How to draft and build your fantasy hockey goalie roster

Juuse Saros of the Nashville Predators could be one of the top goalies in the NHL. Rob Curtis/Icon Sportswire

It can't be emphasized enough: In just about any fantasy league where goaltending statistics carry reasonable weight, the position isn't to be negotiated too breezily. For instance, ESPN's standard game - one that rewards wins, saves, shutouts, and penalizes goals-allowed - honors quality netminding like never before. To fall back on my tried-and-true illustration, a goalie who stops 28 of 30 shots in a 4-2 win earns you as manager a valuable haul of 5.6 fantasy points. Conversely, allowing five goals on 31 shots in a 5-4 loss results in a fantasy net of -4.8 points. A whopper of a pendulous swing, no?

So in usual summary, ESPN's ideal fantasy goalie plays/wins most games, while allowing few goals on a good number of shots. The odd shutout is a much appreciated bonus. If you manage to draft those top-tier characters to start and/or diligently make proper adjustments throughout the season, you should remain in contention until campaign's end. While icing a lineup sporting weakness between the pipes, however strong otherwise, almost guarantees an unsuccessful run.


This year, as usual, I'm selecting my No. 1 fantasy netminder early in standard ESPN leagues. Depending on how the draft initially unfolds, perhaps Tampa Bay's Andrei Vasilevskiy or New York's Igor Shesterkin, if either isn't spoken for by later in the first round, (otherwise, see figures below), then securing my No. 2 not long after.

Beyond nailing down my one-two goalie punch, I'm more willing to gamble in padding my netminding outfit with an underrated mid-tier asset and/or high-ceilinged sleeper, perhaps a strong member of a recognized tandem. These candidates can (I mean, preferably not, but ...) fall flat without devastating a fantasy squad knowing a handful of under-radar candidates usually emerge mid-season as valued plug-in commodities. But locking in my G1 and G2 early in drafts remains a priority.


Top-tier goalies I like

Jacob Markstrom, Calgary Flames (No. 4 goaltender)

Only Shesterkin amassed more fantasy points over he course of 2021-22 in ESPN's standard game, and he ended up skating away with the Vezina. Remember, the league's shutout leader in Calgary was also in official, if quieter, contention for being named best between the pipes. For all the drama and shuffling GM Brad Treliving negotiated over the summer, including the gaining of two-way center Nazem Kadri, assists machine Jonathan Huberdeau, and defenseman MacKenzie Weegar, the Flames appear in as good a shape than they did when Markstrom ripped off his best career season yet.

Juuse Saros, Nashville Predators (No. 5 goaltender)

No one started more contests in 2021-22 than the Predators' No. 1, who finished fourth in total fantasy points with 207.8. Not too shabby, considering this was Pekka Rinne's former understudy's first run through of more than 40 regular-season games. He's clearly durable enough. Saros may have even won the Vezina, if it wasn't for that emerging buck in the Big Apple. Plus, Nashville's blue line is even better now - stauncher - with having ex-Lightning Ryan McDonagh aboard.

See also: Frederik Andersen, Carolina Hurricanes (No. 11 overall)

Mid-tier goalies to target

Marc-Andre Fleury, Minnesota Wild (No. 25 goaltender)

I'm a bit boggled by this ranking, seeing that the two-years-removed Vezina winner stands as the undisputed No. 1 for a better-than-adequate Wild team, for whom he lost only two of 11 regular-season games last spring. Particularly after he gave a not-so-good Blackhawks squad a fighting chance more nights than not, ahead of the pre-deadline deal sending him to Minnesota. General manager Bill Guerin and Co. wouldn't have signed Fleury to a two-year extension, and sent a very competent Cam Talbot to Ottawa, without believing the 37-year-old could Clydesdale his way through this regular campaign and beyond. So why should we feel so skeptical? The multi-ringed Stanley Cup Champ is easily a top-15 fantasy netminder in my books.

