With a 9-3-1 record, a 2.29 goals-against average and a .927 save percentage, it's a fair assessment that Andrei Vasilevskiy has been among the very top fantasy goaltenders this season. That's what we expected, as he was almost universally the top goaltender drafted coming into the season.
Then Vasilevskiy went and suffered a broken foot at practice on Thursday. Sigh.
A broken foot sure sounds ominous -- and it can be. Bo Horvat missed just shy of seven weeks last season with a fractured foot. A foot fracture ended Nathan MacKinnon's 2014-15 season on March 4 that year, effectively costing him about six weeks. However, there are degrees of a broken foot. Jaden Schwartz only missed two and a half weeks in the 2014-15 campaign with a broken foot.
The Lightning are staying mum until they hear something more from the team doctors, so we don't yet have a timetable from which to work at this point. Suffice it to say, we are likely talking about a minimum of three weeks and a possible maximum of about seven weeks.
The injury means we will probably be seeing a lot of Louis Domingue until the New Year. So yes, he should be picked up in any league format as he has strong potential to return G1 fantasy value until Vasilevskiy returns. Domingue had a stretch of moderate success with the Arizona Coyotes back in 2015-16. In December 2015, after Mike Smith underwent surgery and was out for two months, Domingue pushed aside Anders Lindback to earn the bulk of the starts while Smith was sidelined.
He was fantastic up until the All-Star break, posting a 9-5-3 record with a .924 save percentage for what was a bad team at the time -- but Domingue faded after that run of success. The Lightning traded for him last season to backup Vasilevskiy after Peter Budaj fizzled, but with Vasilevskiy being the workhorse that he is, Domingue only appeared in 12 games down the stretch. He posted a 7-3-1 record with a 2.89 GAA and .914 save percentage.
Nevertheless, the main ingredients are here for fantasy success. Domingue has shown us talent in the past and the starting job for the Lightning is a tremendous opportunity -- even if there is a sunset in place. By the way, the Lightning play four games next week with no back-to-back sets, which could mean Domingue's stock skyrockets over the next 7-10 days. Get in on the ground floor.
Speaking of injured goaltenders and opportunities, the Washington Capitals were expected to recall Ilya Samsonov from the AHL on Friday as Braden Holtby is out with a undisclosed upper-body ailment. Samsonov is widely considered to be the Capitals' "goaltender of the future," though that future could still be as many as three years away. Samsonov is the team's 2015 first-round pick and had been playing in Russia up until this season. His first regular exposure to the North American game isn't going swimmingly, as Samsonov is sporting a 3.73 GAA and only three wins in eight games for the AHL's Hershey Bears.
We don't know what Holtby's injury is or how long he is going to be out. Meanwhile, Pheonix Copley is going to get first crack at work for the Capitals. He he hasn't been that bad at all since his first game of the season, which was a disaster. Holtby owners should jump on Copley now just in case this is a prolonged injury. Still, you should also keep an eye on Samsonov. It's probably not his time just yet, but he is the No. 2 goaltender on ESPN's Chris Peters' list of top NHL prospects.
Fantasy Forecaster: Nov. 19-25
The Thanksgiving holiday gives the NHL a break, but the league comes back with a vengeance next Friday with a maximum 30 of the 31 teams in action. (Seattle can't join the league soon enough.) The Los Angeles Kings are the only team not playing next Friday.
Teams playing two games: The only team at a scheduling disadvantage next week is the Minnesota Wild. With a busy week in the NHL, the Wild are the only team playing just twice. Those games are both at home and one of them is against the Ottawa Senators, so it will be hard to fade any members of the Wild unless you have much stronger options. I think Devan Dubnyk, Mikael Granlund, Eric Staal, Matt Dumba, Ryan Suter and Jason Zucker are all still in play despite the lack of games. Then again, Mikko Koivu has eight points in his past five games, so maybe this Wild team is just too good to stay away from.
