With the start of the NHL preseason, it's time to start preparing for our fantasy hockey drafts. In an effort to help you (and me) win some fantasy hockey chips, I've inhaled the tape, poured over the stats and even ritually sacrificed a Sean Avery card to appease the hockey gods. In doing so five lists were created of the top ten fantasy hockey players at their position, players were only assessed at their primary position; without further ado let's go into it.
1. Andrei Vasilevskiy (Tampa Bay Lightning)
One of if not the best goalies in the league, playing for one of if not the best teams in the league if not the generation (quick reminder his team went to 3 straight cups winning the first two) makes it a pretty easy choice at the top here. After all, we are looking at a guy who's a strong bet to put up 60 wins, with strong underline numbers and a handful of shutouts, what more could you really ask?
2. Igor Shesterkin (NY Rangers)
An absolute stud between the pipes, over the last three seasons his .928 save % ranks first in the league. Even if the Rangers regress this season he's likely to finish top five if not higher. On top of this, he's likely to have an even bigger workload this season being backed up by Jaroslav Halak, who turns 38 this season.
3. Jacob Markstrom (Calgary Flames)
Flames coach Darryl Sutter is known for his defensive-based scheme and leaning heavily on his starting goaltender, so expect both of those to benefit Markstrom again this season. While the Flames may have had some major changes this off-season, the additions they managed to make seem to be directed to at least partially mitigate their departures. If the Flames performed well transactionally, it's reasonable to believe Markstrom may continue to excel and even garner his third top-five Vezina finish in the last four seasons.
4. Jusse Saaros
Saaros might be the most talented goalie in the league, according to naturalstattrick.com
. Since taking over the starting job Saaros has saved more goals than anyone else at 5 on 5, even topping the three aforementioned names on this list. The major risk with Saaros is the team in front of him, several players set career-best last season and the normally defensively stout Predators seemingly became an offensively based team. While there are many questions surrounding the Predators heading into this season; it does seem the defence in front of Saaros is likely to be improved with the addition of Ryan McDonagh.
5. Freddy Anderson (Carolina Hurricanes)
Anderson is a very good goalie, especially in the regular season, and will likely have no issue racking up 30 + wins as he's done in five of the last six seasons when he's made at least 50 starts. In the same time span, he ranks 5th in wins and is tied for 12th in save percentage. There is a serious drawback to consider, he has a relatively deep injury history and we won't even touch those playoff meltdowns, albeit immaterial to fantasy owners. The issue I'm really concerned about here is Antti Raanta, who is a clear threat to his playing time in the crease.
6. Jack Campbell (Edmonton Oilers)
A very interesting case and a bit of a wildcard among these rankings, as he is expected to be a workhorse. All that considered, Soup’s new team is known for shaky defence, and he's never started more than 47 games in any season. However, over the past 10 seasons, he's tied for seventh in save percentage and sixth in GAA among goalies with at least 100 appearances, yet he's only 43rd in games started. Nevertheless, if you believe that the Edmonton Oilers second-half turnaround and playoff run are more than a fluke, he's in line for a lot of wins; but his injury history has to be considered.
7. Ilya Sorokin (NY Islanders)
Perhaps not to the extent of Campbell or the next player on this list, Sorokin is a bit of a wild card mainly due to a possible timeshare. However, if the Islanders are smart there shouldn't be much of a timeshare anymore. Sorokin is seven years younger than, Semyon Varmalov and is seemingly the better goalie. Since signing with the Isles he is third in both save percentage and GAA, and seemingly in line for at least a 30-win season. With the Islanders appearing to make big moves over the summer after a disappointing season, and the unfamiliarity of a new coach there are however reasons to be wary.
8. Jake Oettinger (Dallas Stars)
Maybe the biggest wild card on this list, as I can envision a top 5 finish, or completely missing out on the year-end top 10. His Playoff round was incredible and the main reason the Stars managed to keep the series against the Flames close, but he's still a 23-year-old goalie and the development of goalies is often full of ups and downs. The upside here though is tremendous, and the Stars have a chance to be a playoff team once again.
9. Sergei Bobrovsky (Florida Panthers)
Bobrovsky had to be ranked in the top 10 as he's a very talented goalie who can easily win 35 games for a very good team. However, he feels like a pretty dicey night-to-night play and likely requires a fantasy manager patient enough to deal with a stretch or two of poor play. The other reason he didn't find himself higher on these rings is I am definitely concerned about the possible threat of Spencer Knight to Bob’s.
10. Conner Hellebuyck (Winnipeg Jets)
Despite having some issues with consistency, Hellebuyck’s fantasy value mostly stems from the fact he's a bona fide Workhorse. However, he has serious issues in front of him leading to a league-high 2,155 shots last season, the fourth straight season he's led the league in both shots faced and saved. Wins might be a little difficult to come by but will certainly provide surplus value in peripheral goalie categories.
- Thatcher Demko (Vancouver Canucks) Honestly probably should have made this list but I'm seriously concerned over the Canucks defence leaving him hanging out to dry. Demko is seriously talented; he earned a third-place vote for the Vezina last year after ranking fifth in starts and ninth in wins. Demko is a great option if your league favours saving but despite likely having a high workload he might struggle to get 30 wins. If your league subtracts points for allowing goals, due to the defence in front of him it buyer beware
- Tristan Jarry (Pittsburgh Penguins)- Jarry narrowly missed this list as he's good and surprisingly consistent. Over the last three seasons, Jarry is sixth in wins and is surprisingly consistent with a quality start percentage above .610, anything above 60 percent is considered good; the league average is 53%. The highly questioned move from Murray to Jarry looks quite reasonable now.
- Alexander Georgiev (Colorado Avalanche) - Once the top targets are off the board Georgiev is worth a hard look. While his peripheral numbers may not be great he did go 8 and 1 down the stretch last season. On top of that the Avalanche are damn good they don't need your job to be lights out to win any games. Resume in Georgia can grab a vast majority of the start over 32 Pavel Francouz over 30 when should be readily obtainable getting down the list goalies will be in perfect so it's often a good back to grab the one with the best chance to rack up wins; Georgiev seems like a better bet than most.