With the 2021-22 NHL regular season set to drop the puck on Oct. 12, we reached out to our experts here at ESPN Fantasy Hockey and the NHL on ESPN to get their takes on who are the under-the-radar goalie picks to split time in the fantasy crease, as well as which players have the best chances to bounce back.
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Which goalie is your sleeper pick this season?
Victoria Matiash, fantasy analyst: Calvin Petersen, Los Angeles Kings. The Kings are paying him $5-million/year, beginning in 2022, for a reason. After making more appearances than Jonathan Quick this past winter/spring, Petersen now has the chance to prove he's both the present and future between the pipes in L.A. I'm optimistic. Sporting a respectable career 2.79 GAA and .916 SV% for a struggling, non-playoff team since 2018-19, the 26-year-old has the current opportunity to earn an even greater share of starts. And the Kings are better, following the additions of forward Phillip Danault, veteran defenseman Alexander Edler, and others. Competing in a division that includes the Ducks and Sharks also doesn't hurt. I like Petersen a lot as a fantasy sleeper pick this season.
Sean Allen, fantasy analyst: Frederik Andersen, G, Carolina Hurricanes. There is an argument to be made that situation matters more than skill sometimes for goaltenders. When you take the Hurricanes last season as an example, that argument gets some weight. Alex Nedeljkovic, Petr Mrazek and James Reimer - three goaltenders of varying base skill - all finished 23rd or better for fantasy points per 60 minutes among goaltenders last season (12 games minimum). The Hurricanes are a good place to tend twine and Andersen will be the next to benefit. He is getting some love in drafts, but ranking 15th among goaltender in average draft position (107.1 ADP) leaves plenty of opportunity to grab him a bit earlier.
Arda Öcal, NHL on ESPN host: Spencer Knight, G, Florida Panthers. With Chris Driedger gone to Kraken-land, the lane has opened up in Florida. Now it certainly might still be Sergei Bobrovsky's job to lose, even after the playoff benching, where he watched Knight play in postseason games. But Knight will no doubt get some games, and in the action we've seen him in thus far, he's been solid. He's 4th in Calder Trophy odds (+1000) and because he's a rookie he won't get as much of the fantasy attention, especially from non-hardcore hockey fans, as the established names will.
Greg Wyshynski, senior NHL reporter: Jeremy Swayman, Boston Bruins. Linus Ullmark is going to get the most attention in drafts, and rightfully so. Boston bestowed a 4-year contract on him, and he's a known commodity from his Buffalo Sabres days. Swayman has 10 games to his NHL career, but he posted a .945 save percentage in them. The Bruins were third in the NHL in expected goals against per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 in the last two seasons (1.89). They protect their goalies well. I think Swayman could end up splitting the starts with Ullmark. The only wrinkle is if free agent Tuukka Rask repels from the rafters back into a role with the Bruins as heals from hip surgery, but that won't happen until early 2022, if it does.
Who is your pick to bounce back the best following a disappointing 2021 season?
Victoria: Pierre-Luc Dubois. F, Winnipeg Jets. He fully admits to having felt physically and mentally drained through a dramatic, quarantine-punctuated, and injury-addled 2020-21. Who can blame the guy? But now, a few saner months later, the 23-year-old insists he feels fit, rested, confident, and ready to fully settle into his role in Winnipeg. Skating on a scoring line with Nikolaj Ehlers, Dubois will have little issue improving on last season's dismal 0.5 point/game output. If the versatile forward can score 60-plus with Columbus - which he did in 2018-19 - he certainly can manage a similar number with the Jets.
Sean: Patrik Laine, F, Columbus Blue Jackets. A new coach, a clean slate and a massive base of skills collide in Laine's first full season in Columbus. There is no doubt the Blue Jackets need to let Laine be Laine if they want to score enough goals to compete this season. Laine has topped 2.0 fantasy points per game three times in his five seasons in the NHL, and I am absolutely expecting a return to that level of production. Coach Brad Larsen, who has acknowledged the need to stop trying to turn Laine into a defensive dynamo, has both veteran (Jakub Voracek, Gustav Nyquist) and up-and-coming (Oliver Bjorkstrand, Jack Roslovic) options to find the right fit for Laine to get back to scoring goals in droves.
Arda: Frederik Andersen, G, Carolina Hurricanes. Freddie Andersen will always be a polarizing topic to Leafs faithful. Was he an underwhelming goaltender that held the team back? Did he not get the support he needed at the blue line over the years? The thing is, Andersen has always posted good fantasy numbers with the Leafs, especially early on in his tenure, getting the lions share of starts and accumulating wins in the regular season. Now he joins a Carolina team with a terrific defensive corps. He needed a fresh start, this seems to be it, and he might have his best season yet under these circumstances.
Greg: Travis Konecny, Philadelphia Flyers. He was the Flyers' leading scorer in 2019-20 and then flopped last season, like so many other aspects of the team. GM Chuck Fletcher has talked about how difficult the pandemic season was for some of his younger players, and I suspect Konecny was among them. He had three straight seasons of 24 goals. I have to imagine he gets back to that kind of production across the board. If not? Well, Cam Atkinson and Joel Farabee lurk on the depth chart...