Highlights from teams playing four games: More than half the league (16 teams) plays four times. ... After some rough games in October, Carter Hutton has been going on the offensive in the Sabres' crease. He's riding a three-game winning streak that began with a relief appearance comeback win. He also heads into a four-game week with some acceptable matchups, from the Forecaster's perspective. His rostered percentage has dropped to the low 70s. ... Things have to be coming to a head for the Calgary Flames and their goaltending situation. David Rittich pitched a shutout last Saturday and Mike Smith has lost both games since that outing. Rittich has a win percentage at 62.5 percent, Smith is at only 27.8 percent. The Flames have no back-to-back sets next week and will play the Golden Knights twice. ... With no back-to-back sets and two contests against the St. Louis Blues -- plus one against the Anaheim Ducks -- Pekka Rinne could have a 4-0 week in the crease. ... The Rangers have a pair of back-to-back sets next week, so we could get a two-start week out of Alexandar Georgiev. The problem is that you have only a 50-50 chance that the start will be quality for fantasy.
Highlights from teams playing three games: Fantasy goaltenders we rely upon who could be reduced to two starts due to a back-to-back include: Semyon Varlamov, Corey Crawford, Jimmy Howard (Yes, he's a G2 for now) and Martin Jones.
For those new to the forecaster chart, here are some explanations: "O" (offense) and "D" (defense) matchup ratings are based on a scale from 1 (poor matchup) to 10 (excellent matchup) and are calculated using a formula that evaluates the team's season-to-date statistics, its performance in home/road games depending on where the game is to be played, and its opponents' numbers in those categories. The "Ratings" column lists the cumulative rating from 1 to 10 of that week's offensive ("O") and defensive ("D") matchups.
In the notes below, the focus every week will be mainly on players who are available for potential use. Being rostered in less than 50 percent of ESPN leagues is a good generalized cutoff, but this space will also include players below 10 percent whenever possible to try to cater to deeper formats.
Tanner Pearson, W, Pittsburgh Penguins: Look, we have to go through this every time the Penguins acquire a winger. It doesn't always work out and, in fact, I think more often than not it has not worked out. Still, when you throw a winger with offensive acumen into the mix with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, you have to play for the upside. He was buried by the Kings this season due to the arrival of Ilya Kovalchuk, but Pearson is a top-six winger by profile. Crosby is injured, though the team is adamant it is not a concussion and he should be out for only a week. As a result, we won't see how the lineup looks with both centers for a while yet. That said, Pearson was on the top line with Malkin for his Pittsburgh debut on Thursday. He's going to get a chance to shine here and should be picked up for your bench in leagues deeper than 10 teams.
Brandon Montour, D, Anaheim Ducks: Cam Fowler will be out for an extended period of time after surgery on his face after being hit by a puck. This paints the Ducks into a corner with the use of a struggling Montour on the power play. Montour isn't even producing at the pace of last year's sophomore season, let alone improving on it. However, with no choice but to roll him out for the top power-play unit with Fowler on the mend, perhaps the assignment will accelerate Montour out of his slump. He did have a stretch before Fowler's injury with three assists in four games.
Kevin Fiala, W, Nashville Predators: Viktor Arvidsson's absence will not be a short one. He's out 6-8 weeks with a broken thumb. The void on the Predators' top line is a valuable one and Fiala looks to be getting a crack at it. Playing with Filip Forsberg and Ryan Johansen is going to be good for someone's fantasy stat line, and Fiala sure could use the boost. After posting 23 goals and 48 points last season, Fiala is on pace for just nine goals and 39 points this season. Not to mention, four of his teammates share the NHL lead for plus/minus while Fiala lags behind at a minus-6. The extended absence for Arvidsson also means we are on "Eeli Tolvanen watch." The talented prospect is honing his North American game in the AHL. An outburst of scoring or a slump from the Predators' top line could spur his debut.
Miro Heiskanen, D, Dallas Stars: John Klingberg's absence has been extended to five weeks after surgery on his hand, so Heiskanen is a lock for lineups for at least the next month. The rookie has four assists in his past five games and played 29:26 in the one game he was held off the score sheet.