero. Starts? Miller should get at least 65, possibly 70-to-75. Save percentage? He’ll be near the top of the league, if not the very top. Wins? Heck, he’s practically the reason why the Buffalo Sabres managed to rack up as many wins as they did. The Sabres faced a goal-scoring drought, where all of their go-to guys seemed to hit the wall at once. It’s a reasonable bet to think that some of those goals-for will be restored, and thus Miller’s win total will be even higher.

Buffalo Sabres Gear

2. Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers (6): Just imagine how bad the New York Rangers would be without Lundqvist. He brings a similar combination as Miller to the Fantasy table; the only problem is that the Rangers don’t play the same level of team defense as the Sabres. Lundqvist will be pushing 70 starts and he gets a huge save total from the sometimes-porous Ranger blueline. There’s hope that the Rangers could be better this year, with young Marc Staal (assuming he signs) maturing into a top-flight blueliner and some added forward depth. That should give Lundqvist a bigger stats push.

3. Roberto Luongo, Vancouver Canucks (1): Luongo’s stock as an individual goalie may have fallen, but the Vancouver Canucks loaded up in the offseason, making them one of the Stanley Cup favourites. Since Luongo shoulders a huge workload (70+ games) and Vancouver’s defense only got stronger, that means starts and wins for Team Canada’s goalie. The improved defense is a double-edged sword, as it probably means less shots-against for Luongo; this hurts if you’re counting saves, plus Luongo tends to play better when under constant attack.

4. Marc-Andre Fleury, Pittsburgh Penguins (15): While Fleury’s overall numbers weren’t that great last season, people often overlook his play in January and February, when he clearly outplayed his Team Canada compatriots. Pittsburgh’s defense has improved, with shot-blocker extraordinaiire Zbynek Michalek and puck-moving Paul Martin. Fleury will get the starts and the wins while getting more support from his blueline. That won’t solve Pittsburgh’s wing problem, but one thing at a time.

5. Ilya Bryzgalov, Phoenix Coyotes (NR): A Vezina finalist and a strong Hart Trophy candidate last season, Bryzgalov weathered his previous bouts of inconsistency thanks to new goalie coach Sean Burke. Dave Tippett’s tight defensive system certainly helped, and Bryzgalov is the poor man’s version of Miller — he’s the glue that holds the Phoenix Coyotes together. He’ll face a lot of shots, but they’ll be controlled shots thanks to Tippet’s defensive scheme, and he should start at least 70 games.

6. Martin Brodeur, New Jersey Devils (2): You’re probably wondering how Brodeur, he of yet another Vezina nomination and high save percentage, could be outside of the top five. New New Jersey coach John MacLean has already talked about how it might be time to finally scale back Brodeur’s workload. At the same time, Brodeur had more spurts of un-Brodeur-like play last season than we’d seen, well, pretty much ever. All of that points to Father Time finally catching up with the ageless Devil netminder.

7. Tomas Vokoun, Florida Panthers (16): Florida’s starter is almost always overlooked, but a quick review of his save percentage shows that Vokoun has done what most Panther goalies have done since their inception: stop a barrage of shots almost every night. He may not have the best win total, but the Panther netminder will undoubtedly start 70+ games and be under constant assault. Saves and starts, but not necessarily wins — as Meatloaf once sang, “Two out of Three Ain’t Bad.”

8. Cam Ward, Carolina Hurricanes (8): Both the Carolina Hurricanes and Ward had somewhat misleading stats last year, as injuries hampered both. When healthy, both the Canes and Ward put up a fighting chance at recovering from their awful start. Ward should be up for a good 65- to 70-game this season and assuming the Hurricanes keep up their momentum from the second half of last season, he should be a valuable Fantasy goaltender.

9. Miikka Kiprusoff, Calgary Flames (5): Kiprusoff will get the starts for the Flames, as he always does. Calgary’s roster moved laterally; some would even say that the team regressed a bit, and chemistry will certainly be a question. How will that reflect on Kiprusoff? Starts and saves should be a gimme for him, though whether the win total will move up or down has yet to be determined.

10. Jimmy Howard, Detroit Red Wings (NR): Last season, Howard finally arrived at the NHL party, though perhaps a bit later than expected. The Detroit Red Wings could finish anywhere from first to eighth in the Western Conference, though the more sensible perspective is in the upper half, especially with the weakened Chicago roster. Howard will be in net for the bulk of that run, though any prolonged slumps will probably see Chris Osgood fill in — and if Osgood gets hot, don’t be surprised if coach Mike Babcock gives him an extended run.

11. Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators (11): With Dan Ellis gone, it’s Rinne’s show in Nashville. Add in coach Barry Trotz’s stingy defensive and Nashville’s world-class blueliners and you’ve got the foundation for success in net. Rinne will get plenty of defensive support, though Nashville’s offense will once again be questioned, and it could mean the difference between wins and losses for both him and the Predators.

12. Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings (19): Quick earned the starting role in Los Angeles last season; where will he go from here? Will he be able to start as many games as he did last season? More importantly, will the Kings give Jonathan Bernier a chance to steal the starting role? For now, all signs point to Quick being primed for a repeat performance, but keep a close eye for things to change in La-La Land.

