The ESPN Player Rater is a solid tool when it comes to evaluating what our fantasy skaters have done this season. It's a great formula that weighs each skater's production in each category, adds it all up and compares it to everyone else's in the league for a clear "what have you done for me" ranking. When it comes to looking at the past, it's nigh unbeatable.
Notice how I used the word "skaters" in my praise? That's because when it comes to goaltenders, the Player Rater is good, but not great. Because two out of the three categories for goaltenders are ratios and since the Player Rater uses a comparison formula, it doesn't give any weight to how often a goaltender plays.
Wins help balance things out a little, but not completely. Ratios still account for the majority of a goalie's ESPN Player Rater value, and that can skew the rankings in favor of some goaltenders that maybe don't play enough to truly help your fantasy team as much as suggested -- especially in head-to-head leagues.
So who is leading the way on the Player Rater so far?
According to the rankings, the No. 1 goaltenders in 12-team leagues are the following dozen netminders, in order: Thomas Greiss, Darcy Kuemper, Tuukka Rask, Connor Hellebuyck, Jordan Binnington, Marc-Andre Fleury, Matt Murray, Mikko Koskinen, Frederik Andersen, Ben Bishop, Mike Smith and David Rittich.
As you can see, however, the Player Rater has pushed up three goaltenders into the No. 1 tier that have played fewer than 60% of their team's minutes. Greiss has played 53% of the New York Islanders minutes in the crease, while Koskinen and Smith have split duties for the Edmonton Oilers, 48% to 52%, respectively. It's tough to argue with the fantastic stats from these goalies, but you could argue the volume isn't there to be a No. 1 in fantasy.
The next 12 on the player -- or our No. 2 goalies in 12-team leagues -- are, in order: Pekka Rinne, Carter Hutton, John Gibson, Thatcher Demko, Carey Price, Robin Lehner, Semyon Varlamov, Jacob Markstrom, Anders Nilsson, Petr Mrazek, Ilya Samsonov and Philipp Grubauer.
We have even more low-volume plays here, with Demko, Lehner, Varlamov, Nilsson and Samsonov playing well under 60% of their team's starts (and Hutton technically just under that threshold too).
While the Player Rater list is closer to how we should consider what the goaltenders have done for us in rotisserie leagues, H2H formats with minimum starts per week won't benefit the same way from a goalie in a timeshare.
In looking at the share of minutes played by a goaltender for every team and the Player Rater rankings, there are a few surprises.
Who are the workhorses starting more than 75% of the minutes for their team? Binnington, Fleury, Murray, Andersen, Rittich, Price, Joonas Korpisalo and Sergei Bobrovsky. That's it. There are a few other guys that are close to that threshold, but most teams are operating close to a split of two-thirds to one-third or 50-50.
Koskinen and Smith are the only pairing in which each teammate rates as a No. 1 goaltender. Maybe the Oilers just got good at defense in the offseason? Most fantasy players are approaching the Oilers and Buffalo Sabres as if the bubble might burst, but at least for the Oilers, perhaps this is the new normal? They are one of five teams with fewer than 2.5 goals against per game, and it doesn't seem to matter who is in the crease.
The Islanders and Vancouver Canucks are the only other teams with both goaltenders making the top-24 list. The Islanders make sense because this is what a Barry Trotz-coached Islanders team does no matter who is in net. The Canucks are a bit of a surprise, especially with a rookie sharing one-third of the starts.
Who is missing from the top 24 that was drafted to be a starter in fantasy? Andrei Vasilevskiy (playing 66% of the minutes), Braden Holtby (68%), Bobrosvky (78%) and Devan Dubnyk (56%). Vasilevskiy is as obvious a buy-low as you could find. Holtby is still fine as a No. 2 because the wins are going to come in piles, but his ratios need help from your other players. Bobrovsky I'm not confident in as a buy-low; I think maybe the fit with a high-tempo offense like the Panthers have just might not be right. And I think we can get rid of Dubnyk shares; not only are the results not there, but he is almost in a straight timeshare with Alex Stalock.
Forwards on the move
John Tavares, C, Toronto Maple Leafs (up 13 spots to No. 17): So Tavares returned to the lineup and got to play three games with linemate Mitch Marner before Marner now hits the sidelines for up to four weeks. And to think they were only another half a week or so away from putting together the line from last season for the first time this season; Zach Hyman could return to the ice this week for his season debut. Alas, the trio will have to wait until sometime in December to be together. Tavares, for his part, is immune to missing linemates. It's what he made his name doing on Long Island: being a superstar without superstars around him. He played with Trevor Moore and Alexander Kerfoot on Sunday. Moore is a placeholder for Hyman, but Kerfoot will be there as long as Marner is out. He could get some run in lineup over the coming weeks.
Andrei Svechnikov, W, Carolina Hurricanes (up eight spots to No. 60): Think this sophomore has found his footing or what? With 16 points in 17 games so far this season, while playing on a variety of different combinations in the Hurricanes' top six, Svechnikov has arrived as a dangerous goal scorer for fantasy leagues. I don't know if I'd predict a point-per-game pace to continue with just over 16 minutes per game, but if you can weather a slump or two, he is going to be a mainstay in your lineup for most of the season. His role on the top power play is a lock going forward, as seven of his points have come on the man advantage.
Tomas Hertl, C, San Jose Sharks (up 15 spots to No. 126): Hertl, Timo Meier and Barclay Goodrow are as hot as any line in the league. Hertl somewhat quietly piled up 74 points in 77 games last season, and he is one pace for similar damage already this season. Now, his plus/minus has been a drag if that counts in your league, but that might not be the case now that the Sharks have found the right line combination for him; as a line, the trio have scored four goals and only allowed one against in three games.
Defensemen on the move
Alex Pietrangelo, D, St. Louis Blues (up 16 spots to No. 89): Is Pietrangelo finally putting it all together for us? Or is his elevated shooting percentage filing us with false hope? The answer is a bit of both. He is on pace for 27 goals with a 12.2 shooting percentage. That won't happen, but he is well on his way to eclipsing his career high of 15 goals. On the other hand, his career high for assists is 43, and he is on pace to top that with 46. So even with an expected dip in scoring, Pietrangelo is still on his way to new highs.