Cam Talbot, Ottawa Senators (No. 19 goaltender)

On the subject of Minnesota's fresh goaltending blueprint, after offering Fleury it's final rose over the summer, the Wild quickly heel-turned on their pledge to not deal Talbot to absolutely trading him to the Senators. Don't know about you, but I would feel extra inspired to stick it to my ex under such circumstances, wrath/scorned and all that vengeful jazz. Experiencing a peaks-and-valleys career (2018-19 in Edmonton/Philadlephia was not good) since making his Rangers debut nine years ago, the 35-year-old has been hearteningly reliable enough these past three campaigns, averaging .914 SV% and 2.69 GAA split between Calgary and Minny. The veteran's winning record of 63-30-10 over that stretch is impressive in it's own right. Knowing the feisty Senators are holistically more competitive with the likes Alex DeBrincat and Claude Giroux on board, I'm keen on Talbot as a No. 2 fantasy netminder in deeper leagues.

See also: Elvis Merzlikins, Columbus Blue Jackets (No. 20 goaltender)

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Key sleepers

Alexandar Georgiev, Colorado Avalanche (No. 26 goaltender)

If Georgiev can't make a solid go of it with the cream of the Western Conference crop, like Darcy Kuemper and Philipp Grubauer before him, then that's on the former Rangers' netminder. Goaltending for the reigning Stanley Cup Champs is a dream gig. After dabbling part-time through five seasons in New York, and having shown glimpses of elite play in the past, it's now up the 26-year-old to elbow his way into the starter's crease over Pavel Francouz as Colorado's consistent top choice. The baton is his to run with, at green flag's flutter. Worth considering as a No. 2 in deeper leagues, I adore Georgiev as a No. 3 fantasy netminder in shallower competition.

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Logan Thompson, Vegas Golden Knights (No. 31 goaltender)

If anyone gets the opportunity to race away with the Vegas starting job, now that Robin Lehner is out for the season, I most like Thompson's chances of nailing down that assignment. The rookie performed admirably when called upon in injured relief of both Lehner and Laurent Brossoit in 2021-22, posting a 10-5-3 record, 2.68 GAA and .914 SV%. It merits noting that the 25-year-old's numbers were noticeably better than those of Brossoit, who underwent offseason surgery. (Filling the third depth slot via trade, Adin Hill prematurely appears to serve as insurance policy if it all spirals horribly.) Also heartening is new coach Bruce Cassidy's loud commitment to retooling Vegas into a defensive juggernaut, a club that's more than wealthy enough in blue-line talent. If the biggest knock, fantasy and otherwise, on Thompson is his lack of experience, remember, we all gotta start somewhere.

Late-round picks to consider

Carter Hart, Philadelphia Flyers (No. 39 goaltender)

The 24-year-old is a good, young goaltender who happens to play for a not very good team. But perchance, shaking off some key injuries, the Flyers outperform our premature, fairly low expectations. Maybe former Hurricane Tony DeAngelo helps rescue the team's league-worst power play (12.6%), which could translate into a few more wins. Perhaps new coach John Tortorella discovers the magical formula in making Philadelphia good enough again. We'll see. The fact that Hart still finished in the fantasy black (not a season-long liability) with a team that won all of 25 games suggests he's worth a roll of the dice in later rounds, when/where there's little to lose.

See also: Alex Nedeljkovic, Detroit Red Wings (No. 44 goaltender); Jake Allen, Montreal Canadiens (No. 52 goaltender)

Avoid in drafts at current value

Jordan Binnington, St. Louis Blues (No. 12 goaltender)

The Blues starting netminder was indubitably solid last October. He then won a sequence of games in April, ahead of an admittedly striking, if short, six-contest postseason run. But the more substantial sandwich filling of 2021-22 was much less impressive. Binnington wasn't great the previous campaign either, or even better than mediocre altogether, since helping the Blues hoist the Cup in 2019. I don't trust him. In fact, it may instead be worth keeping an eye on how Thomas Greiss - on a one-year deal - manages as St. Louis' new backup after a particularly challenging season in Detroit.

See also: John Gibson, Anaheim Ducks (No. 14 goaltender), Matt Murray, Toronto Maple Leafs (No. 16 goaltender)