13. Steve Mason, Columbus Blue Jackets (9): Sophomore slumps aren’t exactly new for breakout NHL netminders. In some cases, they bounce back in one year, and in other cases, it takes a few. Mason’s miraculous rookie run shows the type of potential he has, and it’s a safe bet that he’ll be closer to that than last season’s up-and-down campaign.

14. Craig Anderson, Colorado Avalanche (20): Anderson was probably the best player in the entire NHL for the first few months of last season. After that, he was up and down — and so was Colorado. Avalanche fans want to believe in the first-half Anderson, not the second-half Anderson. And while he’s undoubtedly a strong goaltender, you’ve always got to consider why he bounced around early in his NHL career before hitting his stride in Florida and Colorado. In other words, there’s plenty of potential for a disappointing second act.

15. Semyon Varlamov, Washington Capitals (21): Jose Theodore’s 43 starts are gone, leaving it all up to Varlamov. How will he handle a full workload? It’s not like he’ll be without competition, as hot prospect Michal Neuvirth will be nipping at his heels. That should provide plenty of incentive for Varlamov, though no guarantees about who will be in net for the Washington Capitals.

16. Tuuka Rask, Boston Bruins (NR): Rask’s obscene save percentage led the league among qualified goaltenders last season. How will he do under full-time duty? That’s always the question when a young netminder takes over the starter role. In this instance, the bigger issue is Rask’s backup. Unless he gets traded soon, Tim Thomas is certainly capable of putting together a strong run and taking the reins back from Rask. If Rask slumps, look for Thomas to get his opportunity.

17. Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens (25): Price’s short career has been up and down, and much of this is magnified by the enormous pressure of the Montreal media. Now that Jaroslav Halak is gone to the St. Louis Blues, it’s the Price show in Montreal — assuming he finally signs a contract, that is. The fact that it’s his gig could either help or hurt Price’s confidence, though perhaps after being anointed the starter, he will finally find some consistency to his game.

18. Niklas Backstrom, Minnesota Wild (4): Backstrom’s numbers took a severe dip last season under new coach Todd Richards. However, the Minnesota Wild eventually began to understand and utilize the tools Richards was providing. The second year under Richards should be much more stable, and Backstrom’s numbers should return to where he was leading up to last season.

19. Jonas Hiller, Anaheim Ducks (12): Now the unquestioned starter for the Anaheim Ducks, Hiller’s got his work cut out for him as the Anaheim blueline has seen a severe change in the past two seasons, first losing Chris Pronger and then losing Scott Niedermayer. Things will certainly be different for the Ducks, and it remains to be seen just how the new blueline will respond. More than anything else, this will be the single biggest factor that will affect Hiller’s Fantasy output.

21. Jaroslav Halak, St. Louis Blues (NR): Halak’s value was inflated by an improbable playoff run, and it’s doubtful that he’ll keep up that performance over an entire regular season. Outside of that, he has been fairly consistent since entering the NHL, but his durability remains to be seen. Last year’s 45 games was the most he’s played in his three seasons, and that’s always a reason to be concerned.

22. Marty Turco, Chicago Blackhawks (22): With Cristobal Huet now in Switzerland, Turco doesn’t have to worry about a platoon system, so for now, it’s a safe bet that he’ll get the starts he wants. He’s coming off several up-and-down seasons, and goaltenders don’t usually have monster comebacks at his age. Chicago’s blueline continues to be strong, but much of its scoring depth was shipped off in the Great Salary Cap Purge. It’s logical to assume the Hawks will win fewer games, but it remains to be seen whether Turco will be a liability or an asset.

23. Antero Niittymaki, San Jose Sharks (NR): Niittymaki was signed to take over Evgeni Nabokov’s starting role in San Jose, but expect a short leash. Between Thomas Greiss and Alex Stalock, the Sharks have young goaltenders they want to give a shot. Niittymaki will certainly get his opportunity, but there’s just as good a chance that he only plays 40 games.

24. Brian Elliott, Ottawa Senators (NR): For now, Elliott is Ottawa’s starter, but don’t forget about how much the Senators are paying Pascal Leclaire. With that sort of cap hit, there’s every reason to give Leclaire a shot at earning the starting role again. Elliott flashed as much inconsistency as he did potential last year, so a 1A/1B situation in Ottawa isn’t out of the question.

25. Kari Lehtonen, Dallas Stars (NR): The Dallas Stars are rebuilding now that the Mike Modano/Marty Turco/Sergei Zubov era is officially over. Lehtonen has all-world talent, but unfortunately also one of the most brittle bodies in the NHL. There’s much uncertainty in Dallas, and even if Lehtonen stays healthy, there’s some question about what performance the team will see in every position.

Others to Consider

26. Antti Niemi, FA (NR)
27. Jean-Sebastian Giguere, Toronto Maple Leafs (NR)
28. Ondrej Pavelec, Atlanta Thrashers (NR)
29. Dan Ellis, Tampa Bay Lightning (NR)
30. Michael Leighton, Philadelphia Flyers (NR)

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