Missing out on an elite NHL goaltender early on draft day could end your fantasy season before it even begins. Overlooking the value of goaltenders is a costly mistake that veteran and rookie fantasy managers make every year.
Unfortunately, there just aren’t that many sure things in the world of fantasy hockey goalies. There are only so many Braden Holtbys and Carey Prices in the world. But that doesn’t mean valuable goaltenders can’t be found after the goalie blitz in the first few rounds of the draft.
The former Vezina winner was just not himself in 2015-16. Bobrovsky had 37 starts because of a nagging groin injury. When he was in the lineup he was rarely 100 percent healthy and his defense didn’t do him any favors. Bobrovsky had his worst save percentage (.908) in four years. As a result, his fantasy stock has plummeted from where it was a year ago.
Bobrovsky’s outstanding play in the World Cup of Hockey is an encouraging sign that he’s back to his old self. If Bobrovsky stays healthy he should have a bounce-back season. Which makes him a great goalie to gamble on late in any fantasy draft, especially if you believe you’ll be hurting for starts.
Make no mistake, the team in front of him is bad so Bobrovsky won’t give you many wins. But he remains an uncontested 28-year-old starter and the foundation of his team. You won’t find other goaltenders with Bobrovsky’s upside where he’s going in drafts.
Matt Murray is going alarmingly early in fantasy drafts this fall thanks to his performance in the 2016 playoffs. Before Murray stole hearts, minds and headlines, Fleury had yet another fantastic regular season with Pittsburgh. It seems like most managers have forgotten that. Fleury is available in the middle rounds of the draft despite being a top-ten fantasy goaltender for several years.
There’s no clear starting goaltender in Pittsburgh. But there’s no doubt that Fleury will see fewer starts this season because of Murray’s postseason heroics. Don’t forget how valuable a goalie in a time share on a great team can be (see: Elliott, Brian). Fleury in a timeshare with the Penguins will prove to be a more valuable fantasy asset than a few of the goalies who have been getting drafted before him. Remember, Fleury had 35 wins and a .921 save percentage last season.
There is also a real chance that Fleury will be traded this year, but if that’s the case he’ll be acquired by a team that wants him as a starter. All the signs point to him being a huge value pick after the goalie rush in the first few rounds.
The 100-plus foot goal that Mason allowed in the 2016 playoffs is still fresh in the memories of many hockey fans. The same is true for Michal Neuvirth’s outstanding performance against the Capitals and his fantastic regular season. It’s no wonder you can find Mason still available in the final rounds of the draft.
Mason is the most underrated goalie in hockey, but that isn’t why you should draft him. You should draft Mason because he’s a steal late in the draft. Mason and Neuvirth will compete for starts all season long. Both goalies are in contract years and are hungry to prove that they have the goods to be a full-time starter for the Flyers.
You could do a lot worse than having Mason as your fantasy team’s third goaltender. If you swing and miss on Mason in the draft you’ll have burnt a late pick on a very reasonable gamble. But if you swing and hit you will have a goalie in his prime who quietly picked up 23 wins, posted a .918 save percentage, and had four shutouts last season.
Thomas Griess and Jaroslav Halak
This one’s pretty tricky. Jaroslav Halak has a proven track record of being a solid starting goaltender and Griess is a 30-year-old coming off of a career year. Halak’s struggles to stay healthy and the friction between him and the Islanders’ front office can’t be ignored. Halak’s grip on the starting job is tenuous at best. As a result, he is available in the middle of the draft with Greiss.
For what it’s worth, Isles’ general manager Garth Snow likes Griess a lot. The German netminder had a great second half and was steady for the Islanders in the postseason.
The Islanders are a fringe playoff team but they’re going to win hockey games and that means their goalies will have fantasy value. Going with Griess or Halak in the draft should be a move you make to bolster your fantasy team. They shouldn’t be goalies that the success of your team depends on. They both make solid value picks for a bench goaltender if you’re a manager that plays it safe with goalies.